Marcelo Bielsa’s reign as Leeds United manager is surely hanging by a thread after they were thumped 7-0 by Man City at the Etihad Stadium.
City were dominant for the entire 90 minutes after they altered their formation to play with an extra attacker, and found the back of the net seven times with little defending to do.
Kevin De Bruyne (2), Phil Foden, Riyad Mahrez, Jack Grealish, John Stones and Nathan Ake were all on the scoresheet as City outshot Leeds by 31-6, with 15 shots on target compared to just three for the visitors.
The result means City will stay at the top of the Premier League for another game week, with with seven wins in a row and nine wins from the last ten games.
But for Leeds however, the defeat means it’s just one win in seven games and three wins all season for the Yorkshire side.
Bielsa is now under pressure to not undo the great job he has done at Elland Road, after helping them get promoted after 17 years away from the top flight and then keeping them in the division at the first attempt.
They have been without main man Patrick Bamford for much of the campaign so far and will be without star player Kalvin Phillips for two months after he suffered a serious hamstring injury, but that isn’t an excuse for such lacklustre performances.
The players look tired and out of sorts, bewildered by what they’ve been asked to do on the pitch and it seems as though the quality level has caught up with them at this point.
With their next three fixtures coming against Arsenal, Liverpool and in-form Aston Villa this could mark the beginning of the end for the Argentine’s reign.
His contract is set to expire at the end of the season and there is little suggestion it will be renewed this time, so maybe pulling the trigger six months early and finding someone to reinvigorate the team is what’s needed.
Whatever the solution, it needs to be found as soon as possible, or Leeds are in very real danger of relegation back to the Championship come May.
After 17 years away from England’s top flight, Leeds United returned to the Premier League last season and were a breath of fresh air under Marcelo Bielsa.
The legendary South American oversaw a stellar Championship campaign with the Yorkshire side that saw them promoted as champions, with expectations among the fan base relatively high following their return to the grandest stage.
It was a great season too for the Elland Road faithful, as Bielsa’s extraordinary man-to-man tactics worked well and secured the club a ninth placed finish with a positive goal difference.
It was a nudge in the right direction for Leeds, who many neutrals were delighted to see back in the big time and performing well.
They play with swashbuckling attacking intent, often prepared to concede goals if it means they’re able to score a few more at the other end of the pitch.
They all trust each other on the ball and are comfortable and confident when it comes to playing their way out of tight situations. All the fortune that their bravery brought last season was well deserved, but this season has been nothing short of a nightmare.
After a 5-1 thumping on the opening day of the season by rivals Manchester United, Leeds have managed just two wins from the following 12 Premier League games so far.
They are languishing three points above the relegation zone, with just 12 goals scored and 20 conceded. Starting striker Patrick Bamford has missed a chunk of the campaign through injury, while Raphinha hasn’t quite hit the heights he did last year.
Kalvin Phillips also seems to be suffering with a Euro’s hangover after helping England reach their first major international final since 1966 during the summer. Overall, the performances have just been poor for the most part and fans are beginning to worry.
But beyond them all it’s Bielsa who seems to have lost his spark the most. He isn’t nearly as animated on the touchline as he has been in the past, and while he has made decisions to make substitutions early in games he seems to lack the decisiveness he usually possesses.
A team that clearly thrives on confidence, Leeds are bereft of it currently.
They’ll take on a Crystal Palace side next who are still transitioning into their full potential under Patrick Vieira but have started the season well. Only Chelsea, Man City and Liverpool have lost less games than Palace and they’re also one of only seven teams in the division to not have a negative goal difference.
If Leeds are to start building momentum to survive this season, there is no time like now. They have seven games left in 2021 and four of them comes against the top three and Arsenal.
They need to win some games and sharpish, or they’re at a very real risk of being relegated at the second time of asking after fighting so hard to get back to where they believe they belong.
If anyone can provide a win for Leeds, it’s not the players on the pitch. It’s their leader off it and their tactical genius of a coach. He has all the tool and qualities to come up with something different for the team to get it to click again, and it must happen now.
With Newcastle United set to complete their task of appointing a new manager this week, the Premier League’s managerial hotseats have just become even more full.
It seems as though Eddie Howe will be the man to fill the void at St James’ Park, after Unai Emery sensationally rejected their offer after being interested in a move earlier in the week. But with 19 other managers in a job currently, where do they all rank?
I’ve ranked each manager and explained (briefly) my reasoning for their position based on preference of style, achievements and coaching of players.
19. Daniel Farke – Norwich
Twice Farke has come up to the Premier League with his Norwich side, and twice he’s been absolutely battered every time.
The German has a style but it seems to be more accustomed to the Championship, where his side is one of the big dogs and he can’t turn that into anything substantial at the top level, so he must go at the bottom.
18.Sean Dyche – Burnley
Maybe controversial for him to be so low, but the style of football grinds me and he’s got nothing other than scraping survival year on year to show for it.
The one season he tried to expand a little saw Burnley dumped out of the Europa League before the group stages even started. The football is too old school for me, but he gets results so it keeps him off the bottom.
17. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer – Manchester United
Another potentially controversial selection, the Manchester United boss is in the relegation spots here.
No obvious style of play, no defensive awareness about his sides and results only tend to come because of the quality of player he has at his disposal. If he got another Premier League job it would be in this region of the table.
16.Ralph Hassenhuttl – Southampton
This is a weird one for the Austrian, because he’s clearly got something about him.
Hassenhuttl likes to play expansive, attacking football but while his ideas are the right ones he seems to struggle with the actual execution of them. 9-0 defeats in consecutive seasons tells me he’s too stubborn to adapt too, so he slots in towards the bottom.
15. Claudio Ranieri – Watford
It seems harsh to have a Premier League winner this far down the rankings, but times have moved and Ranieri isn’t what he once was.
The ‘tinkerman’ tends to play counter-attacking football but it all seems very freestyled when watching his sides and defensively they’ve never been the best. His achievements earn him this height though.
14.Mikel Arteta – Arsenal
Hear me out. Arteta’s Arsenal are showing improvements in recent months now that he doesn’t have many injuries, but I’m still not convinced.
They seem organised enough for now, but the discipline issues remain and whenever they concede a goal they look frail mentally. He’s young in his career and could certainly move up the list in years to come but for now, he’s low down in my ranking of bosses.
13. Bruno Lage – Wolves
Not a lot of experience for the Portuguese manager here, but what he did at Benfica really stands out to me.
Plenty of focus on attacking football, using different player profiles to get what he needs from his teams. They play exciting football and score goals and the fact he has switched Wolves around as quickly as he has is testament to his coaching skills. Like Arteta, he could move up the ranks over the years.
12. Dean Smith – Aston Villa
Smith may have hit his ceiling with Aston Villa now, but the job he has done to this point is nothing short of excellent.
He took over in the Championship, got them to play front-foot, attacking football while also setting up a good defensive base and was rewarded with a cup final and a top half finish. He’s probably at his peak as a coach now, which means mid-table is where he sits.
11. Patrick Vieira – Crystal Palace
There may be a bit of recency bias in this pick, but the job Vieira is doing at Selhurst Park is incredibly good right now.
He struggled at Nice after moving from the MLS but the way in which he has transformed the squad’s way of playing in such a short space of time is delightful. Possession football with young and flairy players, Vieira’s stock is only going to rise.
10.Thomas Frank – Brentford
Honestly, I can’t praise this man enough. The job he has done since taking over at Brentford has been tremendous, but the transition they have made into Premier League football is even better.
They play attacking football, with a mix of possession and going direct, while they’re brave with playing out from the back and strong defensively. I fully expect them to stay up and think Frank will be on a lot of club’s radars higher up the league should the managerial merry-go-round start later this season.
9. Graham Potter – Brighton & Hove Albion
Not a big name in the slightest but the job he has done since coming to English football has not gone unnoticed.
Potter’s sides play excellent possession football with a major focus on control and scoring goals, just like a Pep Guardiola side. He’s still young in his career to rank him much higher than this, but you have to assume that with better players he gets better results, so he’s one to keep an eye on.
8.Marcelo Bielsa – Leeds United
Possibly the most gung-ho manager in all of football, Bielsa’s methods and philosophy are legendary across Europe and now he does it for Leeds.
The one vs one battles he creates all over the pitch rely on intense discipline from each player and unbelievable fitness levels, something he drills into every player. He improves individuals on a regular basis and entertains, but really should’ve won more in his career considering the reputation he has.
7. Rafa Benitez – Everton
A Champions League winner, a La Liga winner, an FA Cup winner, Rafa Benitez is one of the best coaches of his generation.
The issue for him unfortunately, is that generation was about 15 years ago. Rafa was at his best in the mid 2000’s to mid 2010’s during his time with Valencia and Liverpool but since then his football has become very rigid and uninspiring. He can still get results, but I don’t expect him to pull up any trees between now and the end of his career.
6.David Moyes – West Ham
Moyes’ career seemed dead and buried after his Man United spell almost a decade ago, but the way he has built his reputation back up has been nothing short of excellent.
He’s build a West Ham side that now competes with the best teams in the country when they face off against each other and is one of the toughest to beat, while also scoring plenty of goals going forward. The only thing he’s missing now is a trophy or two.
5.Brendan Rodgers – Leicester City
Rodgers showed what a great coach he was during his time with Watford and Swansea, then the Liverpool job when he made them genuine title contenders with brilliant, attacking football.
That job came a little early for him in the end, but he went to Celtic and was dominant and has made Leicester a truly competitive side. He even added the FA Cup to his trophy cabinet, so he is comfortably the best of the rest for me.
4.Antonio Conte – Tottenham
The new Tottenham manager has a proven CV in the managerial world and is without a doubt one of the best in the world.
His 3-4-3 formation has seen him win Serie A titles, a Premier League title and an FA Cup and his management style makes all his sides incredibly difficult to beat. Sometimes though, that pragmatism takes over and not losing gets prioritised over winning, so he just misses out on the top three.
3. Thomas Tuchel – Chelsea
A brilliant thinker with positive attacking football his forté, Tuchel has come to Chelsea and flipped a switch to become a brilliant defensive coach now.
Chelsea barely ever concede goals and yet they still find a way to score goals and win trophies. He’s shown he can do all sides of the game to a high level and has the trophies to boot with a Champions League winners medal so he goes in at third.
2.Pep Guardiola – Manchester City
When it’s all said and done and Guardiola hangs up his coaching hat, he could go down as one of the absolute best ever.
He’s won everything there is to win twice over, playing brilliant attacking football and revolutionising the way teams all over the world approach the game. He improves players individually, improves teams endlessly and wins games with style. The only flaw for me is he’s always had to spend a lot of money to do it, but that’s why teams bring him in and he always delivers.
1. Jurgen Klopp – Liverpool
For me, the best coach in world football not just the Premier League.
Klopp came into a Liverpool side and implemented a brand new style immediately, and slowly but surely built his squad to become one of the best sides in modern history that won it all. They play fast-paced football with the first though always to score goals, have pace and are brave in their positions.
If I was starting a football club and could make anyone the manager, I’d pick Klopp.
We’re entering the final weeks of the Premier League season and everything is all but settled already for the first time in a while.
Manchester City are set to be crowned champions for a third time in four seasons, while it’s already confirmed that Sheffield United, West Bromwich Albion and Fulham will be playing their football in the Championship next season.
Top four is the only thing left to play for at this point, although Leicester and Chelsea currently have a decent sized cushion above their rivals with only a few games left to play.
That means it’s time for the awards to come out for players and managers, including who the manager of the season actually is. There are a few contenders, but one who really takes the shine when it comes to evaluating the performance of their team but also in comparison with expectations and budgets.
One obvious candidate is the man who has led his team to the title, Pep Guardiola. Manchester City have racked up a fantastic season to earn a third Premier League crown in four years, wrestling the title back from Liverpool after the Reds struggled with several injuries.
It wasn’t all easy street for City though, as they struggled early on in the season with just five wins in their opening twelve games and sitting as low as ninth in December. The former Barcelona and Bayern Munich boss rallied the troops though and put together a phenomenal run of 15 wins in a row.
Guardiola used his experience and incredibly high quality of squad options to rotate freely throughout the tough schedule, but he tightened the defence up to have the best in the league while still maintaining an attack that has scored more goals than anyone else in the league.
You could also look at the other end of the table, where Leeds United earned promotion last season and this season have been excellent to claim a mid-table finish and win the hearts of plenty of neutrals.
Marcelo Bielsa’s attacking brand of man-to-man football all over the pitch has seen 106 goals scored in Leeds United’s games this season, more than any other team in the league. He has used his trademark system to put Leeds in a position where they can challenge with the mid-table sides after just one season and with limited options this season he has done a remarkable job.
He hasn’t quite done the job of a certain David Moyes at West Ham United however.
After taking over the team mid-way through last season, Moyes steered the Hammers to safety with just two games to spare but this season he has done the unthinkable by pushing them to the brink of Champions League football.
A solid defensive system, successful in part to some excellent signings he made with a lower budget than most, Moyes has seen West Ham perform at a level far beyond even the most hardcore fan’s wildest expectations this season.
Only the current top four have been able to win more games in the season so far and only Liverpool below them have lost less games this season. Moyes has also been able to reinvigorate the career of Jesse Lingard after he joined in January, while he has been able to employ a system that has got the best out of new signings Vladimir Coufal and Tomas Soucek and kept Declan Rice and Michail Antonio as important and influential as ever too.
Bringing the east London outfit all the way up the table in such a short space of time has shown everyone that he is still a great manager despite his struggles with Manchester United and Real Sociedad.
West Ham have been fantastic this season and in no small part thanks to the excellent performance of David Moyes, so he deserves to be the Premier League manager of the year.
Leeds moved into the top half of the Premier League with a tenth win of the season thanks to a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace at Elland Road, with Raphinha shining once again.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side took the lead after just three minutes after a high press saw them win the ball back quickly before Jack Harrison smashed the ball past the goalkeeper via a deflection off Gary Cahill.
Leeds dominated the ball and the game from there on in and secured a second goal in the second half as Raphinha raced through on goal and saw his shot saved by Vicente Guaita, only for Patrick Bamford to tap in the rebound and seal the three points.
It was a top all round performance from the Yorkshire side, who moved into the top half with a victory.
It was once again the performance of the Brazilian summer signing from Rennes that caught the eye though, as he stood out among his peers as the best player on the pitch once again.
His intensity on and off the ball caused Palace problems all night, while his pace, agility and skill is what Leeds relied on a lot throughout the night. A ridiculous bit of skill in the first half completely embarrassed Gary Cahill and caused the former Premier League and Champions League winner to drag him to the ground and be booked.
A £17m signing from Ligue 1, Raphinha has made an instant impact in the Premier League and many fans are wondering how some of the top clubs were scouring the French league and failed to take a look at him.
In fact, so were Leeds’ players themselves as Patrick Bamford revealed in his post-match interview with Sky Sports.
“Raphinha is brilliant. To be honest he’s been a steal for Leeds, I’m surprised. As soon as he came in, we saw him in training, you know sometimes with players whether they’re good or top class, and he really was. He stood out straight away, so I’m surprised that bigger teams, more established Premier League teams I should say, haven’t taken a punt on him because he really is something special and he’s still young.”
When you take into consideration that Arsenal signed Nicolas Pepe from Ligue 1 just a year prior for £72m and that Manchester United were pursuing Jadon Sancho for the best part of a year since they both needed a right winger, it’s crazy to think neither of them came across the 24-year-old.
If they did and they passed up on the opportunity to sign him then you have to question their scouting departments considering how well he has taken to England’s top flight.
As for Leeds, they seem to have settled a bit more defensively from earlier in the season with their man to man marking all over the pitch. They’ve learnt to manage games a bit more, especially late on and are picking up points regularly.
They’ve scored 38 goals this season but they’ve also conceded the same amount and with a few more tweaks defensively, including cutting out costly individual errors, they could be in with a shout of pushing further up the table in the final stretch of the season.
Raphinha is stealing the show right now and don’t be surprised to see a few bigger clubs taking a closer look at him come the summer transfer window.
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.
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.
After 16 years away, Leeds United were confirmed as a Premier League side once again as they sealed promotion from the Championship.
The Yorkshire club needed just one point from their final two games of the season to clinch promotion, but West Brom’s defeat to Huddersfield on Friday night meant that Leeds didn’t need to kick another ball.
It’s the first time we’ll see them back in the top flight of English football since 2003/04. For reference, they’ve been away from the Premier League for as long as Arsenal haven’t won the division. But it’s been a rollercoaster of a ride for them in between now and then.
The club was on the brink of collapse at one point after the charge for a league title and Champions League success failed them. They were forced to sell stars like Rio Ferdinand, Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell, Alan Smith and Lee Bowyer while failing to replace them adequately. At one point they even went down to League One after suffering yet another relegation. They were in administration and for the first time ever had fallen to the third tier of English football.
They slowly built themselves back up and have tentatively put themselves into the promotion equation over recent years, but they really took it seriously last season. The appointment of legendary manager Marcelo Bielsa was a statement that the club were ready to return to the top of English football pyramid.
Despite the beautiful football, high pressing and goalscoring acumen of his side, they crumbled under the pressure. It’s always been a bit of a theme with Bielsa sides that they fade away towards the end of campaigns because of just how much physicality his philosophy needs to work. It wasn’t any different at Elland Road as they fell away from the automatic promotion places into the play-offs and were ultimately eliminated by Derby County, losing 4-2 on aggregate.
This year though, there was something different. Game management seemed to be more apparent and Leeds weren’t gung-ho for 90 minutes of every game regardless of result. When they were leading with a cushion, they played with a visibly lower tempo on the ball but maintained the intensity defensively when looking to win the ball back. This has seen them overcome the issue of not having a proper goalscorer in the side.
The loan signing of Eddie Nketiah in the summer looked like a genius signing, but the England U21 international struggled to break into the side regularly and was ultimately recalled by Arsenal in January. He wasn’t replaced and the club persisted with Patrick Bamford as the No.1 striker. The Chelsea academy graduate has scored 16 goals in 43 games this season, which isn’t horrendous. But if he is to be the main man next season they will have problems.
Leeds’ footballing nature will see them look to dominate possession and press high, something we’ve seen Norwich and Brighton attempt to do this season. It’s not ended particularly well for either side and with the gap in ability between sides at this level Bielsa may need to re-think his methods. That is super unlikely though and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Leeds struggle next season without big investment to help Bielsa in his wish to carry out his philosophy at the highest level.
Nevertheless, it’s great to see a club as big and prestigious as Leeds United back in the Premier League for next season. With Bielsa at the helm, another world class manager is added to the ranks of England’s top flight which should make for fascinating tactical duels.