Despite the fact they have suffered from a slight dip in the form of late, no one can argue that Leeds United have had a superb start to the season under the management of Thomas Christiansen. He did inherit an already talented squad from former manager Garry Monk, but he has added further quality to it which has transformed The Whites into serious promotion contenders this season.
We take a look at three positives and three negatives from Leeds’ opening 11 games of the 2017/18 Championship campaign.
An abundance of attacking talent to choose from
The Whites may have lost their star striker in the form of Chris Wood this summer as he joined Premier League side Burnley for a fee of around £15 million, but this has not resulted in them struggling to find the back of the net this season. The 25-year-old scored 27 goals in 44 league appearances under Monk last season, but this time around, Leeds have players chipping in from all over the pitch.
The likes of Kalvin Phillips, Kemar Roofe, Pierre-Michel Lasogga, Samuel Saiz, Stuart Dallas, Ezgjan Alioski and more have all contributed with goals so far this season. This just goes to show that the recruitment at Elland Road this summer has been nothing short of exceptional. 26-year-old attacking midfielder Saiz was one of the best players in the Segunda Division in Spain last season yet Christiansen was able to lure him to Leeds.
The appointment of Thomas Christiansen
Many people raised their eyebrows when Leeds confirmed the appointment of 44-year-old Christiansen, but he has since proved he has what it takes to manage at this level. Many people feared for Leeds following Monk’s resignation after what was one of Leeds’ most successful seasons for a significant amount of time as they just missed out on the play-off places. However, Christiansen has surprised many with how quickly he has adapted to management in England.
Before taking over at Leeds, Christiansen’s only previous managerial experience had come in Cyprus with AEK Larnaca and APOEL and also in the United Arab Emirates with Al-Jazira. This inevitably raised questions about whether he had the knowledge of The Championship and English football in general. However, Leeds have won six of their opening 11 league fixtures and sit fifth in the table heading into the international break meaning that Christiansen has emphatically proved the doubters wrong.
Keeping hold of Pontus Jansson
The 26-year-old Swedish centre-back was a huge hit for Leeds last season on a loan spell from Torino and has since gone on to join the club permanently. Those who have watched him play live will know how important he is to this Leeds side. He has all the attributes that are needed from a centre-back, and it is, therefore, no surprise that he has been almost ever-present in the starting line-up so far this season.
There is no doubt that he has the ability to play in The Premier League or at a higher level abroad and it was, therefore, a huge coup from Leeds to be able to bring him to the club on a permanent basis this summer. If The Whites are to achieve success come next May, then there is no doubt that Jansson will have played a key role in that success.
The performances of Felix Wiedwald
Christiansen has implemented a passing style of football at Leeds and this, of course, requires a goalkeeper who is good on the ball. This resulted in The Whites securing the signature of the 27-year-old this summer on a three-year deal from Werder Bremen. Despite the fact that Wiedwald is undoubtedly very good on the ball, his performances of late have caused supporters to question whether he is the best goalkeeper at the club.
Wiedwald’s recent form has resulted in many supporters calling for Andy Lonergan to be given a chance by Christiansen. He has always been a reliable goalkeeper at this level throughout his career and re-joined The Whites this summer following his release from Wolverhampton Wanderers. It is still surprising that Leeds allowed Rob Green to join Huddersfield Town this summer as he was superb for them during the last campaign and played a vital part in the success under Monk.
A concerning dip in form
It was not until 16th September that Leeds lost their first game of the season as they fell to a 1-0 defeat away at rivals Millwall. However, they have struggled to recover from that defeat and head into the international break having lost three of their last four league games. This will be a disappointment for everyone connected with the club following an outstanding start.
The biggest concern will be that the performances seem to be getting progressively worse. Their two most recent defeats have come away at Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday both of which saw them beaten comprehensively. The 3-0 loss to Carlos Carvalhal’s side on Sunday was particularly disappointing due to the fact it was a huge Yorkshire derby, yet The Owls simply outfought Leeds. They will be hoping they can rediscover their early form when they return from the international break.
Can Leeds finally achieve promotion back to the top flight?
Leeds supporters will be desperate for their side to end their absence from the top flight of English football. The last time The Whites competed in The Premier League was in the 2003/04 season, and for a club of Leeds’ stature, this is far too long. However, there is an increasing number of huge clubs in the second division including the likes of Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday, Aston Villa and so on and the challenge of winning promotion is becoming increasingly more difficult. It is important that Leeds get back to producing the performances from the beginning of the season to give them the best chance of success come next May.