Will Leeds’ Swashbuckling Style Pay Off in 2022?

04 Jan 2022 04:27 pm, by YorkshireSquare

After a barely believable 16 years away from English football’s topflight, Leeds United returned to the Premiership last season in swashbuckling style. Their front-foot approach to the game often contained all the reckless abandon of a young teenager playing FIFA with no thought for the consequences of all-out attack – and for a while, it worked a treat.

However, the 2021/22 hasn’t quite gone to plan for Leeds so far this season. A series of unfortunate injuries have decimated their squad, while the managerial genius who masterminded their triumphant return to the Premier League, Marcelo Bielsa, has opened himself up to criticism from several sections of the media by his refusal to compromise on their expansive and energetic style of play. But will it come good eventually?

Great value regardless

Even if pundits and journalists can bemoan the apparent naivety of Bielsa in setting up his teams to try and outplay those who are clearly far more talented, there’s one criticism that can never be levelled at him or his team: Leeds are most definitely not boring to watch.

Like logging into an live online casino, Leeds hold viewers transfixed from start to finish as we try to guess which way the chips will fall for them this time around. With adrenaline and excitement at the heart of everything they do, they’re truly a joy to watch. Whether or not Bielsa’s gamble pays off in the long run remains to be seen, but whatever happens, there’s no doubt we’ve all enjoyed the experience.

An avalanche of injuries

Perhaps the biggest factor in Leeds’ disappointing points haul thus far this season has been the raft of injuries which have depleted their whole squad. Key men such as Patrick Bamford, Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips have been out for extended periods of time, leaving them without the guile and cutting edge that saw them rip several teams apart last year.

What’s more, the fact that the squad as a whole has been ravaged by injuries has left them light in a number of other areas, too. Given that Bielsa demands so much intensity and energy from his players and famously prefers working with a smaller group, the physical toll that his methods have taken have been clear for all to see this season.

Beating their rivals

So while Leeds scored some hugely impressive results in their first season back among the big boys, taking the scalps of Tottenham, Manchester City and Leicester and recording very respectable draws against Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, they have not been able to replicate that form this time around. Indeed, they’ve been barely able to beat the teams close to them, which is likely to have the biggest impact on where they finish in the table.

For now, Leeds must go back to basics and ensure they treat every match as if it’s a cup final, scrapping for every second ball and running harder than their opponents every time they’re called onto the field. Of course, such commitment and drive has very much been an integral part of their return to the EPL, but they need that application now more than ever.

Leeds have suffered a far more chastening season this time around, but their adventurous style is always entertaining and with plenty of players to come back from injury and January offering a chance to bolster their squad, there’s lots of time for them to turn things around.