Leeds United will be the neutrals' team to watch in the 21-22 Premier League season

Leeds United v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League
Leeds United v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League

Only two things are certain in life: taxes & entertaining football from Leeds United.

Leeds United finished 9th in their first season back in the Premier League after 16 years. They scored 62 goals, which was the 6th highest in the league.

Their first match back in the top flight was against Premier League champions Liverpool and neither team held back in this seven-goal thriller. Although Liverpool won by a scoreline of 4-3, Leeds could easily have won or drawn against the champions if not for a Mohamed Salah penalty in the 88th minute.

Leeds United effectively announced their arrival to the biggest stage in a grand manner in this match, and quickly established themselves as every rival fan’s second team. Their attacking play was on display in the second match against Fulham as well, which ended at the same scoreline of 4-3, this time in their favor.

Leeds United: Road to promotion

Leeds United were promoted to the Premier League after 16 years in oblivion in the Championship and League One. They were relegated to the Championship after the 2003-04 season and further relegated to the third tier of English football League One in 2007.

The climb back up to the Championship and then to the Premier League has been very tough for the club amidst financial trouble and a change of ownership. Things only started to get better after Marcelo Bielsa was appointed as the manager in 2018 while the club was still plying its trade in the Championship.

Bielsa guided the team to promotion after winning the Championship in his second year, after narrowly missing it the previous year.

Marcelo Bielsa during a match
Marcelo Bielsa during a match

Since Marcelo Bielsa took over 3 years back, Leeds United have become synonymous with attractive football. The new manager introduced many changes at the club including how the training is done and more focus on in-depth tactical analysis.

“Murderball” training sessions

The training sessions are famously called as “Murderball”, where a hyper intensity game of 11 vs 11 is played with no stops.

As the Leeds United captain Liam Cooper puts it: “It's just 100%, very chaotic. We do four or five-minute segments, maybe four or five times, with staff outside throwing the ball back in as soon as it goes out. It's all man-for-man, there's no escape. But the numbers the lads are putting up in these sessions are ridiculous.”
“The games almost seem easier than the training is! And it's not just the murder ball, the tactical sessions are so in-depth. We always go on the pitch knowing exactly what rival teams are going to do - and if they were to change, we'd be have that covered as well.”

Fittest team in the league

This drill has helped the players become the fittest in the league. Intense training sessions are required because of their style of play during the games. Leeds United are seen running continuously for 90 straight minutes, closing down players & chasing every loose ball to regain the possession. All this running has led to record breaking stats as stated below:

Evolution of Leeds United into a complete side

It has not always been easy to maintain that standard, especially in the Premier League. Earlier in the season, Leeds suffered some demoralising defeats to the traditional top 6 teams in the league.

It started against Liverpool with a 4-3 loss, 3-1 loss against Chelsea, a 6-2 loss against Manchester United, a 3-0 defeat to Tottenham and a 4-2 loss to Arsenal. These losses were a result of open attacking play deployed by Bielsa’s team which sometimes left the defense wide open at the back. All these losses came away from home.

But through Bielsa’s habit of deep diving into opposition tactics and finding a solution, Leeds United improved in the latter part of the season against big teams and performed well against "The Top Six" at home at Elland Road.

They became more patient during the games against big teams and waited for the right opportunity to start their attacks. This was epitomized in the 2-1 victory against a magnificent Manchester City side at Etihad Stadium.

The addition of a new characteristic to their famous attacking play is what makes Leeds United a dangerous side. They have lost only once in their last 11 matches in the league and finished the season with 59 points.

Leeds United have evolved into a complete team during Marcelo Bielsa’s 3-year reign at the club. After a stuttering start, they finished the season on a high and have proved their doubters wrong.

Having finished the season in the top 10, they will only be aiming higher in the coming years and fighting for European places. Leeds United will once again be the team to watch this year.

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Edited by S Chowdhury


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