Leeds are worthy of promotion


As football hangs in stasis, leagues around the world are debating how to decide final standings. Who goes up, who goes down? Points Per Game (PPG) or null and void? Or should we just let a Football Manager 2020 simulation decide everything?

In the Championship, that debate could well end up running hotter than most. With promotion to the promised land of the Premier League at stake, as well as relegation threatened top flight clubs scrambling to keep their places, it’s a debate that will continue to cause high tensions.

Sitting at the top of the Championship are Leeds United. Whatever noise and fuss teams above and below them may make, they are fully deserving of a place in the Premier League.

Since Marcelo Bielsa took over at the start of the 2018-19 season, the lowest position Leeds have occupied in the table is fifth. And over the past two seasons, they have spent 63 out of 81 match-days in the automatic promotion spots.

Last season saw a sharp slump in form towards to the end of the campaign, with four consecutive defeats ultimately condemning the Whites to their torturous play-off semi-final disaster against Derby County.

But this time round, it was looking like the Yorkshire club would be successful in maintaining their charge till the end of the season.

After a drop in form around Christmas and four defeats in five matches at the start of the calendar year, Leeds have since turned things around with five consecutive (and convincing) victories.

It’s also probably fair to say that they have been helped a little by the mediocrity of the teams below them. Over their last five matches, the four sides in the play-offs have a total of five wins from 20 matches between them.

Through a combination of their own resilience and a lack of real challengers, it looked unlikely (prior to the halting of fixtures) that any team would knock Leeds out of the automatic promotion places.

The stats also back Leeds up as well. They lie top of the Expected Goals (xG) table, 22 points clear of second place. While xG is obviously not the way to decide who goes up, it highlights how productive the Whites have been in attack and defence.

They have managed the most overall shots (16.4) and shots on target (5.3) per game in the Championship. And with 9.1 shots conceded per game, they have the lowest total in the league in that category. Most shots for, least shots against.

And putting those statistics against Leeds’s possession and tackles per game stats tells a story of what it is like to watch them.

The Whites make the third highest total of tackles per game with 17.9, while also averaging the most possession in the league with 60.1%.

To watch Leeds under Bielsa is to witness a domination. The ball is zipped around the pitch at a lethal pace, with attack after attack being hurled at the opposition. And when the ball is lost, there is an almighty clammer to regain it.

Leeds both attack and defend at the same time. They dominate the ball both to try and score, and to throttle the opposition. When it’s lost, they press to stop the opposition attacking them and to start a new attack of their own.

It’s a brutal cycle that for almost two seasons has battered Championship sides into submission. A badly timed dip in form cost Leeds last season and just when it looked like promotion may be in their grasp this time around, a worldwide pandemic struck.

Clubs in the lower reaches of the Premier League have complicated things, asking for relegation to be scrapped if their remaining games are played at neutral venues or if the Championship is unable to finish all its fixtures.

But there is hope for Leeds. The EFL has committed to having three teams promoted to the Premier League. Plans to restart the Championship remain an option, but should it go down to PPG then the Whites are assured an automatic promotion spot.

Whatever the outcome, it is hard to argue against Leeds being deserving of promotion to the Premier League. It would be a miscarriage of footballing justice should they be denied a place in England’s top tier.


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