Double VAR tonic but impressive 'big six' home record completed by Leeds United's best yet - Talking Points
LEEDS United have enjoyed some fantastic high points during their long-awaited Premier League return.
Fifty of them, with every point precious and the Whites having now amassed 50 following victory against Tottenham Hotspur.
Manchester City away must run it close, and also Leicester City, but as far as ‘high points’ are concerned, Saturday’s success against Spurs was probably the best.
That might sound odd as part of a campaign in which Leeds managed to beat the division’s champions-elect City in their own backyard, despite playing over half of the game with ten men.
Last month’s triumph at the Etihad was epic and a phenomenal achievement.
Yet Whites head coach Bielsa has often talked about his desire to see Leeds compete against the division’s biggest teams “as equals” and Saturday was the best example yet of that happening and moreover dominating a ‘big six’ opponent.
United kicked off against Spurs with victory against the biggest of the big six already in the bank following their triumph against City.
But that success was all about digging in, being resilient, shutting up shop and parking the bus as much as Bielsa would allow after Liam Cooper’s first half dismissal.
The bus was never truly stationary, hence United were able to counter and bag a dramatic winner through Stuart Dallas, even after Ferran Torres had equalised.
But the stats of the City game speak volumes with Pep Guardiola’s side having 29 attempts at goal of which seven were on target compared to United’s two attempts, both of which found the net.
Not exactly competing as equals, understandably against a side of City’s calibre when playing over half of the game with ten men. Yet Saturday’s clash against Spurs was a different tale altogether with Leeds hugely impressive against one of the division’s best sides and very much competing and beating as equals.
Spurs boss Ryan Mason felt the outcome might have been different had Harry Kane not been flagged offside after netting when the game was all square at 1-1.
The immediate suspicion was that Kane had strayed offside but upon a check from VAR the freeze frame appeared to tell a different tale.
But VAR’s infamous lines ruled that the England captain was indeed offside, probably by a toenail or something.
He should have worn a smaller sized boot was the quip in commentary and to a degree it was hard not to sympathise.
To a degree that is because Leeds have been there too many times before this season, in particular Patrick Bamford and Tyler Roberts.
Amazingly, the Whites enjoyed a rare double case of VAR joy against Spurs as Rodrigo’s goal also looked offside to the naked eye, only for VAR to give the goal the all clear.
No wonder he was pictured raising his eyebrows.
But even allowing for the two VAR episodes, Leeds felt like extremely worthy winners as part of a superb display of attacking, energetic and high press football and the stats back that up.
The Whites had 16 shots at goal of which seven were on target, compared to Tottenham’s 11 attempts of which only three required a save from Illan Meslier.
Not that possession wins any prizes but Leeds also had 53 per cent of the ball and this was very much competing against equals against a side who really ought to be qualifying for the Champions League given the talent at their disposal.
A top-four finish still looked likely for them ahead of Saturday’s clash at Elland Road. But not any more after Leeds completed an amazing set of results against the division’s big six at home.
It’s hard to call Arsenal a ‘big six’ side at present and Leicester and West Ham really should be regarded as in the top bracket of teams in the top flight, whatever the European Super League bunch think.
But nevertheless the six fixtures at Elland Road against Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal have now been completed with Leeds going unbeaten via five draws and one win.
In every aspect, the best was saved until last.
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Thank you Laura Collins