Ian Holloway has claimed that Leeds United are currently getting ‘better and better’ and that their performances are amongst the best outside the Premier League’s top two.
Leeds currently sit second in the Championship following their fifth straight win against Middlesbrough, where they ran riot with a 4-0 scoreline, piling more pressure on Jonathan Woodgate.
The win was one of the most impressive ones for Leeds to date this season as they managed to shake off the ongoing issue of not being clinical enough in the final third.
Another great aspect of this Whites performance was the relentless pressure from start to finish on Middlesbrough’s defence and midfield, forcing them into giving the ball away and this starting Leeds attacks high up the pitch.
Speaking on Quest TV’s EFL highlights show, Ian Holloway gave glowing praise for Marcelo Bielsa’s side, where he said: “I was so impressed with them today, it’s not ‘Bamford’s on his streak’ like Tony Pulis told us a few weeks ago.
“It’s the front six closing, the pressure they put on Middlesbrough today was as good as I’ve seen outside the top two of the Premier League. It’s Bielsa. It’s magical. They’re getting better and better. It’s pretty ominous for everyone else.”
Here, we take a look at three reasons why this claim from Ian Holloway is spot on…
It is more important than individuals
With the way Leeds played against Middlesbrough and how they have been since Bielsa’s arrival at the club, it is not as simple as Patrick Bamford or whoever is up front doing the pressing of the opposition backline.
Each player has specific roles in the side and that dictates how they press the opponent as an individual and as part of a unit. Sometimes, depending on the threat of the opponent, there will be players who are assigned opponents to man-mark, such as West Brom’s Matheus Pereira or Reading’s Ovie Ejaria.
When Middlesbrough were in possession at the back, it wasn’t just the players chasing the ball, but constricting the space that Middlesbrough looked to play in, meaning they would either lose it or play long and eventually lose it.
It is unique to the division
Holloway claimed that it is the best system that he has seen outside of the top two in the Premier League, and while it is hard to quantify that statement with hard facts and comparisons, but one thing that Leeds have in their favour in that regard is how unique the set up is.
Many teams now set up with a high press and it has been seen against Leeds in a lot of games, but there are few teams around that can continue this push for a full game whilst still dominating possession against the vast majority of opponents.
There are few teams operating in the way Bielsa does, especially with the evolution from the conventional 4-1-4-1 to a more fluid 3-3-1-3, giving the team a much harder dynamic to deal with.
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They are getting better and better
There is an argument to be had at the minute that Leeds are not as good this season as last but it should surely be put to bed given the how much more complete the side look now compared to this time last season.
While the club were on a constant high last season with the performances levels so much better than under Paul Heckingbottom, this masked some issues in the side that are no longer hiding now.
The fans and players are fully aware of how to improve this season but they are showing it in this winning run. The Whites are showing all aspects of a side gunning for promotion: winning ugly, winning emphatically, dominating matches, being solid in defence, among other positives.
It is yet to be seen whether Leeds will achieve their goal of promotion this season but all signs are pointing towards them doing it, compared to lingering thoughts of the opposite last term.