Leeds United go into the international break on top of the league and undefeated so far in the season after a 0-0 draw against Middlesbrough. And while it’s still early in the season to be drawing too many conclusion on how it’s going, some things can be learned from the match.
1. Leeds still miss Pablo Hernandez when he’s not in the side
One of the biggest problems Leeds had last year was that when Hernandez wasn’t in the side, or when he was neutralized, that Leeds lacked a creative spark. Samu Saiz provided some spark in the first half of the season, but he was ineffective after coming back from a six game suspension.
Missed Hernandez's finesse tonight, which isn't to say that Harrison had a bad game. Hernandez is just so reliable when it comes to serving up something special. Big performance from Berardi. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) August 31, 2018
So far this season Leeds have been brilliant in league matches, creating a lot of chances and scoring plenty of goals. However, not having Hernandez in the side proved to be an obstacle for Leeds, as the number of chances that were created went down. Manchester City loanee Jack Harrison filled in well enough, and looked a lot better on Friday night then he did in the League Cup, but he’s still not Hernandez.
2. Bielsa’s Leeds can grind out a 0-0 draw after all
One of the few questions surrounding the team in the month of August was the issue of a lack of clean sheets for the team. Leeds scored plenty of goals, but seemed to let down on the defensive side of the ball.
However, a 0-0 draw at home against a team that is level with Leeds on points on top of the table is nothing to sneeze at, even if Leeds are playing a team with a contrasting style. One of the biggest issues under Thomas Christiansen was the desire to throw caution to the wind at home and go for a late win, only to surrender a late goal that resulted in a loss. Beating inferior opponents and drawing quality opponents can get a team promoted out of this league. Throwing away points by always going for late winners will get a manager sacked and the team bounced from the playoff positions.
3. A defeat won’t send this team reeling
Losing the in League Cup isn’t the end of the world, but after last season’s first loss against Millwall under Christiansen, the team seemed to fall apart. This year after suffering their first loss, the team went out and played the same way it had all season and ground out a 0-0 draw against a talented team. It seemed that the loss away at Millwall changed everything, as Christiansen seemingly abandoned how he wanted the team to play and instead seemed to just rely on individual talent or just lumping the ball to Pierre-Michel Lasogga and hoping for the best. Even Liam Cooper said that the defeat against Millwall “altered” the club, that it changed the way that the other teams approached Leeds.
However, Leeds didn’t seem able to put losses behind them and move on to the next game and get results last season. The team lost eight of its last 16 games while only winning four, dire form that never seemed to get better and even when the team won a game, the next loss seemed to send the club into another tailspin.
Christiansen seemed either unable or unwilling to stick with the style of football that had been playyed up until then, and either that was a function of the teams that Leeds had played at the start of the season or if it was a young coach immediately bailing on a system at the first sign of trouble, we won’t know. However, Marcelo Bielsa is not going to change his stripes or his system, and the team is absolutely going to play the same way, no matter what. Losses happen, but Bielsa has enough faith in his system that he’s not going to abandon it once things start getting messy. Leeds has an experienced manager in place that is a literal legend, and one loss isn’t going to shake him up or cause his team to get shaken up.