Leeds sit atop the Championship, as the only remaining unbeaten team left in the division.

The excitement around the club may make it feel as if this has never happened before. But rewind a little over a year to 12th September 2017, and that was the state of affairs in the second tier.

Thomas Christiansen’s Leeds saw off Birmingham, who they face this Saturday afternoon, 2-0 at Elland Road to leapfrog Cardiff and go top.

We all know how the season panned out, Christiansen was sacked in February after a winless run that stretched back to Boxing Day as Leeds drifted towards mid-table.

That’s why the big question this time around is; can Leeds last the pace? Here’s why this season could – finally – be different.

Bielsa’s pedigree

LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 15: Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa during the Sky Bet Championship match; between Millwall and Leeds United at The Den. On September 15, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Rob Newell – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Argentine Marcelo Bielsa’s influence has been absolutely massive at Elland Road. The fans are in awe of him and the players have completely bought into what he’s trying to do.

Even when times get tough, a club that has a habit of tearing itself apart should unite behind a universally loved manager.

 

A similar situation has developed at Newcastle United with Rafa Benitez; the sheer quality of the manager knits together a club that could easily become fractious under a weaker, or less respected, boss.

Where Christiansen, and Garry Monk before him, were unable to stop the rot, Bielsa’s force of personality and popularity should be strong enough to ride out the stormy periods.

Passing football

SWANSEA, WALES – AUGUST 21: Leeds United’s Kemar Roofe during the Sky Bet Championship match; between City and Leeds United at Liberty Stadium on August 21, 2018 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Kevin Barnes – CameraSport via Getty Images)

Much has been made of how difficult it will be for Leeds’ thin squad to keep up Bielsa’s intense pressing strategy three times away throughout the Championship slog.

While that’s a big ask, it neglects the other side of their new style; passing football. While Leeds are making the chances to put opponents to the sword comfortably, they can almost afford to rest within games.

Keeping the ball and killing the game will help preserve Leeds’ legs. Contrast their approach with Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough; their games will generally be tight, physical affairs and their method of closing out games includes a lot of hard graft and intensity.

Bielsa and Pulis are almost the Championship’s Guardiola and Mourinho. Look at how City glided right through to the end of last season, reaching the 100-point mark in the closing stages of the campaign.

Leeds’ bitter rivals Manchester United looked exhausted by the time the FA Cup final rolled around; it’s because they have to fight until the end of most matches to close them out.

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