Marcelo Bielsa's Plan A fine-tuned; Ben White fills Pontus Jansson's big shoes and Whites must-haves in summer transfer window - Leeds United Talking Points

AFTER seeing Leeds United begin their Championship campaign with a 3-1 win at Bristol City, Lee Sobot takes a look at a few key talking points from Sunday's triumph at Ashton Gate.

Monday, 5th August 2019, 12:45 pm
WATCH AND ADMIRE: Leeds United's Spanish magician Pablo Hernandez fires Leeds United ahead at Bristol City. Picture by Mark Kerton/PA Wire.

Plan A fine-tuned

Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa lit up the Championship with his high press, free-flowing, pass and move attacking football during his first season in charge of Leeds only for the campaign to end in tears by missing out on first automatic promotion and then falling to defeat to Derby County in the play-offs.

But if plan-A fails the Bielsa way is usually to try and execute plan-A better and that looked absolutely the case at Ashton Gate with the Robins suffocated by United's impressive high octane football.

Quite how Lee Johnson's side will fare this season remains to be seen but United looked in fine fettle with Bielsa's methods clearly now embedded deep within the squad.

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There were a few dicey moments at the other end with Kiko Casilla causing heart palpitations even if the Spaniard did make one excellent save and the last ten minutes were rather more nervy than they should have been after Andreas Weimann's strike 11 minutes from time.

But Leeds could and should have scored five or six with the omens again looking very promising at this very early stage; especially with main summer signing Helder Costa only starting on the bench.

Patrick Bamford up and running

Bamford has been the subject of much debate over the summer with Leeds unquestionably guilty of squandering far too many goalscoring chances last season with Bamford guilty of some big misses in the Spring.

Yet the £7m recruit has always insisted that a consistent run of regular outings would lead to him quickly hitting the goal trail and in fairness to Bamford the forward did net 10 times from just 16 league starts last season; not a bad return really battling back from two separate knee injuries that forced the striker to miss 22 league games.

Now benefiting from a full pre-season and a Whites side clearly even more in sync than last term, Bamford was able to start his season with a bang in Sunday's clash at Ashton Gate and there was much more to his performance than his 57th-minute header which put Leeds 2-0 up.

The forward's hold up play and tireless running in the second half in particular were just what United needed and be it sub-consciously or otherwise, Bamford quickly looked like a different player after he had scored.

Whether Bamford can do a Chris Wood and more than double his goals tally in his second season at Leeds remains to be seen and either way United will definitely need another option before the Thursday 5pm closure of the summer transfer window if Kemar Roofe is sold to Anderlecht for around £7m as looks likely.

The Whites continue to be linked with Liverpool winger Ryan Kent, an initial target for the club this summer.

But Bamford is up and running and a steady flow of goals from the forward and at least around the 20-marker will be crucial to United's promotion cause.

Ben White fills Pontus Jansson's big shoes

Twenty-one-year old White is highly regarded by both his peers and coaches in the game and Whites MD Angus Kinnear stated only last week his belief that United had uncovered something of a hidden gem in landing the centre-back on a season -ong loan from Brighton.

Yet Sunday's outing at Ashton Gate still presented a Championship debut for a player whose sole league outings had previously been either for Newport County in League Two or Peterborough United in League One.

White also had the task of filling the very large boots left by Pontus Jansson - sold to Brentford for £5.5m this summer but a player who Bielsa has labelled as United's best player last term.

On Sunday's evidence, White may well end up one of the club's best of 2019-20 with the defender looking extremely composed and unruffled throughout and quickly forming a strong partnership next to Liam Cooper at the heart of the Leeds defence.

White looks to have pace, good passing ability and still a decent aerial presence despite being three inches shorter than Jansson and the Brighton loanee can be proud of a very accomplished debut.

Rather like the issue upfront, there still remains a nagging doubt that Leeds would benefit from another option at centre-back but Bielsa is seemingly happy with what he has got with Gaetano Berardi, Luke Ayling, Kalvin Phillips and young Pascal Struijk the other options.

Berardi will be back from suspension for Saturday's Elland Road clash against Nottingham Forest but Ayling remains injured and it goes without saying that it is imperative that Phillips stays despite interest from Premier League vultures in transfer deadline week.

With Bailey Peacock-Farrell having now moved to Burnley, another goalkeeping option as competition for Casilla is also a must.

Peerless Pablo Hernandez (again)

There were several other very strong displays shining in the platinum and pink of Leeds with Staurt Dallas and Jack Harrison both having good games and Adam Forshaw deserving special praise for his performance behind no 10 Mateusz Klich in the no 8 role.

Sunday's display was definitely one of the midfielder's best yet for Leeds - energetic but with end product in the passing stakes and a passing completion rate of 95 per cent - the best of any Whites starter.

The 27-year-old is also very keen to add goals to his game and the Liverpudlian was unlucky not to do so with his three attempts on goal. A first goal for Leeds looks imminent.

But alas the final word, again, has to be saved for United's Spanish magician Pablo Hernandez who just looks better than ever at 34 years old.

The Spaniard will not have scored many better goals than his 26th-minute effort which soared into the top left corner after a very neat turn and the attacking midfielder also left the Robins defence for dead to tee up Bamford's header.

Hernandez also contributed in defensive duties when tracking back and there were no signs of the legs going in the first game of the campaign.

As a club, Leeds know they belong at a higher level than the Championship - even if there is no divine right in getting there - and the same is unquestionably true of Hernandez.

If any player needs wrapping up in cotton wool it is him.