Ambition: Last season, Leeds exceeded everyone’s expectations as they secured ninth-place in the Premier League. Known for their expansive football under Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds at times were either unplayable, or could not play at all. They are a well-drilled, super-fit team, but with other teams strengthening and Leeds only recruiting one new first team player, it looks like any increased expectations may need to be toned down. They will still do well if they continue to play the way they do, but further strengthening will be needed.
Patrick Bamford of Leeds United acknowledges the fans following the Premier League match between Leeds United and West Bromwich Albion at Elland Road on May 23, 2021. (Photo by Lynne Cameron - Pool/Getty Images)
Key man: Patrick Bamford was the star for Leeds last year and he is going to be their main man once again. With 17 goals and eight assists last season, Bamford had the fifth highest combined goals and assists total in the Premier League. He has matured under Bielsa, becoming not only a goal-scorer, but a creator as well. With fellow attackers Rodrigo and Raphinha adapting well to the league with their pace and trickery, Bamford looks set to excel once again, hoping to avoid the title of ‘one season wonder’.
Recruitment: Leeds have been surprisingly quiet in this transfer window, with more outgoings and incomings. Versatile left-back Ezgjan Alioski departed at the end of his contract to Saudi Arabia, and has been replaced by Barcelona defender Junior Firpo, while former long-term loanee, midfielder Jack Harrison, finally makes the permanent switch to Leeds from Premier League champions Manchester City. Young goalkeeper Kristoffer Klaesson arrived from Vålerenga as back up to first choice Illan Meslier after the departure of the experienced Kiko Casilla, who has joined Elche on loan.
What they still need: There is a lot of emphasis on Patrick Bamford to lead the line week in, week out, but Leeds have no cover if he were to get injured. Leeds will need to address this as they are weaker as a team without that focal point up front. Rodrigo can play up top or on either flank, but it seems Bielsa prefers him in a deeper role. A back-up right back to cover Luke Ayling may also be a position of interest, while another box-to-box midfield could help the team.
Verdict: Lack of signings aside, Leeds are a high performing team who, despite exceeding expectations last season, will continue to perform at a similar, or maybe greater level to what they did in the past. The lack of signings will hurt them, but that depends whether injuries become a factor like last season. However, this team play and work as a unit, and they all believe in the system Bielsa plays, so if they cut out the sloppy defensive errors, then potentially Leeds could be looking at another ninth-place finish.Gerry Cox