Death, taxes, Marcelo Bielsa’s side blowing up in the second half of the season.
Even the most ardent Manchester United fan would struggle to argue that Leeds haven’t been entertaining to watch this season – partly because their expansive style of play helped United smash them 6-2 at Old Trafford, but mainly because, let’s be honest here, they’re just fun to watch.
With just one game to play before Bielsa’s side reach the halfway point in their first Premier League campaign since 2004, you’d like to think any side that finds themselves 11 points above the relegation zone should be looking up rather than down – but should Leeds?
You probably don’t need reminding that on December 29, former England Women international Karen Carney claimed Leeds only got promoted last season because they were afforded a three-month rest after the coronavirus outbreak temporarily halted the season.
The comment went down like a United fan in the Don Revie Stand on matchday (y’know, when we were allowed to go to matches), with Leeds’ official Twitter account causing uproar by retweeting the clip and thousands of furious Whites fans bashed away at their keyboards until the early hours.
It all seemed a bit unnecessary, really. If they thought it was rubbish, why didn’t they just laugh at it and keep on scrolling? No. That’s not how the internet works, silly. Anyway, it seemed like it hit a nerve, almost like they knew she was right? Surely not? No? It can’t be?
OF COURSE THAT’S WHY THEY WERE SO ANGRY!
Since Carney made the comment, Leeds have lost three on the bounce without scoring a single goal, and they’re in serious danger of beginning to unravel at the exact same period of the season in which they nearly threw away promotion in 2019/20.
Following the turn of the year last season, Leeds picked up one win from their first seven Championship outings, and their marked drop-off in form this campaign is proof that Bielsa’s sides just can’t maintain the level of intensity he demands following the hectic Christmas schedule.
Leeds fans will argue that they regrouped following their poor run and won five on the bounce prior to the league’s postponement – something which cannot be denied – but scraping wins against some truly abject sides isn’t proof they found a second wind.
Of Leeds’ five wins in their mini-revival post meltdown, Bristol City were the only opponents in said run who finished in the top half of the table – and they couldn’t have been any lower in the top half having finished 12th.
Leeds didn’t find another gear to make it down the home straight, they played some rubbish teams and then got lucky in that they were afforded three months off – neither of which is going to happen this season.
Over the coming weeks, Bielsa’s side have a number of fixtures which you’d definitely class as ‘winnable’, including clashes with Newcastle and Crystal Palace. That being said, you’d probably have put Brighton at home in that category prior to last weekend, and maybe even Crawley in the FA Cup.
It would take something truly ridiculous to see Leeds relegated this season given the gap they’ve afforded themselves between them and the relegation zone, but this is a team who are no strangers to the wheels falling off mid-season – laud their promotion winning side of 2019/20 all you like, they should have been promoted long before then, but they just kept blowing it.
The next month or so is going to be huge for Leeds United. If they can snap out of their slump they’ll undoubtedly be safe – if they don’t, they could well be heading back to the Championship.