Differing statistics, Rodrigo's message and Marcelo Bielsa's headache - Leeds United Talking Points
THERE are several reasons why it took Leeds United two seasons to escape the Championship under Marcelo Bielsa.
Needing too many chances to score a goal was definitely one of them - often requiring five, six or seven opportunities to convert when divisional rivals needed half of that.
That trait, though, appears firmly in the past with Bielsa’s impressive Whites ruthlessly clinical in Saturday’s 4-0 romp at Burnley although in truth there could have been more than four.
United’s Premier League return has been so impressive that a lengthy shortlist now needs compiling when it comes to assessing the best displays of the season.
The strength of the opposition always has to be taken into account and that is why last weekend’s 3-1 victory against Tottenham or the 4-1 romp at Leicester City probably sit top of the list.
The epic triumph at Manchester City is clearly not forgotten but that was something different and Bielsa again alluded to the 2-1 win at the Etihad in congratulating Pep Guardiola’s side on their title triumph last week.
“It’s fair to say, in the game that we won, that the result should not have been that one,” said Bielsa.
But there can be no quibbling with the outcome of Saturday’s clash at Turf Moor in which a ruthless edge, stunning football and a thriving goalkeeper was the main difference between the two sides.
Burnley’s former Whites left back Charlie Taylor felt the Clarets were a tad hard done by in experiencing a 4-0 reverse and the stats more or less back that up.
A Leeds side that are normally so dominant with the ball had to make do with 52 per cent of possession and both teams had 16 shots at goal.
Four of Burnley’s were on target but none of them could beat impressive French stopper Illan Meslier whilst 75 per cent of the Whites attempts that were on the money ended up in the back of the net with six attempts on target yielding four goals.
Yet there more to the victory than the mere stats with Leeds yet again producing some outstanding flowing football and very much answering Bielsa’s call to end the season in style from a performance point of view.
The one regret if there is one from this stellar Premier League return is that United might well have to ‘settle’ for finishing ninth or tenth when their football really deserves so much more and is surely already worthy of a European place.
Not that there can be any complaining whatsoever about a stunning top-flight return.
Bielsa insisted there was no set target but as a newly promoted side, staying in the division was clearly the first port of call.
Yet instead Leeds are ending the season going mightily close to snatching one of the division’s European qualification spots for which a seventh-placed finish will probably be required as passage to next season’s new Europa Conference League.
The Europa Conference League is effectively a new third tier European competition that acts below the Champions League and Europa League.
Yet just over a decade ago, Leeds were in the third tier of English football, never mind European echelons.
Picking out a star man is a difficult task as it should be remembered that Leeds also kept a clean sheet as returning captain Liam Cooper had to settle for a place on the bench despite being back available after injury.
Behind the ever-impressive Meslier, the back three of Luke Ayling, Pascal Struijk and in particular Diego Llorente were excellent, protected superbly by class act Kalvin Phillips in the CDM role.
But Jack Harrison should probably take the man of the match plaudits as a return of two assists and a goal tells its own tale, as does two goals in three minutes from record signing Rodrigo.
The Spaniard can clearly operate as a centre forward or a no 10 but replaced Patrick Bamford in the no 9 role and looked electric.
After frustrations with injuries and coronavirus, Rodrigo now looks close to his best level and has surely sent out a message that he must now start the last two games of the season, although that might have to be in the attacking midfield role.
But opening scorer Mateusz Klich produced a strong display in that role against the Clarets and Bielsa has basically been left with another selection headache.
A welcome one that is for a side that is clearly improving at a rate of knots and ending the season in style.
It might not be enough for Europe, but on current evidence it could be by this time next year.
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Thank you Laura Collins