Leeds United: Do expectations need lowering? Why Marcelo Bielsa's side are exceeding targets - Pitch to Post podcast

Leeds' 1-0 defeat by Brighton was their third straight loss in all competitions, and their ninth in 15 games. But sitting 12th in the Premier League, Bielsa's side have few relegation worries and a brand of play that seems to have split onlookers down the middle.

Marcelo Bielsa Leeds Pitch to Post

Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds have 23 points from 18 games, exceeding the expectations of a newly-promoted side. So why are they under so much scrutiny?

Leeds' 1-0 defeat by Brighton was their third straight loss in all competitions and their ninth in 15 games. But sitting 12th in the Premier League, Bielsa's side have few relegation worries and a brand of play that seems to have split onlookers down the middle.

Here, on the Pitch to Post Review show, Ben Ransom and Gerard Brand assess the job Bielsa and Leeds have done, and why expectations on them may need lowering slightly...

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Is this a slump?

Jack Harrison - PA
Image: Leeds sit 12th in the Premier League with 23 points from 18 games

Sky Sports' Gerard Brand:

"I think it depends on which way you look at it and who you are. I don't think Leeds fans are concerned - it's nine defeats in 15, or six defeats in nine, but it's also three wins in six in the Premier League, so it depends on how you look at it, and they're on 23 points after 18 games as a promoted side. That's well over target and we mustn't forget that.

"But Leeds being Leeds, there's a lot of attention on them. I think there's one half of football that loves the way Marcelo Bielsa plays, and another half that thinks it's naïve and almost hipster, and they almost want to put Leeds in their place. I really do believe that.

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"They've been built up in ways, and in other ways criticised. The reality is somewhere in the middle.

"This is no disrespect to West Bromwich Albion or Fulham, but people see Leeds as one of the biggest sides in England, and with a manager who was shortlisted for world manager of the year, and therefore the expectation of them is higher.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Brighton's win against Leeds in the Premier League.

"They see them attacking big sides, never sitting back, and they're a bit of an enigma. I think Leeds fans are just getting used to that attention and maybe they expect them to be marked next to your West Broms and Fulhams, but that's difficult when you're as entertaining as they are.

"They were really bad against Brighton, probably their worst performance of the season. But this mid-season slump has happened before for Bielsa's side - in 2019 they won just two from eight around this January/February period, and very similarly in 2020 they won just two of 12. They've got a good break now of 10 days now to reset before facing Newcastle, but overall this is an expectation issue, both within Leeds' support, and the neutrals.

"Leeds fans feel they have an acute amount of attention on them at the moment - but we need to be more realistic. I do believe some fans see this style of play, and I think they want to put Leeds in their place, and want to see Leeds lose.

"But my fear is not Leeds at the moment, but going forward. How they work in the transfer market, how they develop their team, and getting players in that want to play in Bielsa's style, because it takes a specific style."

To hear more, download the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on your provider

Leeds will learn from this season

Marcelo Bielsa
Image: Marcelo Bielsa was shortlisted for world manager of the year for 2020

Sky Sports News' Ben Ransom:

"Whereas Leeds can be ruthless and carve teams apart, the day they miss a few chances and defensively have a few lapses, they get punished. That's what happened against Brighton, who showed a bit of nouse.

"I think their results are a concern, but I don't think they are in danger of going down, and in that respect it has been a relatively positive season.

"They'll learn a lot from this, but they'll need to get back to winning ways and rediscover some fluidity. Their defending has not been as good as it has been, but when they're playing well that doesn't always matter because they always give up big chances. They keep the ball, create so many chances themselves, and score goals. But when that latter aspect starts to go off the boil, everything starts to fall down.

"But they do need this break, it is helpful for them, and I do think we'll see them return to their best.

"They have to find a way of winning back-to-back matches in the Premier League more often.

"Whenever you go into a Leeds game you don't know what you're going to get, and it's good for the Premier League; we all enjoy looking at Leeds."

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Squad depth an issue?

Leeds are the Premier League shot kings
Image: Leeds' side hasn't been overhauled in the past two years

Sky Sports' Gerard Brand:

"They are struggling for depth - they've had to play players out of position, particularly in defence with injuries to Robin Koch, Liam Cooper and Diego Llorente. I'm not convinced Bielsa has actually been able to play his strongest side this season.

"And we talk about this lack of pre-season for other clubs, but it was felt acutely at Leeds in particular - this isn't to say Bielsa would have altered his style massively if he'd had a longer pre-season, but Leeds didn't get the opportunity that previous promoted sides would to shore up and prepare themselves for the huge difference in challenge the Premier League brings.

"Leeds have a similar starting XI to what they had in the Championship even two years ago. I think that does show how well Leeds and Bielsa have done with what are essentially, or at least were originally, Championship players, but that also begs the question about how they develop their side going forward and against Premier League oppositions who sit deep.

"Patrick Bamford in particular seems to struggle against the lesser sides who make it compact and give him little room to operate, and I'm not sure Leeds fans know exactly what record signing Rodrigo's role is, although he's shown spurts of technical quality.

"So there is room for improvement, they are impressive, they are naïve too, they can be all of these things, it doesn't have to be just one - but I think perhaps our expectation of Leeds can drop slightly."

To hear more, download the Sky Sports Pitch to Post Review podcast on your provider

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