Job done and Leeds United must now resolve current issue to realise full potential in second season back

Make no mistake, that was a big one.

Sunday, 3rd October 2021, 4:31 pm
Updated Sunday, 3rd October 2021, 4:34 pm

Marcelo Bielsa said it was “vital” that Leeds United beat Watford in his programme notes, even after just six games played.

Despite still facing another 32 fixtures, the Argentine knew just how important it was that Leeds finally bagged their first victory of the new Premier League campaign at the seventh attempt.

The table suddenly makes for more comfortable viewing although it could and should be even better to look at.

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LEADING THE LINE: Leeds United's record signing Rodrigo, centre, is playing as Whites no 9 in the absence of the injured Patrick Bamford. Picture by Simon Hulme.

But that ought to happen next if the Whites can produce more of an end product from their attacking game which must be the lesson from victory against the Hornets, and a lesson which is becoming a common theme.

All that really mattered at Elland Road on Saturday was that Leeds won and Bielsa’s Whites did exactly that, elevating themselves from third bottom to 16th and crucially out of the drop zone heading into the international break, three points clear of trouble.

Nobody wanted to be looking at the sight of Leeds below that dreaded dotted line for the next two weeks and instead Norwich City, Newcastle United and Burnley occupy those bottom three places.

All three look like they are facing a big fight in order to keep their necks above water and on Saturday’s evidence Watford will be in the thick of it too.

Sacking Xisco Munoz the following day was rather extreme but the Hornets offered very little against Leeds, albeit United and in particular Illan Meslier looked to have got very lucky when Christian Kabasele’s strike was disallowed after Meslier dropped a corner, Kabasele judged to have fouled Liam Cooper.

The game’s video assistant referee Lee Mason chose not to intervene which was surprising and relieving although the boot had been on the other foot in the first half when Dan James was denied very strong claims for a penalty.

Probably 1-1 on the VAR score and there can be no denying that Leeds were very worthy winners of a contest in which they had 20 shots at goal compared to Watford’s five, in addition to 67 percent of possession.

Yet for all their dominance, the closing stages of Saturday’s contest at Elland Road were far too tense for comfort and United must start netting with more regularity and crucially having more shots on target if they are to further climb the league.

At the other end of the pitch, Leeds kept their first clean sheet of the season after some excellent defending, Cooper and the returning Diego Llorente both solid at the back although Cooper might have got away with one with the disallowed equaliser.

There will also be much tougher tests than a Watford side who offered very little going forward, Premier League player of the month nominee Ismaila Sarr almost anonymous on the right flank and kept very quiet by Junior Firpo in what was easily his best display yet in a Whites shirt.

Jamie Shackleton was also excellent at right back and the back four were protected impressively by Kalvin Phillips.

But whilst Leeds were very easy on the eye going forward, keeper Ben Foster was only beaten once and United’s lead was far too slender for comfort heading into the closing stages.

Missing chances is a topic that has often been raised with Bielsa’s Whites and the head coach said the other week that finishing chances in games is not something that can be replicated in training.

Instead, the idea is to create as many chances as you can and there was no shortage of those against Watford although the general theme was Leeds getting into very good positions but without capitalising, often through the wrong pass or by crosses gathered by Foster or intercepted.

It should be remembered that United were also without their main striker in Patrick Bamford who remains sidelined with an ankle injury.

The sooner he is back the better.

With or without him, the quicker Leeds start cashing in on their attacking play the sooner they will make their way up the league.

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Thank you Laura Collins