Patrick Bamford's perfect start, Helder Costa's pattern of progress and a look at the defence - Leeds United Talking Points

AFTER seeing Leeds United seal the club's first Premier League win for over 16 years, the YEP's Lee Sobot takes a look at the main talking points from Saturday's latest seven-goal thriller against Fulham at Elland Road.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 20th September 2020, 11:50 am

Bielsaball basketball and defensive issues

Just about everybody involved with Leeds has always said the club would endeavour to continue playing the same style of football that got them into the Premier League in the first place.

United's first two games have been an absolute treat - though maybe not so good for the nerves of fans.

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EXCELLING: Leeds United winger Helder Costa, left, celebrates his second goal of the game with assist provider Patrick Bamford as Stuart Dallas closes in. Photo by Oli Scarff - Pool/Getty Images.

Leeds' followers are well used to Bielsa-ball but their team's first two encounters back in the country's top flight have resembled basketball games at times with each side continually attacking the other which is breathtaking to watch.

But the sooner United iron out their current defensive issues the better as based on their two first performances of the season, that could be the main thing standing between Leeds and a very decent Premier League finish with Leeds already looking more than capable of sealing their first objective of top-flight survival.

United's opening day performance at defending champions Liverpool looked like being a clear statement of intent with Leeds continually hassling and harrying the best team in the country and attacking at every opportunity whilst maintaining their incredibly intense and high energy press.

And it was more of the same against Fulham though this time the defensive issues were rather more concerning and even Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa admitted he was worried by conceding seven goals in United's first two games.

ICE COOL: Mateusz Klich confidently slots away his penalty. Photo by Carl Recine - Pool/Getty Images.

Whilst not exactly expected, Liverpool's star-studded front three were always likely to cause United's defence big problems at Anfield, especially with skipper Liam Cooper missing the game with a calf injury meaning new recruit Robin Koch partnered the still very inexperienced but promising Pascal Struijk at centre-back.

But with Cooper back to face the Cottagers and United's sights lowered with all due respect to newly promoted Fulham, the hope would have been that Leeds could have produced their brilliant attacking play whilst proving much less troubled at the other end.

Yet whilst United ultimately left with all three points there is no hiding the fact that Leeds shipped in another three goals and the Cottagers also squandered other chances to improve to add to their tally further, albeit the same was true of Leeds who were helped by some very poor Cottagers defending.

In fairness, Aleksandar Mitrovic is a beast of a striker and he naturally proved a handful for Cooper and Koch.

But United quite clearly need to shore up the defence as while attack proved the best method of defence against the Cottagers, Leeds will not always score four and be as clinical as they have been in their first two games.

Koch looks a good player and produced a brilliant piece of defending to ensure Michael Hector's first-half header was deflected over the bar but the German's tackle on Joe Bryan to concede a first-half penalty was unnecessary with his efforts to pull out coming too late.

In short, the German international who has only recently turned 24 is still finding his feet which is understandable still only two games into his new adventure in English football and Saturday's outing was also his first alongside Cooper who also had good and bad moments against the Cottagers.

United's defence will improve but will need to as there is no hiding place in the Premier League and, as was highlighted after the Liverpool loss, another genuine first team centre-back looks to be needed as both competition and cover for Cooper and Koch with Struijk, Luke Ayling and Kalvin Phillips the other options.

Any goalkeeper that concedes seven goals in two games will also naturally have questions asked of them but it's not like Meslier is making howlers though he seemed rather caught in two minds whether he was coming or going for Mitrovic's header.

But at just 20 years old, Meslier has still only made 13 appearances in English football and the Frenchman is basically learning on the job and there is no denying his talent or potential.

It's just a case of whether another goalkeeping recruit is needed in the meantime as extra competition and cover.

Patrick Bamford's perfect start

Patrick Bamford approached United's first season back in the country's top flight as United's third most experienced player in terms of Premier League football behind Pablo Hernandez and Adam Forshaw having made 27 outings for Crystal Palace, Burnley, Norwich City and Middlesbrough between August 2015 and May 2017, netting once for the Riversiders.

In just two appearances for Leeds, the striker has already doubled his previous top flight goals tally with Bamford now two from two after following his tidy finish in the 4-3 loss at Liverpool with a very composed strike to put the Whites 3-1 up against the Cottagers.

Bamford has previously admitted he feels like he has a bit of a point to prove on his Premier League return and the striker is also well aware of the questions that have been raised over whether he scores enough goals.

Yet the Whites no 9 is impressing with his current finishing and including the end to last season, the 27-year-old has now netted six goals in his last 11 games behind closed doors.

With the striker's hold up play and overall work rate never in doubt, Bamford is looking like a pretty decent Premier League striker at present, perfect for what Bielsa requires and even after the recruitment of club record signing and Spanish international forward Rodrigo, Bamford is going to take some shifting as United's first choice striker.

We even saw a new element to the striker's game with his superb assist for Helder Costa's second goal as Bamford produced a lovely step over and burst of pace down the left hand side before supplying a pinpoint pull-back.

So far so good and it remains to be seen quite how and when Rodrigo will feature in a first choice Whites line up after a pretty quiet start from the Spanish international who struggled to get involved playing in the no 10 role as a late replacement for the injured Pablo Hernandez and found himself taken off at half-time for Tyler Roberts.

There will be so much more to come from a player who is clearly a class act but there needs to be.

Helder Costa's pattern of progress

It could be argued that there has been abit of a pattern with some of the more high profile recent new recruits at Leeds in the sense of coming in, taking a while to settle, having questions to answer and then producing the goods.

Chris Wood and Kemar Roofe are two players that definitely fell into that category, Bamford too to a degree, and also Jack Harrison who took a while to hit lift off during his first loan spell.

And Helder Costa is now following suit with the former Wolves winger having really started to excel towards the end of last season and now taking his game with Leeds to new levels in his first two outings with the Whites in the Premier League.

Costa had a fine game at Anfield with Martin Keown saying he was the main Whites player to take his eye but the 26-year-old was even better against the Cottagers and produced two quite superb finishes to add to his assist against Liverpool for Mateusz Klich's strike and Costa is quickly becoming one of the first names on the team sheet given his form on the right flank.

Against the Cottagers, Costa, Bamford and the very impressive ice-cool Klich were the clear three stand-out players.

All in all, if Leeds can iron out the current defensive issues and perhaps sign one or two more first team recruits - a centre-back and another attacking midfielder perhaps - then United could have the foundations of a team that could make big strides in the country's top flight and Bielsa is definitely a man on a mission at Elland Road.

Asked just what the club's first Premier League win for 16 years will have meant to the city and United's fans, the Argentinian's answer will have been music to United's fans' ears.

"I hope that we can win a lot of games this season."

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Thank you Laura Collins