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By: Luke Moriarty – Staff Writer
Two of the three recently promoted teams in this year’s season of the Premier League have struggled mightily, with both seemingly in quick sand through the first dozen weeks. The two clubs, Fulham FC and West Bromwich Albion have combined for 3 wins on the year and 20 total goals through 14 games in the league.
Nothing is seeming to go right for either newly promoted club, something very similar to the start of Norwich City and Bournemouth’s Premier League relegation season last year.
Enter the third newly promoted club, Leeds United FC, a squad comfortably above the relegation zone.
Leeds is a club with massive history in the top division. Located in northern England near Manchester, this club has seen 3 Premier League titles, 4 SkyBet Championship titles, 1 FA Cup title, 1 Carabao Cup title, and even was runner-up in the 1973 UEFA Cup. They are bred to win and be in the top division, and their extremely loyal fan base demand that.
Yet even with all that history, the modern era hasn’t treated the club as well. This year marked Leeds’ first time in the top division in 16 years.
So what is keeping them afloat and out of the relegation zone this year?
Right off the bat I would say it’s the Spanish club manager, Marco Bielsa. He is a brilliant mind of the game, coaching many years for Marseille, Lazio, Lille, and even the Argentinian national team. He brings unmatched energy to the squad and has an innate ability to create relationships with his players.
With this Leeds squad, he has brought some passion into their game. They play a high pace, up-tempo style of play that can really force mistakes from an opposing team. Most of his players are urged to take beneficial risks. Bielsa gets a ton of work from his central defensive midfielders, and loves his wingbacks to take chances up the field. This year, Leeds has scored the most goals in league history from a newly promoted side after 13 games with 22 goals.
Overall, his players trust him and this allows for spirited performances on matchday, which is a way we’ve seen Leeds play just about every week in the EPL this year.
But credit also goes to the players driving this club.
Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo provide stability up top in the attacking zone. Bamford, a former Chelsea product, has a club high 9 goals on the year. Rodrigo, a Spanish striker provides pace and flare offensively, qualities that Bamford lacks. These two provide a perfect one-two combo, and the players put around them have great chemistry with the strikers to feed off their play.
On the wings they have two young speedsters in Brazilian winger Raphina and Manchester City loanee Jack Harrison. They have a combined 9 points for the club in the league this season. A lot of the firepower and initial offense runs through Bielsa’s wingers, providing width and defensive pressure within the team’s formation.
Defensively they have had their struggles this season, like conceding 6 goals to Man U, and 4 goals to Liverpool, Crystal Palace, and Leicester City. However, they have some bright spots. Central Defensive Midfielder Kalvin Phillips has capped several games for the English National team as well as playing in just about every match for Leeds last season. 20 year old French GK Illan Meslier has played beyond his years at times, really providing a commanding anchor in their defensive scheme. Both young stars price tag’s rise with each game played for Leeds.
So, can they be a REAL threat in the league?
Right now, I do not think so.
Yes, they will stay up in the Premier League for another season, meaning added club revenue and hype. This hopefully can draw in even more talent through the transfer market to build on. It all is really going to rely on how Marco Bielsa and Director of Football Victor Orsa wants to continue to advance the club and its blueprint. I have faith in them taking this club back to the upper tier of the table.
With the exciting and high-tempo play style they use now, Leeds could really try and model themselves as a small-scale Liverpool.
Look out for the boys in White to stay competitive this season, giving their top form and effort against all the top dogs of English soccer. On top of that, they will become a household name across the globe over the next few years, and maybe their fanbase will achieve modern legitimacy among the likes of rivals Manchester United and Chelsea.
The Premier League needs another fun, ‘Leicester 2016-esque’ club to rise from the ashes in 2021 or beyond, and it could be Leeds.
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