Leeds United, the sleeping giants, have returned to the Premier League after being relegated 16 year ago. In this period, they have been through loads of managers and players. They fought relegation, administration and points deductions. However, their loyal fans stayed by their side and still followed them up and down the country.
The story of this season actually begins the season before – the season where Marcelo Bielsa was appointed as head coach. He revolutionised the club, city and players. His first season seemed to be going swimmingly until the final few games of the season, where Leeds ‘did a Leeds’ and ended slipping up at the final hurdle. Defeats against Brentford, Wigan and Ipswich put Leeds into the playoffs against Frank Lampard’s Derby County. After winning the first leg, the Premier League was in their sights. That was until the second leg where Derby ended up winning 4-3 on aggregate. This is how Leeds won the league next season. The desire, the hunger, the dedication. This drove them on to win the league the season after.
The first game of the season was Bristol City. The Leeds team came out looking as if the playoffs never happened. The style of football was the same, the team was almost the same and Pablo Hernandez was still scoring screamers. The first goal of the season was scored by the Spanish wizard from the edge of the area. It was a taster for what was to come.
A notable mention was the Middlesbrough game at Elland Road on the 30th November 2019. Patrick Bamford scored the first, followed by Klich in extra time of the first half and then again from outside the box. The game was played with such a fast pace and there was nothing Middlesbrough could do about it. They were beaten 4-0 in the end.
The phenomenal 9-goal thriller at St Andrews was another highlight of the season. Leeds were 2-0 up and you thought nothing could go wrong. Goals from Bellingham and Jutkiewicz levelled the tie. Ayling then scored for Leeds and Bela equalised for Birmingham. It was then back and forwards from each team until the final whistle. Leeds and Birmingham battled on for the 3 points but in the end, they went Leeds’ way. An own goal in the 95th minute gave Leeds the win. It was one of the most exciting yet nervous games I’ve ever watched. It showed the mentality of Bielsa and Leeds – that you should attack, attack, attack until the end and score as many goals as you can.
Leeds drew Arsenal in the FA cup. It gave a chance to prove to the clubs in the Premier League that we can compete with them and we play better football than then. In the end, Leeds lost 1-0. Despite this disappointing result, Leeds dominated the first half and Arsenal were lucky to not have conceded many good chances made by Bielsa’s side. Leeds’ played Arsenal off the park. They never expected to play a side who played as well as Leeds. It proved that, if promoted, we can compete with teams like that. Over 6 million people tuned into watch this game.
After new years, Leeds went into a period of bad form. They took a minor 4 points from 18 available. Many thought it was the ‘Bielsa Effect’ (where players run out of energy because he pushes them too far), however, they were wrong. Leeds managed to lose 2-0 against Nottingham Forest and a post-match interview from Luke Ayling showed that the players felt like many of the Leeds fans watching from home, deflated and unhappy. Alarm bells were ringing about the man between the sticks, Kiko Casilla. He had conceded many easy goals, one of which was at Griffin Park, the home of Brentford. In this game against ‘the Bees’, Liam Cooper stepped up and equalised. This was the turning point… Since that game, Leeds only dropped 5 points from 15 games.
Coronavirus abruptly halted the season and caused a 3-month break. The players came back from this and finished the season off on a high. They were, by far, the fittest team in the league and showed it by getting results like 5-0 against Stoke, 4-0 against Charlton and 3-0 against Fulham. In the end they wrapped up the season with +42 goal difference, 10 points clear of 2nd and 23 points from the final qualifying playoff spot.
Bielsa was the fastest manager to reach 50 wins at Leeds. He also has beaten the record for most away wins in a season (now 13) and has the highest win percentage for a manager at Leeds. He has since won the Manager of the Season award. The team of 2019/2020 have beaten the record for most points in a season too. They also have the most clean sheets in all of Europe’s top 5 leagues and had the best defensive record in the Championship.
Overall, it was a highly successful season and hopefully Bielsa will sign a new contract for the next season. The squad needs to be strengthened but I have full faith in Bielsa, Radrizanni, Angus, Victor and their teams to do this accordingly.