Continuity is the foundation for Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United's Championship promotion hopes, amid key questions

Marcelo Bielsa's continued presence at Elland Road has helped make them bookies' favourites to go up
Marcelo Bielsa's continued presence at Elland Road has helped make them bookies' favourites to go up
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Continuity is the foundation upon which Leeds United hope and believe they can build a successful promotion bid.

It’s maybe no surprise that the Marcelo Bielsa, who was content to take so many of the 2017/18 squad into battle with him last season, elected to subtly edit and not rip up the script this summer.

There are new faces, but barring a last gasp flurry of transfer window activity, they’re few and far between.

He may have, on the evidence of the summer’s final friendly against Cagliari, tinkered slightly with his formation.

But his methods weren’t likely to change and the intensity at which his players are expected to train and perform, remains the same.

That may have come as a slight shock to the system for new boys Helder Costa and Ben White but for the remaining class of 2018/19, those double and triple sessions have been business as usual.

It’s the continued presence of Bielsa and the vast majority of the players he entrusted to introduce his style of football to the Championship that makes them favourites in so many eyes – they’re the bookies’ tip to go up and end a 16-season absence from the Premier League.

At their best they were scintillating to watch and horrendous to play against.

The data proved as much.

Leeds earned a top two spot in the divisional tables for successful passes, final third entries, through balls, attacks, crosses, total shots and shots on target.

They had the Championship’s lowest number of passes attempted against them, the least amount of final third entries, through passes, crosses, total shots, shots on target and corners.

It was, quite often, total domination of the football and goalscoring opportunities came in abundance.

The major flaw was evidenced by their chance conversion rate and the absence of a Leeds United man in the Championship’s top 15 goalscorers.

That’s where one of the two biggest question marks exist going into this new season.

Do they have enough up front?

Kemar Roofe is injured, again, leaving Patrick Bamford to shoulder a goalscoring responsibility, at least for the first few weeks of the season, that could quickly become a burden.

A couple of early goals in the opening handful of fixtures would do wonders for the confidence of the man who cost £7m from Middlesbrough. Without further attacking additions, there will have to be an improved output in terms of goals from the likes of Jack Harrison.

He’s looked sharp in pre-season and should be, according to Whites legend Tony Dorigo, targeting double figures this season.

Costa is one man who will definitely add bite to Leeds’ attacking bark and a repeat of his double-figure 2016/17 tally would be a huge bonus.

The other question mark hovers over the opposite end of the pitch.

Gone is Pontus Jansson and although White has arrived on loan from Brighton with an impressive pedigree of carrying the ball out from the back, do they have enough in reserve in central defence?

There were nervy moments for the backline, albeit against top flight Italian opposition, last weekend.

But Kalvin Phillips staying put after the transfer deadline will calm a lot of fears in the fanbase.

He’s expected to be a key cog in the Bielsa wheel again and would be a difficult, if not impossible, man to adequately replace so late in the summer window.

Not only can he read the game well enough to break up attacks in midfield, he can drop back into defence.

That versatility is so important in a Bielsa side where positions can seem irrelevant at times during games.

There are certainly question marks hanging over other Championship clubs this summer – Sheffield Wednesday are yet to appoint a manager and Derby County are under brand new management.

It’s clear from the summer’s recruitment across the division that financial fair play continues to cast a long, dark shadow over clubs.

Fulham, another club the bookies like the look of, have used the loan market to keep recruitment costs at a minimal and at Cardiff City, where the Neil Warnock factor is expected to weigh heavily in their favour, they’ve hardly gone on a spending spree, paying a combined £6m for Aden Flint and Will Vaulks.

At least, at Elland Road, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect more of what was seen and enjoyed so much last season.

The hope is, this time, for a better outcome.

And if Bielsa can get such a drastic improvement from the team who finished mid-table in 2017/18, why can’t he squeeze just a little more out of last season’s group?