Leeds United have moved a step closer towards their Premier League return, seven points away from promotion, following a 5-0 thrashing of Stoke City on Thursday night.
After a five-star display, Marcelo Bielsa’s men are back to the top of the Championship table, sitting one point ahead of West Bromwich Albion. More importantly, the gap between Leeds and third-placed Brentford is now six points meaning that the three-time English champions are only two victories and a draw away from ending a 16-year long Premier League wait.
Nevertheless, the Yorkshire club will no doubt try to avoid the last season’s scenario at all costs. Last year, Leeds were sitting second with only four games to play and were three points ahead of third-placed Sheffield United at that time. However, things changed dramatically over the next four games with Leeds collecting only a single point from the last 12 possible. Consequently, Bielsa’s men dropped to third place with Sheffield United securing an automatic promotion spot. Leeds then faced Derby County in the playoff round and saw their whole season tore to shreds after losing a two-legged tie 3-4 on aggregate.
Defeat against Cardiff City and a one-all draw with Luton Town early after the restart of the Championship season had Leeds’ fans biting their fingernails fearing that the last season’s scenario might repeat itself. However, a ruthless performance on Thursday night was an indication that Leeds are mentally stronger this year with no signs of fragility they showed in the last four matches of the previous campaign.
Watch: Highlights of Leeds United vs Stoke City
Despite that, Bielsa remains wary and urges his team to maintain concentration levels for the remaining matches.
“Every match is a new story. What happened in the previous game is not definitive for the next one. Safety and confidence are not linked 100% with the previous result.
“It was a positive performance. The manager always values a positive impact.”Marcelo Biesla, Manager, Leeds United
Team to watch
With that in mind, Leeds really are a team to watch. According to InStat, they record the most key passes per game among all Championship teams (19.3 key passes PG), subsequently creating the most chances per game (7.2 chances PG) that result in an average of 15.3 shots per game (highest in the league).
Nonetheless, there is still room for improvement with the Yorkshire side still lacking clinical touch at times. Leeds have an expected goals (xG) ratio of 84, which is 16 goals fewer than they have scored this season in the Championship so far (68 goals scored). Their expected goal conversion (xGC) rate is the second-lowest in the league together with Middlesbrough (0.73). It denotes that Leeds could be way ahead of everyone else already having sealed the automatic promotion a long time ago with an expected points (xPoints) ratio of 87, which is six fewer than they have now.
Patrick Bamford, Leeds’ leading goal scorer, can be regarded as the main ‘culprit’. A 26-year-old striker has scored 16 goals this season but has an expected goals (xG) value of 26 meaning that he is ten goals short of what he should have had by now. Additionally, it means that Bamford has been single-handedly responsible for Leeds’ having ten goals fewer out of their 16 expected goals in total.
Despite that, it looks like Marcelo Bielsa is finally taking the Yorkshire giants to the top division of English football. With a few necessary additions to the squad, Leeds could cement their place in the Premier League for a foreseeable future.