Following a stunning return to the Premier League after 16 years away, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds will be hoping for more of the same in the 2021/22 season.
The Whites were fearless and implemented their high-octane, energetic approach against every opponent.
Bielsa’s teams are usually accused of burning out in the latter stages, but they finished their campaign in fine style, winning six of their last nine games.
It resulted in a ninth-place finish for Leeds, defying pre-season expectations.
They begin the 2021/22 season with a trip to great rivals Manchester United, not that it will faze Bielsa at all (Match Betting – Manchester United 1/2, Draw 10/3, Leeds 9/2).
Hopes for the New Season
Second-season syndrome badly affected Sheffield United last season after their top-half exploits in 2019-20, so Leeds might have to place a lid on expectations.
However, their strong ending to last season will have given them great confidence going forward.
The group assembled by Bielsa seem so at ease with themselves, and it’s very difficult to see them dropping off to any great degree.
In fact, if Leeds can defend as well as they did from mid-March onwards – conceding just eight goals in 11 games – then a top-six spot (Leeds 9/2) should not be ruled out.
However, given Bielsa’s penchant for having a small squad, one or two injuries could affect them, so a top-half finish (Leeds 8/11) would probably suffice.
Arrivals and Departures
Junior Firpo – £13m from Barcelona
Jack Harrison – £11m from Manchester City
Ezgjan Alioski – released
Gaetano Berardi – released
Pablo Hernandez – released (later joined Castellon)
Barry Douglas – released (later joined Lech Poznan)
Kiko Casilla – loaned to Elche
Leif Davis – loaned to Bournemouth
Raphinha proved to be a wonderful acquisition from Rennes last season with his pace and trickery bamboozling opposition defenders. A full pre-season under Bielsa will surely see him improve even more.
Likewise Rodrigo – the Spain international had a disrupted season last year but began to showcase his talent in the final few games.
But, put simply, Leeds are not the same team without Kalvin Phillips.
Everything Leeds do goes through their academy product, who sits at the base of midfield and dictates the tempo.
His reading of the game is superb and he also possesses an aggressive streak which makes him the perfect all-rounder.
There is no question that his value will have shot up owing to his fabulous performances for England in Euro 2020, meaning Leeds have an unbelievable asset in their side.
Bielsa has probably been the most transformative Leeds manager since the late great Don Revie.
He has taken the Whites from a middling Championship team going nowhere to one of the most exciting teams in English football.
The Argentine is unwavering to the point of stubbornness in how he feels the game should be played and resisted calls to tinker slightly when Leeds endured a winter slump.
Leeds will continue to press and harass their opponents and it seems likely they will top charts once again for distance covered per game.
Because they are so good at pressing, they tend to dominate possession, and consequently, they create several chances.
Leeds fan or not – it appears as though everyone seemingly loves watching them play and there is no question they’ll draw box office figures once again next season.
Last season – 9th