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Exclusive: Pro footballer Sam Saunders issues his honest verdict on Leeds United to FLW’s Sam Rourke



Leeds United are a team going through a major transitional period as it stands.

Having appointed world-renowned manager Marcelo Bielsa as Paul Heckingbottom’s replacement, Leeds fans are expecting a strong season of competing in the higher echelons of the Sky Bet Championship.

So far, transfer incomings have been minimal, whilst Bielsa has wasted no time in offloading a number of players this summer, with Pawel Cibicki, Jay-Roy Grot and Paudie O’Connor just a handful of faces who’ve been shown the door at Elland Road.

Can Leeds United really mount a serious assault on the top six next season? Is Marcelo Bielsa really the right man for Leeds? Is he too inexperienced in English football? Is the current Leeds squad good enough? There are so many questions that need answering before we can really label Leeds as prime promotion contenders.

FLW Chief Editor Sam Rourke managed to exclusively speak with current Wycombe Wanderers footballer and part-time Sky Sports pundit Sam Saunders to talk all things Leeds United.

When talking about Marcelo Bielsa, Saunders had no qualms with the Argentinian’s credentials, telling Rourke: “Pedigree wise, it’s a massive appointment but unfortunately with what Leeds are like, it’s whether they are going to give him time to adapt to Championship football, which is completely different to anything he’s experienced, games come thick and fast and there are different styles of football”.

“I’ve no doubt he will have been watching DVD’s and more DVD’s of different Championship seasons and Leeds, it’ll be an interesting one to see from afar”.

“You’re not going to have managed the clubs he has managed if you’re not good at your job so as long as Leeds give him the time, I’m sure they can be a forced to be reckoned with this season”.

Marcelo Bielsa is known for employing a 3-3-3-1 formation with his teams, and he’s expected to utilise this strategy at Leeds United next season, Saunders is intrigued to see how it gets on, but does feel it has certain drawbacks, Saunders said: “English football has changed slightly in regards to formations, in that there aren’t many 4-4-2 systems anymore, it’s an interesting one”.

“If you were playing against Leeds, you’d get it out wide, cross it in the box, looking at Bielsa’s formation that would be an avenue of trying to hurt them, switching the play to get it out wide and get balls in the box, get the full-backs nice and high because Leeds are going to be strong through the middle”.

“As a midfielder i’ve played in a midfield diamond, if opposition teams switch the play and get it out wide you’re dead, so width will be crucial for teams playing against Leeds”.

As aforementioned, expectations at Leeds will be high next season as supporters will be looking for a top six finish at the very minimum, Bielsa will be expected to hit the ground running from the off.

When asked about Leeds’ promotion hopes next season, Saunders was very assured in his response, telling Rourke: “Leeds haven’t got enough to go up right now, they need to add to their squad, for me they struggled for goals so they need a talisman up-front”

“They have nice, little tricky players with great technique but there isn’t someone who is going to score you the 20 plus goals a season you need in the Championship”

It’s certainly going to be a rollercoaster at Elland Road next season, one that could go splendidly well, or turn into an utter disaster… Only time will tell.

Leeds United fans…. Do you agree with Saunders’ verdicts on Leeds? Let us know below!

Sam Saunders currently co-owns swimwear company Thomas Royall with fellow footballers John Terry and Liam Ridgewell, see the latest of his range here.

ScoopDragon Football News Network