Anything Leeds can get from Spurs game will be a bonus
30 Dec 2020 09:39 pm, by YorkshireSquare
Games come at you thick and fast over the festive period with Leeds playing five times in just over two weeks. December got off to a tricky start with the 3-1 loss to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge followed by the 2-1 defeat against West Ham at Elland Road. The latter possibly the worst performance of the season so far. But the next five games against Newcastle United, Manchester United, Burnley, West Brom and Spurs gave Leeds a good opportunity to get some points on the board, move up from fourteenth in the table and put some distance between themselves and the relegation scrap. I’d have been happy with seven 7 from the 15 on offer, in reality we’ve go 9 in the bag with one of those games yet to play.
First up were Newcastle United, a team packed full of exciting attacking players such as Joelinton, Saint-Maximin, Gayle, Wilson and Almirón but held back the dull, trudging, defensive tendencies of Steve Bruce. The game didn’t start well for Leeds, yet again the weakness at defending set pieces was on show as Jeff Hendrick headed the Magpies into the lead after twenty-six minutes. But Leeds poured forward and Bamford made things before Rodrigo gave them the lead. Ciaran Clark would even things up for Newcastle from another set piece but Leeds responded in style. Stuart Dallas would restore the lead before Alioski and Harrison complete the humiliation, counter attacking from Newcastle corners to make it 5-2.
Next was the long-awaited return to Old Trafford. Months of hype and excitement turned into heart-wrenching distress after only three minutes as Scott McTominay fired the old enemy into a two-nil lead. Four nil down after 40 minutes, Leeds did not buckle, did not fold and grabbed a goal back before half time thanks to Liam Cooper. Daniel James and a soft Brumo Fernandes penalty would make it six for Manchester United before Stuart Dallas would restore some pride with a belter seventeen minutes from time. Attacking until the very end Leeds, and Bielsa in particular, received criticism for not being pragmatic enough, too attacking, not cautious enough against better teams.
In truth the game was over after three minutes, caution would not have served them well. Why lose 4-0 when you can have a go and lose 6-2? All we heard in the media for the next week was how naive Bielsa and Leeds United were. They demanded more pragmatism from the Argentina, and against Burnley that’s exactly what Marcelo Bielsa delivered. The change in approach had nothing to do with what any washed-up pundit had said the week before though. The way Sean Dyche setup his Burnley team with two up top meant Bielsa setup his defence differently. Kalvin Phillips slotted into a back three, a change Bielsa often makes when the opposition line-up with two strikers. Any pundit worth his salt, who did their research would know that of course.
The one nil victory against Burnley was not pretty, it had tones of the excruciating game against Barnsley last season, but it was an important win. A hard-fought win highlighting the fact that Leeds can defend, when they want to. Luke Ayling, Pascal Struijk and Kalvin Phillips were to a man all superb and the same platform be the rock on which Leeds blew West Brom out of the water two days later. Phillips returning to his more familiar midfield role would dominate the middle of the park with Rodrigo, who himself was playing deeper than we’ve seen in resent weeks. The lead, thanks to a Romaine Sawyers own goal may have been fortuitous but the next four Leeds goals were pure class.
Bielsa has proved his critics wrong, he has overcome three pragmatic no-nonsense English managers in the last few weeks, his team scoring thirteen goals in the process. Now we move on to face another pragmatic manager in José Mourinho, his team bristling with attacking options, his playbook from the Stone Age. Spurs are certainly a more daunting prospect that West Brom or Burnley, but their last win came five games ago and Leeds will certainly fancy their chances against a team who sit back. Truth is though, with nine points already in the back over the last four games, if we get anything against Spurs it will be a bonus.