Leeds United are in desperate need of points – and fast – if they are to avoid relegation from the Premier League – and now The Athletic’s Phil Hay has assessed where it has all gone wrong for the Whites.
United finished ninth in their first season back in the Premier League; their attack-minded football winning an army of admirers. However, this season has seen Leeds struggle badly. Indeed, they now face a desperate fight for survival with just four games left.
It doesn’t get much better for Leeds either. Their small squad has been seriously decimated by injuries this season. And with only a two-point buffer to Everton, who have a match in hand, the pressure is ramping up at Leeds.
Furthermore, Leeds now face a punishing end to the season, starting with three games in a week. First up, they travel to Arsenal on Sunday, before a home midweek date with Liverpool. They then face Brighton at home on Sunday week before the season concludes at Brentford.
The general feeling is that Leeds will probably need to win two games to make sure of their status. That will take them to the magical 40-point mark, generally considered to be safe.
But these are exceptional times and nothing can be taken for granted.
While Leeds themselves are enjoying a decent run of one defeat in six, nearest rivals Everton and Burnley have also found form.
Indeed, Burnley had only won three games all season before April 6. Three weeks later and the Clarets now have seven wins.
Assessing where it has all gone wrong for Leeds, The Athletic’s Phil Hay suggests the board must take the blame for a lack of investment in the squad.
Phil Hay claims lack of signings has cost Leeds
Speaking on The Athletic’s podcast, Hay suggested chairman Andrea Radrizzani ought to have signed more players.
There are other factors too. The fact that Marcelo Bielsa’s tactics have been ‘found out’, together with their injury problems, have all made it the perfect storm as far as Leeds are concerned.
“A very small squad which has been badly affected by injuries, tactically hasn’t worked and didn’t work for (Marcelo) Bielsa as it did in his first three seasons,” Hay said.
“Transfer wise, in my view, haven’t done enough to the squad. They didn’t sign anyone in January when they needed to. With hindsight, they did less than they needed to last summer as well.
“That has all accumulated into a massive pressure which is right on them now more severely than at any stage this season.”
‘Leeds that’ – why relegation would be typical for United
Having waited 16 years for promotion and then seen the first season back played behind closed doors, Leeds fans could be forgiven for thinking they are cursed.
And despite their massive injury problems this season, many observers always felt they just had enough.
Indeed, just two weeks ago, they were branded ‘safe’ on the back of a 3-0 win at Watford.
However, with Burnley playing four times before Leeds next kicked a ball – the 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace – that gap has quickly been overcome.
The Clarets’ form especially has been something of a bolt from the blue. And when Sean Dyche was sacked, few would have forseen the run of results they have enjoyed since.
And having not been in the relegation zone all season long, it would be typical of Leeds’ luck that they fall into the drop zone on the final day. ‘Leeds that’. Or, as some might say, the Damned United.
Clearly, everything Leeds have worked for under Radrizzani now rests on the next four games. Dropping out the Premier League so soon would have a massive effect on the club and see the likes of Kalvin Phillips sold off.