Leeds United’s season has gone from bad to worse and, with a drastic downturn in form and still a number of games to play, the club could soon be dragged into a relegation battle.
After a disappointing end to the FA Cup run, there isn’t anything left to cheer about. The playoff positions are out of reach and the best Leeds can hope for is a mid-table finish in the Championship. As many suspected, the departure of Sam Byram has had a big impact on this squad, and the form hasn’t been the same since. There is already speculation that other young stars Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook will be poached in the summer, which doesn’t bode well for the future of a club so desperate to get back to the Premier League. But the pressing matter at hand is surviving this season and then looking to the future.
With Massimo Cellino’s reputation for culling managers, one would expect that Steve Evans’ days are numbered. But the erratic Italian has stated differently. Even so, it seems unlikely the Scotsman will be at the helm at the start of the new season. Until then he needs to keep the team afloat if he has any chance of renewing his contract. The magic number for safety is 50 points, and Leeds have games left to reach that target. Looking at Oddschecker, the bookies generally have Bolton at around 1/20, Charlton at 1/50, and Rotherham at 2/17 for the drop while Leeds are around 33/1. But, as the relegation fight is set to intensify, the Whites are by no means safe yet.
Leeds failed to win a game throughout the whole month of February and only registered one goal - that stunning strike from Cook (see below) - in that period. Byram had been a key player in Leeds’ attack and, since his departure to West Ham, the team have been bereft of ideas in the final third. But perhaps it’s the defence that is even more embarrassing.
The 4-0 defeat to Brighton was the lowest point of the season and summed up the state of affairs at Leeds at the moment. The defending was atrocious once again, with players giving away penalties and losing the ball cheaply to allow the opposition through on goal. In these recent performances the team have lacked the spirit that they displayed when Evans first took the reins. It is clear that the off-pitch problems are having an effect on what’s happening on match days. Cellino left at half-time, and Evans neglected to talk to the press.
If this form continues, Leeds will be in trouble.
Languishing in the bottom half of the table and nine points above the drop zone at the time of writing, Leeds now need to put heavy focus on beating the teams below and around them in the league. Every match with the other teams battling against relegation is now worth six points. The players need to see them as that. There are crucial games coming up in March against Bolton, Blackburn, and Huddersfield. Then in April they will face Rotherham and Charlton. These are all matches that Leeds need to win. If they do, they will be safe. If they fail to pick up points from these games they will give ground to their rivals in the league.
Evans needs to inject some passion into these players, who should be going out to play each game now as if it’s a cup final.
At the start of this season, fans were full of hope. Leeds had a new manager at the helm who seemed to know what he was doing and put an unbeaten run together to start the campaign fairly well. Once again, though, we are looking back on an astonishingly bad run. The only headlines have come from the controversy surrounding the owner. It begs the question, how long can a club of this stature, with such huge support, go on wallowing in the lower leagues? The fact that the club could not get Byram to sign another contract suggests that Leeds will soon lose all the bright young talent. These are the players that are so desperately needed in order to build something.
The way things are heading, Leeds are set for another season of much of the same and fans are not happy.