MOT View: Pundits need to calm down about Leeds and look to the metrics
Leeds United have come back to earth with a bump in recent weeks following an impressive start to life back in the Premier League.
Winning three of their opening six matches, Marcelo Bielsa’s side quickly rose up the league and earned plenty of praise from pundits in the process. However, consecutive 4-1 defeats have seen the narrative around the team change dramatically.
Against Leicester City, Leeds were hit with a counter attack sucker punch that has seen plenty of other sides undone. In Jamie Vardy, the Foxes are deadly on the break and on the night they were devastatingly efficient in front of goal.
On Saturday against Crystal Palace though, all the metrics show that Leeds were immensely unlucky, and that is before you even consider Patrick Bamford’s disallowed goal.
According to FBRef, Palace generated just 1.0 in expected goals over the 90 minutes. Illan Meslier has been criticised for Helder Costa’s own goal, but it was a freak incident, and Eberechi Eze’s free-kick was a piece of individual quality that cannot usually be legislated for. Similarly, Scott Dann’s header was a very low percentage chance, and one that Meslier could potentially have saved. FBRef has both the Eze and Dann goals as 0.1 xG chances.
This is not to say that Leeds do not have defensive issues. It is clear that on the break they have been vulnerable, while the absence of Kalvin Phillips at the base of midfield has been a huge blow. However, the fact that they conceded four against Palace was largely unfortunate, in a game where they had a goal ruled out that would stood in most other seasons.
What the game shows more than anything is that games rest on fine margins. Sometimes they fall in your favour and sometimes they do not, but a coach needs the strength of conviction to stick with their philosophy even when things go against you.
Over the past two and a half years, Leeds have become one of the most exciting and incisive attacking sides in England and have already shown they can translate that to the Premier League. Thankfully, Bielsa has the strength of conviction to see small fluctuations between matches for what they are, and remains committed to a philosophy that suits this Leeds side.