Our YEP Jury return to preview the 2018/19 campaign and Sunday’s opening match against Stoke City.
In the first game of Marcelo Biesla’s reign it will be interesting to see how much of an influence he has had on this group of players in a relatively short space on time. From what we’ve seen so far we could be in for an exciting ride.
At the end of pre-season the question remains of how the starting XI will take shape following the influx of new players.
You would imagine that once Barry Douglas and Patrick Bamford find their feet they will be regular starters, but with Jamal Blackman, Lewis Baker and Jack Harrison it remains to be seen.
Stoke City have gone about their business just as Newcastle did two years ago by signing proven Championship quality.
With the likes of Benik Afobe and Nigerian World Cup star Oghenekaro Etebo coming in, as well as Joe Allen staying at the club, Stoke will turn over a lot of good sides this season.
But under Bielsa’s guidance Leeds could well have the drive to match them.
Prediction: Leeds United 1 Stoke City 1.
So, another season begins under a new coach – the fifth consecutive season we’ve done so.
This time it’s Marcelo Bielsa and great things are expected.As they will be at Stoke. Relegated from the Premier League and now with new coach Gary Rowett, they spent big this summer. They did lose Shaqiri to Liverpool but have added £30m of talent already in Afobe, McClean and Tom Ince.
With the uncertainty over the Leeds line up and the strong look about Stoke, I’m going to start by forecasting a Leeds defeat.
Sorry folks! But in our dress rehearsal last Sunday, the starting XI comprised players regularly featured last season and, as we know too well, they were not good enough.
For the first time in years therefore, we go into the first game unsure who’ll start following the arrival this week of three players who are all expected to be regulars. But are they ready?
Will we see Barry Douglas, Jack Harrison and Patrick Bamford or will they need more schooling in the Bielsa way?
Will Pontus start having played no part in pre-season? Will Forshaw’s injury keep him out and if so who will replace him now that Vieira has gone?
And, despite lacklustre displays in pre-season, will Bielsa persevere with Alioski, Sáiz and Hernandez? There really are more questions than answers.
Prediction: Leeds United 0 Stoke City 2.
So it starts! Ten months of joy and without doubt a little pain, but I’m still glad Championship football is back.
Not surprisingly, Leeds United start the season with a new head coach. Marcelo Bielsa comes with an impressive pedigree, a former Argentina and Chile manager with spells in Spain and France. He’s known as ‘El Loco’ and many feel that he must be mad to try and succeed where many have failed in recent years.
The squad has been trimmed, many who disappointed last season have gone on to pastures new. Five players (Blackman, Baker, Douglas, Harrison and Bamford) have replaced them, there may be one or two more before the transfer window slams shut. All five have quality and in Bamford, Leeds have a natural number nine and Douglas is a ‘steal’ at £3 million, the Scotsman had a superb season with last season’s champions Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Tyler Roberts starts a campaign after missing most of the latter part of the last one because of injury, Mateusz Klitch has shown he could well be a worthy addition after a disappointing start to his Elland Road career. Both have impressed me in the pre-season games, as have a few of the youngsters.
Leeds start their campaign with a Sunday tea-time game for Sky with relegated Stoke City who will be desperate to return to the Premier League at the first attempt. They have much of the squad that dropped out of the top flight and have added quality players. I have high hopes for 2018/19; the squad is stronger with more quality and experience at this level.
Less than a top-10 finish would be a massive disappointment for this particular Leeds fan.
I’m usually seen as very negative but I hope and pray that my more positive look at things is rewarded with a better season.
Prediction: Leeds United 2 Stoke City 1.
There was just a single empty day between the World Cup final in Moscow and our first friendly at Forest Green Rovers.
That left very little time to process the ultimate disappointment of a fantastic tournament from England before moving on to the angst of pre-season at Elland Road. The appointment of Marcelo Bielsa was a remarkable moment and completely out of left field. Few clubs will have made such a dramatic change of course as Heckingbottom to Bielsa, even McDermott to Hockaday looks normal in comparison.
The mood of the United faithful has swung from certain relegation to a couple of signings away from promotion and then back again several times in the last month. Bielsa will bring fresh impetus and ideas to this side and I feel certain we are in for an exciting season.
If there is a negative to our summer activity, it’s how late it has come.
And unfortunately the visit of Stoke City probably comes a touch too early for us, but don’t let this be an indicator for the campaign as a whole.
Social media brings the melodrama of a transfer window to the boil like nothing else but, strip that away, and it’s clear to see progress has been made.
A lot of last season’s failures and those youngsters deemed not ready just yet have been moved on efficiently and, although incomings have been less frequent, we are recruiting players with a pedigree that, in hindsight, was missing last summer.
Prediction: Leeds United 1 Stoke City 2.
The tight-lipped style of our new head coach makes prediction difficult.
What will the Whites’ starting XI be?
Have Pontus Jansson, Barry Douglas, Patrick Bamford, Jack Harrison, Lewis Baker and Jamal Blackman spent enough time being inducted into Marcelo Bielsa’s system? Who knows?
Some of us older hands are not upset by the silence. Here is a coach who is his own man. He has the pedigree. He is decisive. The clearout and the sale of Ronnie Vieira show an uncluttered mind.
The signings came late but appear to be of good quality. Then again, the pattern of late decisions has repeated itself with all Championship clubs except Forest.
This is probably a hangover from the World Cup and it is as well the deadline has been brought forward or the agents of players like Matej Vydra would be faffing about even more.
Oh yes, Sunday’s prediction ...
I’m going for a 1-1 draw with better things to come.
Prediction: Leeds United 1 Stoke City 1.
The long hard months. The will we or won’t we. The trials, the tribulations, the nail-biting anxiety, the daring not to look. Well, mercifully that’s the close season over, the transfer window is sliding shut and the actual football’s back.
Football with inverted wing-backs who laterally rotate, midfielders who turn out to be centre-backs and a centre-forward who plays the violin. I fully expect the keeper to wander off to the opposition box for corners. Even the ones we are defending.
Who knows what might happen but only a 24-carat idiot would predict mid-table mediocrity for the season ahead. Bielsa doesn’t do mediocre. This is going to be either spine-tingling brilliance or unmitigated disaster and the fact that the fixtures have thrown up the favourites for openers emphasises it’s going to be full-time full-on. Stoke have players on the kind of wages even Majej Vydra might consider getting out of his hospital bed for but they’ll be upstaged by the big bear-like figure in the dugout. Yes, it’s Bielsa time and I, for one, embrace the genius and kiss the madness.
Prediction: Leeds United 7 Stoke City 4.