Leeds United’s return to the Premier League has been every bit as enthralling as it promised to be. Manager Marcelo Bielsa has unsurprisingly stuck to his footballing philosophy and by doing so, he has sent Leeds to war with every team they have come up against so far this season, regardless of status or historical pedigree.
Leeds currently lie eighth in the Premier League after four games so you would have to say so far so exceptionally good for the former Championship side. Indeed, their English Premier League odds on a top-six finish sit at just 5/1 which already suggests that despite only playing a handful of games, Leeds have already done enough in most people’s eyes to indicate that they will have what it takes to carry on this sensational form. But what is a realistic target for Bielsa’s young side?
Unsurprisingly, that depends on who you ask but it may not be the way around you expect it to be. Take a stroll outside a currently autumnal Elland Road and you will invariably encounter a few fans taking pictures in front of the Billy Bremner statue, as the scattered russet leaves collect on the Centenary Square where the memory of the great man resides. Look to your left from there and you’ll no doubt see a few bundled up yet excited fans leaving the club shop with some new memorabilia that proudly sports the Premier League badge on it.
Stop and talk to any of those people and they’ll tell you without hesitation that the goal this season is anywhere above 18th place. You may well think that is an answer that is devoid of any ambition but it certainly isn’t. On the contrary, having spent 16 years outside of the Premier League before being promoted last season, you can absolutely understand how the Leeds fans would want to see their team enjoy a season of consolidation as they get used to the demands of Premier League football once again.
After all, this is a club that has spent so long in the bitter and unforgiving cold, looking in on others who dine at the top table of English football. Now that they’re out from the cold and enjoying the warm glow and the festivities of being at said table, they don’t want to leave just as they’re beginning to thaw out.
The realism and pragmatism coming from West Yorkshire is however countered by the feeling from outside the region. Indeed, Gary Neville was full of praise for the Whites after they pushed defending Premier League champions Liverpool all the way in their first game despite losing 4-3. The former Manchester United defender told Sky Sports viewers that Leeds would ‘scare the hell out of their opponents this season.’
Neville wasn’t the only ex-England stalwart to praise Leeds as Alan Shearer also complimented Bielsa’s approach for being ‘so refreshing’ during their first four games.
Now, the reason why both of these opinions are significant is that these men have a combined 841 Premier League caps between them. If they’re predicting promising times ahead for Leeds United then it’s worth taking their views seriously given there probably isn’t a duo more qualified to judge how a team will get on in England’s top-flight.
So whilst there is an admirably modest attitude coming from those within the city of Leeds with regards to how they will fare this season, the rest of England seems to think that this could well be a campaign that has the distinct possibility of delivering some form of European football to Elland Road.