Photo via CNN
Certain clubs might maintain the mindset of simply getting to the Premier League.
The philosophy for Leeds United, however, is not one of such blandness. No, they did not clinch the 2019-20 EFL Championship and say their goal has already been achieved. Nor did they claim their first berth in the Premier League in close to two decades (2003-04 season) to simply pick up a participation trophy.
In the club’s mind, the bar has been set much, much higher. So high, in fact, that Leeds does not want to maybe win a half a dozen matches and call it fine and dandy.
Instead, they want to make a leap for the top of the pyramid. They want to not only challenge the elite but etch their name into it. Yearning for another grab at a Champions League spot is their goal, and while it might take several seasons to legitimately contend for it, the club is most certainly on the right path.
Even when you disregard the aggression the club showed in their most recent transfer windows, the aggression has made itself known on the pitch during the 2020-21 campaign. In 32 Premier League matches played, Leeds United is 14-4-14 and 10th in the table. If “middle-of-the-pack” was looked up in the dictionary, Leeds would be a reference, as they not only sit smack dab at the midway point in the table, but also have a goal differential of zero. While the club has conceded the sixth-most goals (50), their 50 goals scored are tied for eighth (Chelsea). Leading (see what I did there?) the way in the goal department is star striker Patrick Bamford, whose 14 goals scored are tied with Everton’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin for fifth among all Premier League goal scorers.
Bamford’s star power, along with his supplementary reinforcements in Stuart Dallas, Jack Harrison and Raphinha (who have seven, seven and six goals to their 2020-21 resume, respectively) have helped piece Marcelo Bielsa’s puzzle together in regard to how they wish to run the attacking formations. For the Leeds manager, the winning formula is simple: passing and shooting in large quantities, and from long ranges.
Such has been the winning way for the club so far this season. While the club’s 16,045 total passes heading into Apr. 24 action rank eighth, their 666 total crosses rank second (Liverpool ranks first with 753). Sharing the ball has helped net the club a ton of shot opportunities as a result – the club is fifth in shots (441) and shots on target (165).
More passing and more shooting is definitely enticing, but Leeds United has been able to cash in with many a goal, and from all over the pitch. The club’s eight goals scored via the header are tied for sixth (Chelsea, Man City and Wolverhampton).
Not bad, but certainly not what club has been known for as of late. Instead, due to the club’s 4-1-4-1 formation, there has been a more ingrained philosophy on long-range shooting, and boy, has it showed this season. When looking at goals scored from outside of the penalty box, Leeds is tied for first (12 with Leicester City). The club’s aggression from the counterattack has also been illustrated through the club’s aggressive tactics, as their six goals from the counterattack are also tied for first (Manchester United).
The club might be a couple seasons away from legitimate Champions League consideration, but their philosophy has always been about aggression. In Leeds’ eyes, being station-to-station is synonymous with going through the motion.
For Leeds, it was never about getting to the Premier League, but excelling in it.
In their mind, aggression will make it possible.