London curse continues but Tottenham Hotspur assessment outlines bigger picture of Leeds United's overall progress - Talking Points
THE history books will point to another defeat in London.
Fourteen games now for Leeds United in the capital without a victory, last savoured in the Big Smoke in December 2017 via a 3-1 triumph at Championship hosts QPR.
Yet it’s worth remembering just how far Leeds have come in the three years that have followed, epitomised by the lasting thought of Saturday’s 3-0 reverse against title contenders Tottenham Hotspur.
No disgrace whatsoever in the defeat and instead an example as to what might be required longer term to challenge towards the top end of the division.
That will probably still be some way off, at least on a consistent basis, not that there’s anything wrong with that as a newly-promoted side back in the top division after a 16-year wait.
Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites have also shown that even now they are capable of causing even the best teams in the division major problems.
Manchester City only left Elland Road with a 1-1 draw whilst Everton and Aston Villa were condemned to Whites defeats.
Ultimately, this weekend’s clash against a side who lined up in seventh in Tottenham proved a bridge too far in United’s latest trip to the capital.
Yet Jose Mourinho’s now third-placed side might go very close to winning the league and Saturday’s reverse provided a very clear illustration in the difference between where Leeds are now and the levels required to sit in the higher echelons of the division.
Even as it is, United still sit 12th when the primary objective in the first season back is staying up.
Leeds are 12 points clear of the dropzone having now played every team apart from ninth-placed Southampton and fourth-bottom Brighton.
Most of the teams below United have games in hand but Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites are still as big as 40-1 to go down.
And whilst Leeds fell to a 3-0 reverse in their latest test at Spurs, there was again huge promise against Tottenham who basically took all three points via being far more clinical in front of goal.
Squandering chances remains a definite issue for Leeds though it has to be remembered just where the Whites have come from and that they are now tackling the cream of the crop.
In Saturday’s case, the best front two combination in the country in Harry Kane and Son Heung-min who duly bagged a goal apiece.
Yet Leeds only had two less attempts on goal than Spurs in 18 compared to Tottenham's 20 and also 64 per cent of possession.
Possession alone wins you nothing but the foundations were once again there if United had taken their chances and kept a tight ship at the other end.
Instead, Gjanni Alioski’s foul on Steven Bergwijn gifted the hosts a debatable penalty which Kane was never likely to miss and another continued Achilles heel of conceding from set pieces came back to haunt as Toby Alderweireld supplied a bullet header finish to a corner.
The set pieces issue clearly needs more work though in mitigation United’s three first choice centre backs in Liam Cooper, Robin Koch and Diego Llorente are all out injured.
At the other end, Leeds are either supremely clinical as in Tuesday’s 5-0 romp at West Brom or not at all at present and the issue is not just about Patrick Bamford.
The Whites no 9 should really have done better with the chances he had but plenty of others also squandered openings.
Then there is United’s open style of play to consider and the continued question of whether Leeds need to be more reserved in their approach against the division’s real big guns to prevent themselves from becoming so exposed.
The answer to those suggestions was pretty emphatic from Bielsa after the 6-2 loss at Manchester United - a case again of we will make plan A better - and after defeat to Spurs the head coach was left reflecting on the areas needed to “polish” to take that next step forward.
In the grand scheme of things, Leeds are already shining nicely and in a decent situation when such an assessment comes after a strong display against a side such as title-chasing Spurs.
A message from the Editor:
Leeds has a fantastic story to tell - and the Yorkshire Evening Post has been rooted firmly at the heart of telling the stories of our city since 1890.
We believe in ourselves and hope you believe in us too. We need your support to help ensure we can continue to be at the heart of life in Leeds.
Subscribe to our website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app.
With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content.
Click here to subscribe.
For more details on our newspaper subscription offers click here.
Thank you Laura Collins