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What Leeds United need to address to keep their promotion push on track

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There was once a time when Leeds United were looked upon as one of the biggest clubs in English football.

The Whites won the First Division title, which is now known as the Premier League, three times – with the last of those coming in the 1991-92 season. They were also the runners-up in the European Cup back in 1975.

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However, the club were on a downward spiral after being relegated to the Championship at the end of the 2003-04 season, and then going into administration in 2007, resulting in them falling further to League One.

That is all history now though – history that both the club and the fans want to forget. Under the ownership of Italian businessman, Andrea Radrizzani the Leeds United have started to dream big again.

The appointment of charismatic manager Marcelo Bielsa has turned out to be a masterstroke, with the Whites going on to establish themselves as a top club in the Championship.

The Peacocks have been in impressive form over the last two years, and it would only take a miracle to stop them from playing in the Premier League next season; they are currently a point clear at the top of the Championship table.

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However, as was evident last season, Bielsa’s team have a tendency of making it difficult for themselves when it comes to getting the job done.

In spite of dominating proceedings for most of the season, the Whites faded away when it came to getting over the finishing line. And signs of that are being seen yet again in the way the team are performing at present.

Prior to the unscheduled break, the Whites were on a five-game winning run and would have preferred to carry the momentum. However, as fate would have it, due to the coronavirus outbreak, they had to wait for things to normalize before getting back to the pitch to finish the job.

When the action finally resumed on 20th June though, Leeds failed to resume from where they had left off as they lost to Cardiff City 2-0 away from home.

A 3-0 victory at Elland Road against third-placed Fulham helped settle the nerves, only for them to be pulsating again when they faced relegation battlers Luton Town, against whom they only managed a 1-1 draw.

So where does the major problem lie for Marcelo Bielsa and his team, and how can they recover quick to get going again?

Committing too many bodies forward

Following the match on 30th June, Luton Town striker Harry Cornick said that the Whites are often guilty of committing too many bodies forward, which leaves spaces in defence, allowing other teams to come in and score.

“Sometimes Leeds commit a few too many bodies forward and leave spaces open.”

All the teams in the Championship have taken into the fact that they cannot dominate Leeds United. As a result, they prefer to sit back, allowing the Whites to dominate possession and hit then hit Bielsa’s side on the counter.

Statistics from the last three games show that Leeds have enjoyed the lion’s share of possession. Bielsa’s side, in fact, enjoyed 75per cent possession in the match against Luton, only to be undone by some brilliant counter-attacking football by the strugglers.

While Bielsa’s “Murderball” training technique might have prepared his charges for high-intensity football, it still requires a lot of effort from the players to go all out and then backtrack with the same intensity when the opponents go on the counter. It might be possible during the initial stages of the game but not for the full 90 minutes. And, therefore, with just six games remaining, the veteran manager needs to find a balance soon.

The strikers need to come to the party

While the Whites jointly hold the distinction of conceding the least number of goals in the league, along with Brentford, they have managed to score 60 – the lowest among the top three.

If we take a look at the statistics of the Championship champions over the last three seasons, Leeds United have a lot of work left to do to reach the levels of the previous three winners.

While Norwich City ended last season with 93 goals, Wolverhampton Wanders had 82 at the end of the 2017-18 campaign. The champions for the 2016-17 season – Newcastle United finished with 85 goals.

Even if Leeds United want to be at par with Wolves in terms of scoring goals, they have to find the back of the net 22 times in their next six games, which means scoring more than three goals per match.

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Compared to Brentford striker Ollie Watkins and Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, both of whom have 23 goals each, Leeds United’s lead striker, Patrick Bamford has just 14 goals – pretty far behind. These kinds of records are not something any team aiming to win the league like to boast about.

Something which has gone in favour of Leeds since the resumption is that all the teams in the top seven, except Brentford and Nottingham Forest, have suffered from inconsistency. West Brom boss Slaven Bilic said in an interview:

“If you look at the games in the top seven…okay, Brentford have taken maximum points, Forest seven but then we have done as well as Leeds and better than Fulham.”

However, it would be wrong on part of the Leeds United to take things for granted. They have given their all this season and don’t want to be on the receiving end of yet another heartbreak.

Therefore, the need of the hour is for the players to pull themselves together and work towards writing their names in the history books.  

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