Aston Villa bump highlights Leeds United's already lofty standards - Talking Points
MARCELO Bielsa felt Leeds United did not deserve to lose Saturday’s Elland Road clash against Aston Villa.
“I think the draw would have been something more logical,” as the Whites boss put it.
“And I think if there had to be a winner, it should have been us.”
The stats essentially back that up though clearly only one stat ultimately matters, just ask Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson in reference to his side’s smash and grab victory at Brighton.
This was no smash and grab and Villa deserve plenty of credit for their strong defensive display, and for Anwar El Ghazi’s quick reactions which led to the only goal of the game.
Nevertheless, Leeds had 69 per cent of possession and 13 shots at goal compared to Villa’s nine though the visitors had one more attempt on target with four.
El Ghazi could have had a hat-trick as part of a game in which the Dutchman had five shots at goal with three of them on target and two off the mark.
Nonetheless, Leeds too clearly had the opportunities to gain at least a draw yet the overriding feeling was one of disappointment, not just at the result but the display too.
But Leeds are ultimately still a newly-promoted side who were only edged out by a single goal by a team who are now only six points off a Champions League spot, and with two games in hand.
And therein lies an important message as whilst naturally disappointing, Saturday’s contest also emphasised the lofty standards which Leeds have already set upon their Premier League return.
It has been stressed many times before and needs stressing again that United’s chief aim this season is staying in the division.
With just 12 games left, Bielsa’s 11th-placed side are still 12 points clear of the drop zone and the amount of teams in between themselves and third bottom Fulham is just as important as the points gap.
Even so, Bielsa admitted that Saturday’s clash against Villa was a good chance to record back to back victories and achieve another three-point haul which would have sent Leeds eighth.
Yet there was just a feeling that Leeds never got going like they can and Bielsa put that down to United being imprecise when it mattered in the final third.
As far as the chances went, Tyler Roberts probably had the best of them in the first half when firing straight at Emi Martinez and even Raphinha was then guilty of squandering a big one when seeing his header from close range wide in second half stoppage time.
Villa’s excellent defending led by skipper Tyrone Mings was also no help to Leeds at all.
But amidst what feels like a spot of deflation it’s worth remembering the bigger picture of the initial aim, and the fact that Leeds had six players out injured and big ones at that.
Much was obviously made of Villa being without their talisman England international star Jack Grealish but Leeds also had at least £100m worth of talent on the sidelines given that the likes of Kalvin Phillips, record signing Rodrigo and Robin Koch were missing, in addition to Ian Poveda, Gaetano Berardi and Adam Forshaw.
Rodrigo in particular was sorely missed in an attacking sphere and Poveda would have been an option from the bench at least. Helder Costa was given a start at Jack Harrison’s expense but endured a frustrating night, in tandem with the rest of the team.
The sooner the absentees are back the better though Bielsa is never one to moan about injuries and says it is par for the course to have a few players out.
It is the Bielsa way to find the solutions from the available options from within and the Whites head coach now has eight more days in his latest bid to wave his magic ahead of United’s return to action at West Ham.
Unless injuries suddenly relent, perhaps it is time to give Pablo Hernandez a start or unleash an exciting youngster like Joe Gelhardt from the bench.
In the longer term, Leeds will also clearly need to strengthen to take the next steps up the league but that is one for the summer.
In the meantime, Saturday’s defeat was disappointing, but anything but a disgrace.
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Thank you Laura Collins