The Premier League returned with a contender for game of the season on the opening day as Liverpool beat Leeds at Anfield in a seven-goal-thriller.
Mo Salah got a hat-trick and Virgil Van Dijk scored too as Leeds came from behind three times on the day but ultimately fell just short of a famous result.
They were largely praised for their performance on the day, and rightly so, but are they setting themselves up for trouble going forward? We’ve seen performances like this from newly promoted sides in the past. Norwich beat Man City 3-2 last season and were praised for their approach when getting battered 4-0 on the opening day to Liverpool and Blackpool lost 3-2 to Manchester United back in 2011. Both sides ended up getting relegated.
The difference between those sides and Leeds is that they have a real top coach. Marcelo Bielsa is renowned across the world as an elite tactician and a completely obsessive manager. His way of playing is almost always unfiltered and never adapted. He plays his way and his way only. Could that be a problem going forward though?
Leeds will try to keep hold of the ball for large spells and they will rotate across the pitch looking for space to disorganise the opposition and score as many goals as possible. Defensively they’ve never been the most stable but going forward they are dangerous. It was the same against Liverpool.
Now though, in the Premier League, the levels are different. Every team can punish you on any given day. They also won’t all be willing to play a stupidly high line in order to play their own style of play like Liverpool did.
Clubs like Crystal Palace, Everton and Southampton are all capable of playing several styles. Palace like to sit deep with two banks of four and use their quality attackers to transition quickly, which could cause Leeds plenty of problems. Southampton are capable of doing a bit of everything whether they want to sit in and defend or play football in an entertaining fashion. Everton are one of the better teams outside of the top six and will look to implement that dominance this season with their new signings.
Leeds will need to adapt their style. While it’s entertaining and exciting for neutrals, they lack the individual quality man for man to compete with a lot of sides in the Premier League. If they continue down this path it will go one of two ways, they’ll either keep losing thrilling games like they did at Anfield or they’ll find a way to win.
Is it a gamble worth taking? Would Leeds fans prefer a slightly less entertaining style if it meant they were more likely to stay in the Premier League for another season where they could then strengthen more to go back to their usual style.
It’s a tough ask for a team to go from the best in their division to instantly one of the worst, but that’s one of the problems that comes with promotion. I think Leeds will survive this season overall, but they’ll be dragged into the fight if they continue with this way of playing.
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