Leeds United could realistically finish in the Premier League top ten this season and there is a key reason behind their success.
The Whites have excelled in terms of running stats this season, with some players ranking high in running intensity and average top speed.
That is little surprise for a Marcelo Bielsa team, but the players who have impressed most show that Victor Orta recruited well in the summer.
Rodrigo, for example, is the second hardest working player in the division this season, with 79 high-intensity runs and sprints, per The Athletic.
He deserves plaudits for his efforts as he has perfectly slotted into Bielsa’s pressing style, while also providing three goals and one assist.
While that is impressive, fellow summer signing Raphinha has displayed “elite physical attributes”.
The Brazilian is not only the most intense runner in the league but he also has the most accelerations and decelerations per 90 minutes.
Jack Harrison and Patrick Bamford rank inside the top ten in terms of intensity, and that pair are the only players who rank above Raphinha in terms of average top speed – he has managed 34km/h.
That is some effort from the front-three, and it is easy to see why Leeds’ press can be so effective.
To perform to such a high-level game-in game-out shows how dedicated they are to carrying out Bielsa’s instructions, too, so Raphinha is clearly a brilliant find.
The 24-year-old fits our system perfectly, and at £17million he is proving a bargain having already scored three goals and produced four assists this term.
By comparison, he ranks way above Harry Kane for total accelerations as well as fellow wingers Son Heung-Min and Raheem Sterling.
Raphinha puts effort into his sprints, too, as the diagram below shows.
It is little surprise he has made 53 ball recoveries from just 12 starts, the second-highest of any Leeds attacker behind Harrison.
Credit, as ever, must go to Bielsa, who has demanded a lot of Raphinha.
However, the winger has proven he is up to the task and his work rate off the ball has helped him to secure a regular place in the starting line-up.
We hope Orta and co. continue to attract players of Raphinha’s ability and work rate, as he is exactly the type of player we need to not only finish in the top half, but to challenge for European qualification.
In other Leeds United news, Alan Shearer hands Everton warning about ‘brilliant’ Leeds star ahead of Elland Road clash.