It has been an astonishing start to Premier League life for Leeds United under Marcelo Bielsa. The Yorkshire side have been praised aplenty by pundits for their no-holds-barred attacking style and while they have been hammered by the likes of Tottenham, Manchester United and Chelsea – they have produced some batterings of their own against West Brom, Aston Villa and Newcastle.
Bielsa’s side, which has only changed a bit since he took over a mid-table Championship outfit in 2018, are now in mid-table in the Premier League. The likes of Liam Cooper, Luke Ayling, Stuart Dallas, Mateusz Klich, Patrick Bamford and plenty of others have gone from being Championship players into proven Premier League performers.
On Saturday, Leeds have the chance to overtake Arsenal into 11th place if they beat a struggling Brighton side. That is right. Even though Arsenal have been poor, Leeds can overtake Arsenal at the midpoint of the campaign. Yes Arsenal have not been good, but that it is an incredible reminder of just how far Leeds have come under Bielsa and in the past couple of seasons.
They are playing as a team, but they are also performing as individuals too. Cooper was signed for just £750,000 from Chesterfield during the Massimo Cellino era, clocking up a huge 209 appearances for Leeds since his transfer to Elland Road in 2014. Ayling, meanwhile, was bought for the same fee from Bristol City – performing a u-turn from Premier League with Arsenal, then Yeovil, and now back to the top with Leeds.
Two incredible stats have emerged this week. One is that Cooper, despite missing six of Leeds’ 17 Premier League matches, is outperfoming Manchester United captain Harry Maguire when it comes to interceptions per games. Scotland international Cooper, in fact, is the second best centre-back in the Premier League when it comes to interceptions per match, as per WhoScored.
That is quite sensational given the amount of money spent on centre-backs in the summer – Ruben Dias at Manchester City, Arsenals Gabriel, Chelsea have Thiago Silva and more. Meanwhile, Ayling is outperforming Leeds target Rodrigo De Paul and Lionel Messi in terms of dribbles. Simply unbelievable.