Leeds top of the Championship: What's going right this season?

Thomas Christiansen

Leeds sit top of the Sky Bet Championship ahead of their meeting with third-placed Cardiff live on Sky Sports on Tuesday, but what exactly is going right for them this season?

It was a summer of change at Elland Road, with Andrea Radrizzani taking over from Massimo Cellino in the boardroom and Thomas Christiansen succeeding Garry Monk in the dugout.

Their strong start to the season continued with a 3-2 win over Ipswich on Saturday, and they are now seven points better off than at the same stage of the last campaign. Could a return to the Premier League finally be on the cards? We look at what's changed.

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Radrizzani revolution

After three chaotic years under Massimo Cellino, Leeds supporters rejoiced at news of Radrizzani's takeover in May. The Italian businessman came with a promise to bring stability and long-term success to the club. It felt like the dawn of an exciting new era and it galvanised the fanbase.

Monk's resignation came as a surprise but Radrizzani moved swiftly behind the scenes. Christiansen was appointed as head coach in the middle of June, with Victor Orta arriving as director of football to oversee Leeds' transfer business. Within a month of his takeover, Radrizzani had also confirmed a deal to buy back Elland Road - 13 years after it was sold to reduce the club's debts.

Highlights of the Sky Bet Championship game between Leeds and Ipswich

Radrizzani's immediate impact changed the mood around the club before a ball had even been kicked, and Leeds went into the season on a high. The club sold 20,000 season tickets - an increase of 6,000 from last year - and the positive mood rubbed off on the squad.

"It looks like the fans are a little bit more optimistic for this season, which is good," said Christiansen in August. "It brings a bit more pressure but I like to have this pressure on me."

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Successful signings

The appointment of Orta, who held a similar role at Middlesbrough and previously worked for Sevilla and Zenit St Petersburg, appears to have paid off. The Spaniard helped Leeds bring in no fewer than 16 new signings in a hectic summer transfer window. Their costs were covered by the £15m sale of Chris Wood to Burnley, and the new-look squad looks stronger.

German striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga has proved a suitable replacement for Wood, scoring three goals and providing two assists in his first four Championship appearances following his arrival from Hamburg. With his imposing frame and clinical finishing ability, the 25-year-old has already earned comparisons with Mark Viduka.

Samuel Saiz runs at Fulham's defence during the Sky Bet Championship match at Elland Road
Image: Samuel Saiz has made an impressive start to life at Leeds

Samuel Saiz has been similarly impressive. The Real Madrid youth product reportedly rejected offers from La Liga clubs to join Leeds from second-tier Spanish side Huesca, and introduced himself with a superb hat-trick against Port Vale in the Carabao Cup. His goal tally now stands at six in 10 games. No player has created more scoring chances from open play (20) in the Championship.

Ezgjan Alioski looks like another bargain signing. The Macedonia international has impressed on the right flank, winning the Sky Bet goal of the month award for August with his long-range strike against Nottingham Forest. From Dutch winger Jay-Roy Grot to Polish midfielder Mateusz Klich, Leeds now hope their other recruits will prove similarly successful.

Defensive strength

Leeds have scored more goals (17) than any other Championship side but their defensive performances have been just as impressive. Christiansen's side have only conceded five goals so far, keeping six clean sheets in their first nine games - the joint-most in the division.

Pontus Jansson has picked up where he left off last season after making his loan move from Torino permanent in the summer. Liam Cooper's impressive performances alongside him have earned him a call-up to the Scotland squad, while Luke Ayling continues to impress at right-back and Anita has slotted in effectively on the left.

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Christiansen has already instilled discipline and organisation in his side. Leeds are difficult to break down - with only Preston facing fewer shots on target so far this season - and their backline has been well protected by defensive midfielders Eunan O'Kane and Kalvin Philips. The latter has made the second-most tackles in the Championship (31).

The Christiansen effect

In a short time-frame and despite so much upheaval, Christiansen has succeeded in creating squad chemistry. "They're doing better than we would have expected," said Sky Sports' EFL expert David Prutton. "Christiansen has managed to use players that were already there, particularly Jansson, Cooper, Kane and Phillips, and integrate them well with the new boys."

Christiansen has come in and brought a massive sense of optimism around the place straight away.
David Prutton

Leeds were dependent on Wood for goals last season, with no other player scoring more than six, but under Christiansen they have options in attack. "Their attack has changed not to be focused on Wood and it has given them different ways to win matches," added Prutton. "If he wasn't firing last season, they invariably wouldn't win.

"They've also got a bit more resilience and character about them which they may have lacked at times last season. We saw that in the way they bounced back from conceding a couple of goals against Ipswich on Saturday. It looked like things may be bleak when Monk left, but Christiansen has come in and brought a massive sense of optimism around the place straight away."

Don't miss the Sky Bet Championship clash between Cardiff and Leeds on Tuesday night, live from 7.30pm on Sky Sports Football and Sky Sports Main Event. Or watch without a contract, with a Day Pass from NOW TV

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