Leeds United’s free-flowing style may prove their downfall

It’s been a lively start to the Premier League season for Leeds United, who have returned with a bang following their 16-year absence from the English top flight.

The team’s opening day defeat, 4-3 at the hands of champions Liverpool, was followed a week later by a 4-3 victory over fellow promoted side Fulham at Elland Road. With 14 goals in their opening two matches, before a 1-0 win at Sheffield United on Sunday, you can imagine that Leeds’ supporters may be in need of a breath.

We always expected the Yorkshire club to have a positive impact on the league. After all, coach Marcelo Bielsa is known to favour attractive, attacking football, and there was never any chance of Leeds deciding to shut up shop upon their arrival in the Premier League this season.

Stuart Dallas, for example, roamed from left-back last time out to at times operating as a wide midfielder and often pushing onto the number 10 role to pose a goal threat as well, taking some 92 touches in a very busy display. Dallas’ adaptability made him a key part of the Championship title winning side and looks an asset at this level too.

The team have been ruthless in front of goal, taking chances with remarkable efficiency, but have also leaked goals, something that may worry supporters to a point.

There are certain parallels to be drawn between Leeds and other promoted sides who have attempted to assert a free-flowing playing style. These are teams who have won promotion from the Championship by playing attacking football, and are reluctant to abandon the style that served them so well. Sometimes, pragmatism is a must when a team is finding their feet in the Premier League, but there is a certain dignity in sticking to your guns and standing by your style of play.

Just last season, Norwich City suffered throughout the campaign, as they found it hard to adapt to the pace of the Premier League. Like Leeds, they suffered at the hands of Liverpool in their opening game of the season, and after that struggled to shake their status as relegation favourites in the English Premier League odds, ultimately finishing bottom of the table, despite the attractive brand of football coach Daniel Farke employed.

Leeds might argue they were stronger defensively in the Championship last season than Norwich were in 2018-19, but the principle is relevant nonetheless.

There are also comparisons to be made between Leeds and the Blackpool team of the 2010-11 season, managed by Ian Holloway. The Tangerines were a welcome addition to the top flight at the time, playing open, expansive football which ensured goals in all their games but a lack of defensive bite saw them also relegated, and they haven’t returned since – though Blackpool went up via the Play-Offs thanks to some momentum towards the back-end of their 2009-10 campaign, whereas Leeds were convincingly the best team in the Championship.

Besides, Leeds have something that neither of those teams had, and that is Bielsa. The Argentine is widely accepted to be one of the best coaches in European football, and it was something of a coup to bring him to Elland Road in the first place. In this his third season at the club, you can bet that he will be relishing the challenge of keeping Leeds in the Premier League, and doing it in his own inimitable style.

Part of that challenge is sticking to the style of play that brought Leeds their success in the Championship last season. It may be that there are difficult moments as the season progresses, but the team have shown that they have the attacking verve to make a big statement this season, having already notched seven goals in two games. There is plenty to be excited about as far as Leeds’ performances on the pitch are concerned. The question is whether or not those exciting displays will bring about survival.