When Marcelo Bielsa was confirmed as Leeds’ new head coach in the summer, it would have been difficult to find a fan who expected the side to simply put themselves amongst the Championship’s mid-table.
It immediately appeared that the appointment would either prove to be a masterstroke or would lead to chaos and quickly end in a fashion that made Dave Hockaday or Darko Milanic’s tenures look slightly more impressive.
At the moment, it certainly appears that Andrea Radrizzani has pulled off the masterstroke. We are third in the second tier and have seen some of the best football played anywhere in the country.
Along the way, there have already been a number of surprises. So here is a look at five current stats from the season so far that we would not have expected before the campaign…
Samuel Saiz’ drought
Championship defences still seem incapable of finding a way to stop Samuel Saiz keeping the ball. The Spaniard continues to dazzle, which makes it all the more remarkable that he is yet to score in the league this season. But we cannot see that run lasting much longer.
A disciplined Kalvin Phillips
Kalvin Phillips has been one of the surprises of the season for us. He has been superb in the holding role that Bielsa has given him, often acting as a third centre-back. But given his new role, it seems scarcely-believable that he has only been cautioned once in the league. He collected 13 yellow cards last season and two reds the year before. Despite having a potentially more combative role this term, Phillips’ discipline has been superb and that is one of the reasons why he is now one of our most important players.
Ever-present Bailey Peacock-Farrell
Bailey Peacock-Farrell always had a genuine claim to be our number one this season after his emergence under Paul Heckingbottom. But with Jamal Blackman arriving on loan, all signs seemed to point to the Chelsea man taking the gloves in the Championship with Peacock-Farrell as the understudy. But the academy graduate is actually the only Leeds player to play every minute of this Championship season so far, with Luke Ayling’s red card last time out denying the right-back the chance to be another name on the list.
Corners seemed to be our Achilles heel for a long time – even with a set-piece coach on our books last season – but Bielsa’s men have turned defending corners into a real strength. Of the nine goals that Leeds have conceded this season, none have come from corners.
Klich-ing for Mateusz
Heading into this summer, it was not clear what the future held for Mateusz Klich. Thomas Christiansen wrote him off and loaned him out to the Netherlands for the second-half of last season. Had Christiansen stayed, it is difficult to imagine that Klich would have also. Even Bielsa seemed to have his doubts by fielding him in the pre-season games that rarely included any of last season’s key men. But it was Klich who scored Leeds’ first goal of the campaign in the opening day win over Stoke and he has been superb ever since.
In fact, the Poland international has been directly involved in more goals than any other Leeds player, having scored four and provided three assists in the league already. Even Bielsa seemingly did not see that coming.