It isn’t just Leeds United who are conceding left, right and centre from set-pieces, according to right-back Luke Ayling.
Before you carry on reading, Marcelo Bielsa has done a wonderful job at Leeds and we doubt many managers could have done more in two and a half years at Elland Road than he has.
But sometimes, the manager has to bear the brunt of criticism and in this case, he simply isn’t doing enough to stop Leeds from conceding at set-pieces.
According to stats by WhoScored, Leeds have conceded seven goals from set-pieces this season and a further four from penalties. That means 50 per cent of the goals scored against the Whites this term have come from dead-ball situations.
While the penalties are a side effect of Bielsa’s non-stop, in-your-face style of play, the defending of corners and free-kicks needs to be so much better than it is.
Speaking ahead of the clash with Newcastle on Wednesday night, right-back Ayling admitted that it’s an issue for the Yorkshire giants but kind of gave a bit of an excuse too, saying other clubs are having the same issues.
“I don’t think it was our best game, certain areas weren’t good enough,” he said, as quoted on Leeds’ official website.
“On our set-pieces, we’re going through a bit of tricky time with them but we’re working hard to put that right and hopefully we can.
“We’ve got to stand up and be counted, to do a lot better at set-plays. Other teams are suffering the same things, it’s not just us.
“We’re only 12 games into the season and we’re still new to it, we’re still learning.”
Leeds have conceded seven goals from set-pieces. After them, Leicester and Sheffield United have conceded six and Brighton have conceded five. Liverpool, Aston Villa, Manchester United, Wolves and Tottenham are next with four conceded each.
While it’s clear that Leeds don’t massively lead the way in terms of the goals they have conceded, stats by Wyscout add that the Whites have won just 47 per cent of aerial duels this season, which ranks them 13th in the Premier League.
If they want to do better at defending set-pieces, that number must be higher. West Ham have not conceded at any set-pieces this season and have won 48.5 per cent of their aerial duels, averaging 40.69 per 90 minutes to Leeds’ 30.23.
It’s all well and good being able to play the ball well on the deck and applying pressure on attacking players when the ball is in possession. Leeds’ challenge intensity (measured by duels, tackles and interceptions per minute of opponent possession) is unmatched by any team in the top-flight, according to Wyscout.
But keeping tight to your man in the penalty area and getting defenders in the right places is down to what Bielsa and the players do at the training ground.
Don’t palm off an issue like this on ‘other teams being just as bad’.
In other Leeds United news, fans were blown away by this Under-23s ace on Sunday.