How Daniel Farke's Leeds United 'weakness' can be weaponised amid 6,561 possibilities

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Daniel Farke's young Leeds United team is treading new and perilous territory and maybe that's not such a bad thing.

This is all a bit exciting, isn't it? Two games to go, automatic promotion still possible. It's exciting in the same way that a monstrous rollercoaster is exciting when you finally get to the head of the queue. You know you want the experience, you know you should enjoy it but you know there's a reason for your fear. It's that excitement that turns the stomach just a little.

And though the proximity to promotion is not unfamiliar to Leeds fans, it most certainly is for the vast majority of the players they'll follow to London on Friday night. There are remnants of the Marcelo Bielsa 2020 Championship-winning side in the squad Farke has available to him. Patrick Bamford, Illan Meslier, Liam Cooper and Jamie Shackleton were all there and played parts of varying significance in that triumph, one that looked quite different to what is possible this season. But other older heads like Sam Byram, Glen Kamara and Junior Firpo have never been this way before, let alone the young guns. The talisman of this season, Crysencio Summerville, has never stood on the brink of history in the same way he does right now, knowing that a brushstroke of his boot could ink his name indelibly in club history. Archie Gray, as a Leeds fan, knows full well what it means to be where he is and to have this possibility within his grasp, without knowing exactly what it's going to take to take hold. The same goes for so many of the other young and inexperienced individuals in the camp. So as a collective, Leeds are standing at the head of the queue to a rollercoaster quite unlike any other they've ridden before.

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That definitely played a part in some of the nerves Farke detected in the squad before they took on Middlesbrough on Monday night. The first of the last three, it was a hurdle at which the automatic promotion race could not be won but could definitely be lost. A defeat, the ensuing external meltdown and the pressure that would have rolled on to Friday night's meeting with Queens Park Rangers, would have been difficult even for a seasoned Premier League and Championship yo-yo team to bear. A win put Leeds back on the front foot, moving forward and reminded of what it is they are capable, most notably in the attacking sense.

But Farke does not want his players, the younger ones especially, overthinking consequences, ramifications and the 6,561 permutations [Data: @8Yards8Feet/Simon Lock] that still exist in the automatic promotion picture. Instead, he wants them focusing as much as humanly possible on the next game, the next duel, the next pass or shot. He wants them walking this unfamiliar path one surefooted step at a time. Perhaps having no prior experience of such a scenario is actually a good thing - there are no memories of previous failed attempts that could live large in minds at exactly the wrong time. True, they've never done this before but they've never not done this before, either. History cannot repeat if there is none.

That notion extends to the location of Friday's match, too. Given the events, the controversy and the injustice suffered by the Whites in the capital prior to and during the 2019/20 season and how London came to be viewed, had Bielsa's team been sitting third with promotion in the balance ahead of a penultimate game that was to take place at Loftus Road, an unhealthy dose of fear and pessimism would have quite naturally crept in. It was London where Gaetano Berardi was wrongly sent off in the defeat by Millwall. It was Loftus Road where Nahki Wells did his best Larry Nance Jnr impression en route to an ill-deserved winner. Loftus Road was not a happy hunting ground at all for that Leeds team. This Leeds team do not carry those scars. This Leeds team went to Millwall and got what they deserved. They rescued a point from the jaws of defeat at Watford. They went to the EFL Awards and won. They've never been to Loftus Road before, as a team. They have, however, played against, dominated and beaten QPR before. They've just rediscovered their goalscoring form against a better side than QPR, who will themselves be out to win and in danger of leaving space for Summerville and friends to do their thing. So while Leeds do not yet know exactly what this next week and a half will look like, or what will become of them when it's done, they know they can take the next step.

It could be that the very thing Farke uses as context whenever this side slips up - their youthful inexperience - can be weaponised in the fight to pip Ipswich Town to second place or, in what would now feel relatively miraculous, finish top. They know not the pain of that image of Bielsa hunkered down in a moment of quiet, sad reflection in a Loftus Road corridor. They know not what awaits them if they pick up a first Whites win at that stadium since 2017 and go on to emulate Bielsa's promotion heroes. They do know how they got here, though, and what it looks like. It looks like Ethan Ampadu and Joe Rodon returning to their solid best as partners. It looks like Ilia Gruev covering every blade of grass. It looks like Junior Firpo crossing for Bamford. It looks like Georginio Rutter laying on chances for Summerville. It looks like Summerville taking them. To get to where they've never been, they can just go to what they know.

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