Major Leeds United room for improvement identified as Whites prepare to face poorest set-piece defenders

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If Leeds United are to take fate into their own hands during the Championship run-in, there is one area in particular where Daniel Farke's team must begin to improve - and fast.

Leeds' record at attacking set-pieces this year has been the definition of average. The Whites sit 11th in the Championship table when it comes to Expected Goals (xG) from set-plays, however their conversion of such situations has been somewhat poorer. Only Plymouth Argyle (5), Blackburn Rovers (5) and Birmingham City (7) have scored fewer goals than Leeds United (8) from set-pieces in 2023/24 which is a problem considering Leeds' recent blip in form at Coventry City and against Sunderland in midweek.

The Black Cats limited Leeds to just 0.55 xG - their lowest single-game tally at Elland Road for quite some time - defending central areas resolutely while conceding 13 corners, none of which Leeds profited from.

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In the Championship this season, only Sheffield Wednesday have underperformed their set-piece xG by more than Leeds. The Owls' 13.69 xG from set-plays should have yielded at least five more goals than their actual eight-goal tally. Meanwhile, Leeds' 12.43 xG total has produced just eight goals from dead ball situations - a deficit of over four goals. How decisive could those four goals prove come the end of the season, considering league leaders Leicester City, Ipswich Town and Farke's men are all separated by a single point with only a handful of matches remaining?

Furthermore, Leeds' improvement at set-plays is necessary given the teams they are still to face. This weekend, United welcome Blackburn to Elland Road, then at the end of April, visit Queens Park Rangers in their penultimate outing of the season. Both teams have conceded 15 goals from set-pieces this season - a joint-high in the Championship during 2023/24. When going up against sides who are susceptible at such junctures in games, Leeds must make the most of the opportunities presented to them at corners and free-kicks, especially if as expected their opponents set up in a deep block much like the way Sunderland approached Tuesday night's game, limiting Leeds' chances from open play.

Set-pieces are one of the few highly-coachable elements of the modern game and whether there is a material improvement or not could determine the outcome of Leeds' remaining fixtures, especially Blackburn and QPR. At an elite level, it is difficult to change things overnight but a renewed focus on this particular area of the game is something Farke's staff will doubtless drill into the squad in team meetings before these two fixtures.

Should Leeds come to benefit from increased attention to detail at dead ball situations, expect plenty of back-slapping in Farke's dugout.

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