Matching the best, Rodrigo the no 10, Ian Poveda and further signings - Leeds United Talking Points

AFTER seeing Leeds United involved in another Premier League thriller, Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points from Saturday evening's 1-1 draw against Manchester City at Elland Road.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 4th October 2020, 12:12 pm

Matching the best

“Wow” one week after Liverpool. “Not bad huh?” three weeks later after City.

And the games against Fulham and Sheffield United were pretty damn good too.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

MENACE: Leeds United's record signing Rodrigo fires in another shot towards Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson as part of a fine showing after being brought on in the second half. Picture by Simon Hulme.

Leeds United’s return to the Premier League was never going to be dull under head coach Marcelo Bielsa given the Argentinian’s swash-buckling style.

But did anybody really expect this? With all four games producing thrillers and the latest instalment more or less off the scale?

After all, even City boss Pep Guardiola admitted he was unable to analyse exactly what went on immediately after Saturday evening’s full time whistle.

What had materialised, though, was another absolutely barnstorming football match involving Premier League new boys Leeds United that probably even topped the opening weekend 4-3 loss at defending champions Liverpool in terms of entertainment.

Reds boss Jurgen Klopp was seen mouthing the word “wow” at the cameras after the seven-goal thriller at Anfield finally ended and another seven-goal epic then followed as United opened their Premier League account with the following weekend’s 4-3 win at home to Fulham.

The subsequent Yorkshire derby success at Sheffield United came in another absorbing contest befitting of much more than the 1-0 scoreline and the next question was what on Earth would happen against Manchester City?

Marcelo Bielsa v Pep Guardiola, press versus press, attack versus attack.

“This could be five all” said Micah Richards shortly before kick-off on Sky Sports.

After 20 minutes, it looked like it might be 5-0 such was City’s dominance.

Yet Bielsa’s side again showed what they were made of with a stirring response and in the end the score could have been anything as part of a game in which the two sides had 35 attempts on goal between them.

Twenty three of those belonged to City and Guardiola’s side should really have been out of sight in the opening quarter but they weren’t with only Raheem Sterling’s 17th-minute strike to show for their dominance.

And whilst City definitely had the game’s best opportunities, it should not be forgotten that Leeds hit the woodwork twice and also squandered a glorious chance on the stroke of half-time when ‘keeper Ederson denied Luke Ayling from close range.

Whether the draw that was sealed by Rodrigo’s 59th-minute strike was a fair result is open to debate but Guardiola was not complaining and that’ll do for most.

His initial post-match reaction was also similar to Klopp’s.

“It was good huh?!” smiled the City boss, asked for his instant take on things on Sky.

City clearly had question marks hanging over them approaching Saturday’s clash at Elland Road following the previous weekend’s 5-2 loss at home to Leicester City and with the club’s two main strikers, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus, both out injured.

Yet Guardiola’s side then splashed out £65m to sign Portugal international centre-back Ruben Dias on Tuesday and with Aymeric Laporte also returning after his bout of COVID-19 the Citizens lined up with what is likely to be their strongest defence, give or take a new left back perhaps.

With the exception of Liverpool, this is as good as it gets in the country’s top flight yet Bielsa’s side again passed their latest test with flying colours.

The first four games definitely look like being a sign of things to come and it’s hard to tell just what Leeds could achieve if so.

Rodrigo and Ian Poveda

Picking out a star man for Leeds from the City display is a difficult task as the Whites were completely blitzed in the first quarter but the whole team then deserve huge credit for their response in the second half of the first period and throughout the whole of the second half.

But there is no doubt that the introductions of Ian Poveda and Rodrigo massively aided United's cause with Poveda coming on for Gjanni Alioski during the interval and record signing Rodrigo then replacing Tyler Roberts four minutes before the hour.

Poveda quickly took the game to City by causing left back Benjamin Mendy all sorts of problems with his pace, skill and direct running and ultimately seeing him off with the booked Mendy substituted for Nathan Ake with 19 minutes left.

But Rodrigo had an even bigger impact with the Spaniard scoring within three minutes of coming on as part of a fine display in which he was also twice denied by the woodwork.

Rodrigo was clearly helped by a big gaffe from City keeper Ederson for his goal but United's record signing caused mayhem in the no 10 role with a performance of which the still injured Pablo Hernandez would have been proud.

Hernandez was said to be facing another two weeks out with his groin injury before last weekend's derby at Sheffield United and should therefore be back available for when Leeds return to action after the international break with their Monday Night Football hosting of Wolves on October 19.

Jack Harrison will also be back having been ineligible to play against parent club City.

Fully fit, both are starters but Rodrigo was not bought to sit on the bench and surely his time lining up in the XI is near.

With Patrick Bamford continuing to thrive in the lone striker role, Bamford at 9 and Rodrigo at 10 looks the way to go.

How high can Leeds go?

It's still way too early to analyse the Premier League table with the likes of City and Manchester United a game behind everyone else and with all of Sunday's games still to be played.

But the facts are that Leeds have quickly amassed seven points from a possible 12 despite being faced with trips to champions Liverpool and last season's big movers Sheffield United and then home clashes against last season's runners-up Manchester City in addition to Fulham.

That is a fantastic return and really Leeds should have respect but equally nothing to fear in any of this season's fixtures given what they have done in their first four games, even though Bielsa rightly admitted that their showing against City took maximum effort.

Quite what United will be looking at in their first season back is very difficult to predict and a lot could depend on luck with injuries and fitness but the first target is staying in the division and Leeds should have no worries on that score.

Thereafter, at this stage, why set targets?

Leeds are clearly thriving and loving life back in the top division and who knows where the first season back will end.

Equally, though, it is worth remembering that the international transfer window closes at 11pm on Monday and just what Leeds do between now and then could have a big say on just how high up the ladder they finish.

The Whites are looking to sign 23-year-old Brazilian winger Raphinha from Rennes while interest in Manchester United's Dan James still remains ahead of Monday's deadline.

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