Leeds United: Have The Sleeping Giants Awoke?
Mention the name Leeds United to any avid football fan and they’ll tell you that they are one of the biggest clubs in English football history. That they have had a 15 year period to forget. Having gone from Premier League title challengers, competing in the Champions League and reaching the Semi Finals of that competition to then having to face relegation all the way to League One. The club has been on an emotional roller coaster but their fans have been there every step of the way.
With Marcelo Bielsa’s side picking up 3 huge points against 4th placed Fulham this Saturday and creating an 8 point gap between them and 3rd is their slumber about to end? Sitting first and playing some of the Championship’s best futbol the side has looked revitalised under Bielsa’s 2 years in charge and don’t look like bottling it this time. However, heart break is something most Leeds fans are used to so the next 7 games will be the most nervous time to be a fan.
Facing play off heartbreak last year by the hands of Derby County, Leeds United has been one of the most entertaining sides to watch in all of England. But there are still key areas that the West Yorkshire side need to improve on before reaching the Premier League.
Missing an outright goal scorer
First off they need an out and out goal scorer. Now this is a topic that has divided fans all season long. Patrick Bamford has scored 17 goals this season for Leeds and is their top scorer however, due to the amount of chances he’s missed this season he could easily have 30 goals. But Bamford’s play is a lot more than just goal scoring as he’s been a defenders worst nightmare. Covering more ground than any striker and most midfielders in the league, he hasn’t given the opposition any time to relax on the ball and is often caught in his own half tracking players back to relieve pressure on the midfield. Some fans have called for Tyler Roberts to be given a chance up front after bagging himself a brace against struggling Hull City but Bielsa has stuck with the 26 year old. In my opinion, they need an outright proven goal scorer to bring on in the final 20 minutes of a game after Bamford has run the defenders ragged. However, I don’t feel that all the criticism that Bamford gets is justified.
Ageing Pablo Hernandez
Pablo Hernandez has been the key to the outstanding play that Leeds has produced this season. Looking like a completely different team when the Spaniard is on the field. Leeds will miss him when he decides to hang up his boots and at 35 you would imagine that it wouldn’t be too far off. When Hernandez isn’t on the field Leeds still creates chances but not with the same flare. They need to look for a clinical passer of the ball in the summer transfer window that they can build the team around. Klich is someone who has attempted to fill that role but doesn’t quite have that same spark as Pablo.
Keeping Phillips and White
Now this may be harder than first thought due to both players catching the eye of many Premier League teams. Especially since Phillips is also looking for that call up to the England International squad. Phillips, the home grown talent has made it abundantly clear that he will do anything it takes for him to gain promotion to the EPL but will the temptation of high wages and possible European futbol be too much for him to turn down? I don’t think you’ll see him in any other shirt than Leeds next season if promotion is achieved not until at least the January transfer window. Nonetheless Ben White may not be returning to Eland Road next year with the future England prospect only being on loan from Brighton. Many teams such as Chelsea, Arsenal, and Liverpool have all enquired about White’s availability once the season ends. And what could be more tempting than playing for the Premier League Champions? Furthermore, Brighton has struggled defensively this season and could use a young centre back to build a new back line around. He won’t be cheap but if Leeds wants to challenge in the Premier League they really need to throw the book at this amazing defender. But I don’t see White returning next season, unless Brighton is relegated.
Seeing this team bring class football back to a side that should never have fallen from the height they were at is an amazing feeling. You don’t have to be a fan of Leeds United but you have to admire the support, history, and never say die attitude of a club that has been missing for 15 years. I for one hope that Leeds does secure promotion and show football fans what they have been missing this whole time.
Could this be the year the heartbreak final ends and the sleeping giant awakens?