Leeds United: Why the Promotion Push Could Be Falling Apart Again

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Leeds United
BRENTFORD, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 11: Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa looks on during the Sky Bet Championship match between Brentford and Leeds United at Griffin Park on February 11, 2020 in Brentford, England. (Photo by Richard Martin-Roberts - CameraSport via Getty Images)

Leeds United dropped points again on Tuesday, drawing 1-1 with Brentford. The result follows a disappointing 2-0 loss to Nottingham Forest last weekend. Marcelo Bielsa’s side have one win in their last six and lost four of their last five Championship fixtures.

Their dip in form allowed Fulham, Nottingham Forest, and Brentford to close the gap on the automatic promotion places. Fulham are level on points with Leeds after their 1-1 draw at Millwall on Wednesday.

Fears of last year’s capitulation in the final four games of the season may begin to weigh on Bielsa’s mind. Certain problems will need to be addressed if Leeds are to succeed in their fight for automatic promotion to the Premier League.

Leeds United’s Promotion Push Could Be Falling Apart Again

‘Bielsa Burnout’

Bielsa’s style of play means his side must work hard without the ball, press the opposition high up the pitch and move the ball quickly in possession. This approach requires certain physical demands on his players throughout the season.

A trend is apparent with Bielsa’s teams. They begin the season in full throttle, usually occupying the top of the table but eventually lose momentum.

This happened last year at Leeds and comparisons can be made with Bielsa’s previous clubs too. In 2011/12, Bielsa almost guided Athletic Bilbao to the Champions League places in La Liga, as well as the Copa del Rey and Europa League finals. Eventually, they finished tenth in the league and lost both finals with the squad seemingly burnt out from the season.

Similarly, at Marseille in the 2014/15 season, Bielsa’s side was top at Christmas but a poor second half of the season left them in fourth by the end of the campaign.

Lack of Cutting Edge

There is no issue with creating chances at Leeds. They attempt more crosses than any other team (837) and have the most shots in the league (16 per game). However, their shot conversion rate is the second-worst in the league (0.07 per game). Only Wigan Athletic have converted fewer shots to goals this season.

Patrick Bamford is Leeds’ top-scorer with 12 this season. The striker has missed some big chances but the team’s current goal-scoring woes cannot be solely attributed to him. Pablo Hernández is the only other Leeds player to score in the last six matches, while the next highest scorer in the squad is Jack Harrison with five.

Other players must start contributing with goals to balance Leeds’ strength in defence. The loss to Nottingham Forest recently showed how wasting clear chances can prove costly. Liam Cooper missed a free header in the second half which could have impacted the outcome of the game.

Injuries

Mounting injury problems have caused issues for Bielsa recently. Tyler Roberts picked up a calf injury against Nottingham Forest on Saturday and will miss the Brentford match.

Barry Douglas featured for the U23s recently, but it is still unclear whether he is fit enough to feature for the first team. He has been out for a month after suffering a knock against Sheffield Wednesday in January.

Adam Forshaw, Ryan Edmondson, and Leif Davis are all out long-term for Leeds and will be out for the foreseeable feature.

The return of stalwart midfielder Kalvin Phillips for the Brentford fixture was a welcome relief. Phillips featured in 30 of Leeds’ 34 fixtures in all competitions before he was sent off in the closing minutes against Queens Park Rangers in January and he looked assured against Brentford.

 

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