Leeds United's next six Premier League games are cause for optimism

By Joshua Hobbs

It's been a difficult start for Leeds United in their second season back in the Premier League. After four games of the 2020/21 season, Leeds found themselves on seven points, having beaten Fulham and Sheffield United and taken an excellent point in a draw against Manchester City at Elland Road.

This time around, Marcelo Bielsa's men find themselves 17th with four games gone and with only two points on the board. They drew 2-2 at home to Everton and needed a late Patrick Bamford equaliser to salvage a point away at Burnley. Although Burnley were vanquished 4-0 at Turf Moor last season and Leeds could only manage a draw this time around, sharing the points in those fixtures shouldn't be too disappointing.

Meanwhile, it has to be admitted that losses against Manchester United and Liverpool are still to be expected at this stage, regardless of the fact that the manner of the defeats could be cause for concern.

However, the next run of fixtures should provide some optimism and serve as the launchpad for The Whites' season.

The next six Premier League games are:

Newcastle United (A)
West Ham United (H)
Watford (H)
Southampton (A)
Wolverhampton Wanderers (H)
Norwich City (A)

Last season's excellent league performance did not come because Leeds took a good number of points from teams like Manchester United and Liverpool. They finished in the top half largely because they bullied the teams in the bottom half. Aside from West Ham, there's a good chance that most of the teams in this group finishes in that half of the table, hence Leeds should be looking to make hay.

To illustrate the point, here's a run-through of how Leeds did against these sides last season:

Newcastle United

In 20/21, Leeds did the double over Newcastle, defeating them 5-2 at Elland Road, before coming out 2-1 victors in the away fixture shortly afterwards.

As this is at St James' Park, perhaps it will play out more like the second game but either way, Leeds very much had the better of The Magpies last season as Steve Bruce's side badly struggled with the pace of Leeds' fast breaks.

A fully fit Allan Saint-Maximin will give Newcastle a different attacking outlet, however it seems they'll likely have Callum Wilson missing and he caused Leeds trouble at Elland Road. Despite their bad start, Bielsa's men will back themselves to pick up their first win here.

West Ham United

This is probably the most challenging fixture of the run as West Ham beat Leeds on both occasions last season.

Leeds will hope that the Elland Road crowd can play a role this time around and will need to avoid giving away unnecessary set-pieces as West Ham made them pay for their poor defending at corners and free-kicks in their 2-1 win at Elland Road last time round.

Watford

As Watford were in the Championship last term, Leeds didn't face them. However, Leeds did the double over both their fellow promoted teams last season, outscoring Fulham 6-3 over the fixtures, whilst they were even more comfortable against West Bram, scoring eight times against The Baggies and only conceding once.

The Hornets picked up an excellent 3-2 win against Aston Villa on the opening day but have lost every Premier League game since, so it seems likely that they'll be in battling at the bottom of the league this season.

Southampton

Southampton are another side which Leeds did the double over last season. At Elland Road, Raphinha ripped through the Saints, scoring a wonderful free-kick as Leeds came out 3-0 victors.

In the penultimate game of the season, Leeds won 2-0 at St Mary's stadium, as Patrick Bamford picked up his 16th goal of the season. England's latest international scored in both fixtures and appeared to know exactly how to find space against Ralph Hassenhuttl's defence.

Southampton's high-press could always cause problems for Leeds if they struggle to build up well, but Bielsa's propensity for fast attacks means that if Leeds do bypass the press, Southampton can be exposed devastatingly, as Leeds showed last season.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Like West Ham, Wolves managed to do the double over Leeds last season. However, the scorelines didn't really tell the story of the games. Leeds completely dominated possession and racked up the chances, missing every single one across both games, whilst Wolves won each 1-0 due to a deflected long range shot in both cases. To illustrate the discrepancy, according to football stats website, fbref.com, Leeds created 1.6 expected goals to Wolves 0.5 at Elland Road and 1.4 to Wolves 0.8 at Molineux.

Under new manager, Bruno Lage, Wolves appear to be a more open attacking team than they were with Nuno Espirito Santo at the helm However, they were winless until beating Watford in the last game, losing their opening three fixtures 1-0 after poor finishing cost them. This will be a different challenge for Leeds but one they will be hopeful of making the best of, particularly at Elland Road.

Norwich City

Leeds haven't faced the Canaries since Daniel Farke's side came to Elland Road and won 3-1 in Bielsa's first season, as the Whites let their commanding lead at the top of the Championship go and Norwich stormed to the title, with Leeds ultimately finishing third.

As mentioned above, Leeds thrashed the other promoted teams last season and will hope to do similarly to the promoted sides this time around, particularly feeling that they owe Norwich one after that game in 18/19. Farke will feel bouyed that he's managed to get the best of Leeds before, but despite their bad start to the season, Leeds are a different beast since then, whilst Norwich once again look significantly beneath the level required to cope in the Premier League.

From this run of fixtures, Leeds will really hope for a minimum of nine points and there could realistically be more there for the taking. If they can maximise this run of fixtures they will leave behind the worries of 'second season syndrome' and begin to look upwards again.


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