Leeds United fans have little to complain about on the pitch at the moment. Marcelo Bielsa has the side playing fantastic football and Leeds are at the top of the Championship table so there aren’t too many “hot takes” flying about from the fanbase. In fact, the stats suggest we should be much further clear at the top.
The only debates of note have been: Eddie Nketiah or Patrick Bamford up front, and Jack Harrison or Helder Costa on the left wing. I feel the stronger argument based on the “eye-test” is for Helder Costa so that is the one I am going to have a look at.
-Costa in the first few minutes puts the ball in for Bamford to score a goal (offside), and then puts another dangerous ball in— :) (@Max_LUFC) September 15, 2019
-Costa wins the freekick from which Nketiah scores from
-Nketiah wins a penalty
I get having options off the bench, but just start them pls #lufc
All figures taken are for the matches this season, in either the Championship or the League Cup. So far this season, Jack Harrison has played 485 minutes of football, whereas Helder Costa has played 367 minutes.
Wingers in a Marcelo Bielsa system have to provide a direct threat to the opposition. For the purposes of this article this section will cover each players direct threat of scoring goals, including their xG (expected goals) as well as their dribbling skills.
In terms of their shooting statistics there isn’t much between the two players, the only shooting stat with a major difference is the shots on target, where Costa’s 50% is well ahead of Harrison’s 20%. Also, it should be noted that Costa’s xG is coming from fewer touches in the opposition box.
The dribbling stats also don’t show a great deal of difference between the two players. Costa is busier in terms of dribbling but Jack Harrison has a better dribbling success percentage. However, if you take the number of dribbles against their success percentage you come out with very similar numbers (Costa - 3.92288, Harrison - 3.99714).
This is something we missed last season.— All Day LUFC (@AllDayLUFC) August 22, 2019
The strength of our bench is huge this year, and full of something we massively missed last year.
Pace. Direct running. Flair.
Something Costa is bringing on his own, along with Eddie and Bogusz. #LUFC https://t.co/6ijefUA1pO
So far, for these metrics there isn’t much to split the players, but overall for this Helder Costa gets the nod due to having more progressive runs and winning more fouls. Winning more fouls is useful, particularly as Leeds set-pieces seem to be improving now Kalvin Phillips has taken over a lot of the duties in that regard.
Just about the only measurement that Leeds are not towards the top end of the league for is our crossing. Showing that we put in lots of crosses but they are the least accurate of any team in the Championship, as the tweet below from the excellent @AllStatsArentWe shows.
Don't think this graph needs too much explaining. Basically, #lufc make more crosses p90 than any other team in the Championship, but have the worst % acc. Work certainly needed on crossing accuracy and on players attacking the ball in the box. pic.twitter.com/E3xzgSr0Ca— All Stats Aren't We (@AllStatsArentWe) September 17, 2019
When this is broke down by player, it makes for particularly bad reading for Jack Harrison.
Following on from yesterday's graph of championship teams crosses p90 v % Acc, I thought I'd look closer at the wingers and full-backs in the Championship, using the same metrics. It's not good for Jack Harrison, but Dallas and Hernandez don't impress either. #lufc pic.twitter.com/DEQJxshUi3— All Stats Aren't We (@AllStatsArentWe) September 18, 2019
For assists threat I am using the crossing accuracy for the reasons above, as well as their passing stats and xA (expected assists).
As you would expect given the tweets embedded above, Costa looks more impressive in this regard but some of the differences are stark (although at this stage of the season it is a relatively small sample size). Costa’s crossing accuracy is much better and could make a real difference for Leeds given their struggles in this area. Particularly compared with Harrison’s really poor stats for crossing accuracy.
Costa is also well ahead on xA per 90mins and he plays more through balls, this is one of the reasons why most people think he looks more dangerous based on the “eye-test”.
For this section, Helder Costa clearly gets the nod for the starting berth.
It is important for players to be able to work back from the wing for Leeds, particularly with how much Leeds full-backs push on, although it wouldn’t be the main thing to judge them on.
One of the main strengths for Harrison in the eyes of the fans has been his work rate and effort tracking back. However, the stats show that Helder Costa has a slightly higher output this season. His higher number of ball recoveries is a good sign for playing in Leeds’ side as it shows he can win the ball well and make interceptions when Leeds press the opposition.
Jack Harrison’s 75.8% for Defensive duels won is an impressive number for a winger but this, for me, is 3 for 3 in favour of Helder Costa.
Obviously, with the form Leeds are in there is an argument for not making any changes, but I really think the time has come for Helder Costa to get the start. Not that anyone is going to complain to any serious degree if Marcelo Bielsa chooses not to start the Portugal international.