Leeds United FC’s wait for a grand return to the Premier League is over. On September 12, they officially kick-off their Premier League campaign against the defending champions Liverpool at their fortress, Anfield. It will be more exciting than a daunting prospect for Leeds’ fans because all they have hoped for in the past few years is to be back amongst the English elite.
It’ll be after 16-years that Leeds United FC will compete in the English top-flight after being dropped to League One at one stage. One man who was influential in guiding the Whites back to the promised land was their manager, Marcelo Bielsa. If anyone has the powers to make Leeds relive their glory days of the past, it’s Bielsa. If the team stick to its core principles and continue to play football with courage, then the Premier League surely isn’t ready for ‘Bielsa Ball’. Here’s all you need to know about the Leeds United FC squad ahead of the 2020-21 Premier League season.
Leeds United FC is captained by an inspiring leader in Liam Cooper. The centre-half has been ever-present in Bielsa’s team and played 38 Championship matches last season. He was initially dubbed as ‘League One Liam’ but his performances over the past couple of seasons has proven most doubters wrong. He completes a full circle at Anfield on September 12 as this was the stadium where he made his first Premier League start in 2009 with Hull City.
Kalvin Phillips is an England International now and arguably the best defensive midfield player in the country at present. It’s bizarre because the boy hasn’t even kicked a ball in the Premier League but looks like a certainty in the England squad which will be selected for the Euros. He’s brilliant at screening the centre-backs and under Bielsa, he has taken his game to another level. The ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ will get to show his class at the top level of English football and the Leeds fans’ can’t wait to see him at it!
The PFA Championship Player of the Year, Luke Ayling played a key role in Leeds United FC’s securing the 2019-20 title in the Championship. The right-back racked up 37 appearances in the Championship last season and chipped in with four goals and assists during those matches. He’ll prove to be influential again because of the versatility he gives to that Leeds defence. He can be deployed as a wing-back as well as a right-sided centre-back in a back-three, and that’s why Bielsa adores him.
With nine goals and nine assists in 2019-20, Pablo Hernandez was one of the most creative players in the Championship-winning team. He provided the spark in the centre of the midfield which makes the team tick. The only concern for Leeds fans is that he is 35 now and may have just one more good season under him. The Spanish creative wizard should be used strategically this season, but the team does need his magical touch in the midfield.
Leeds United FC went over and above to secure the services of Spanish forward Rodrigo. He’ll join the squad as a club-record signing and the team will be hoping that he gets up and running pretty quickly. Leeds created the most chances in their division last season but Patrick Bamford’s finishing was under regular scrutiny. His dismal scoring record in the Premier League would have been a concern for Leeds as well and that’s one of the reasons why they went for star signing, Rodrigo. He has scored 59 goals and made 41 assists during his time at Valencia and will add a lot of attacking versatility to this team. He can be deployed as a number 10 or a second striker as well.
After failing to secure a deal to sign Brighton and Hove Albion’s defender Ben White, Leeds United FC have roped in German international Robin Koch from SC Freiburg. He will fill the hole left by White and Leeds have managed to secure him a far affordable price. He’ll partner captain Liam Cooper in that centre-back position.
AREAS OF CONCERN
LACK OF SQUAD DEPTH
Leeds have more or less kept the core intact who secured them the promotion and haven’t gone overboard with new signings so far. It could be a positive as it keeps the dressing room atmosphere the same and the camaraderie between the players remains intact. But if they have a wretched run of injuries to key players or suspensions, then the bench strength of the team will be tested. From the outside, it seems that they lack a little bit of that squad depth required to be successful in the Premier League.
LACK OF TOP FLIGHT EXPERIENCE
The team isn’t blessed with many players who have consistently played in the Premier League before, but that’s the case with many teams who are promoted from the Championship. Another factor would be the time needed for Bielsa to adapt his style of football to the Premier League. Given the pedigree of the man, it shouldn’t take that long. It’ll be fascinating to see him come up against the likes of Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola, Jose Mourinho, Nuno Espirito Santo, Carlo Ancelotti and many more top managers in the division.
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