What next for Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa? Questions, transfers and a full Elland Road
It has been a season to remember for Leeds United in the Premier League.
Marcelo Bielsa has masterminded a top-half finish at the first time of asking for the newly-promoted Whites in a campaign that will be remembered – both for the good and bad.
The good has been in the form of some stunning results and memorable moments.
Every Leeds fan will recall where they were when Stuart Dallas scored to lift Bielsa’s 10 men over Pep Guardiola’s champions-in-waiting in injury time at the Etihad.
Or the drubbings of Newcastle United and West Bromwich Albion with United at their scintillating best in front of goal.
There have been bad moments too. A resounding defeat at Manchester United along with a first-half thumping at Arsenal in the dreaded capital.
Though nothing has been quite as difficult as supporters being locked out of stadiums and having to watch from the outside looking in as the Elland Road club play out their first Premier League term in 16 years.
Bielsa and Leeds, though, can head into the forthcoming summer and reflect on a job well done and a ninth place finish in the standings.
A number of players will be jetting off to the delayed Euro 2020 tournament while back at base the LS11 hierarchy will be assessing the transfer market and plans for next season.
A summer of decisions ahead
Every Premier League club faces difficult decisions in the forthcoming transfer window but none more so than Leeds.
After a strong first campaign the Whites need to harness the momentum and keep building – some lessons can be taken from Sheffield United’s recent demise in investing in poor fashion after an impressive first term.
There will be popular and unpopular choices to be had after the Whites splurged around £100m last summer.
United fans have already said an emotional goodbye to two promotion heroes in Pablo Hernandez and Gaetano Berardi as they depart for pastures new.
Ins and outs are inevitable at any football club and an attachment to players who helped break the barren run out of the top flight is only natural at Leeds.
There can be no room for sentiment, though, otherwise United will get left behind and Bielsa – given his expected stay – will not let that happen under his watch.
Questions will keep on coming
Before the confetti had even hit the floor on the Whites’ Championship-promotion winning campaign questions were being asked.
How will Leeds fare in the Premier League? Can Patrick Bamford score the goals required as a leading striker? Are they too naive defensively? Will they burn out?
Leeds have rebuffed all of the above suggestions and more. Though another is rearing its head already with the dust barely even laid on the Premier League table.
Second-season syndrome has become synonymous with newly-promoted teams – whether there is any truth to it or not.
The questions will never end at Elland Road and there will always be another to follow after the previous one is answered resoundly.
A top-half finish is a stunning platform to build upon and, if fans, pundits and those outside LS11 still don’t respect Leeds and Bielsa then they must keep on letting their football do the talking.
Premier League football at Elland Road
Last weekend Leeds United’s squad enjoyed a taste of Elland Road with supporters for the first time in 14 long months.
It wasn't LS11 as we know it on a matchday owing to the reduced capacity of around 8,000 but it was a small step towards a return to some form of normality.
United have had great success without supporters in the stands but with their adoring faithful behind them in their second season who knows where Bielsa’s charges could go.
A rocking Elland Road is as intimidating as anywhere else in the country and United can harness it to their advantage.
Perhaps United's No 9 Patrick Bamford summed it up best: "It's totally different playing in front of fans than playing in an empty stadium.
"We can't wait. I'm sure it will help us go even further next year."