På lördag drar det igång igen, efter en annorlunda försäsong börjar Premier League. Vi går, som bekant, in i säsongen som regerande mästare och ställs i den första omgången mot ett lag som också vann sin liga för någon månad sedan, nämligen Leeds United. Det forna storlaget är tillbaka i högsta serien efter att ha vunnit The Championship och kommer upp i finrummet med den omtalade stortränaren Marcelo Bielsa vid rodret. Adam Cann(@adamcann), som bland annat driver podcasten Have you ever seen a better goal(@abettergoal) har följt Leeds på resan ner i botten och tillbaka upp till högsta serien, han berättar här om hur det varit och hur han ser på lagets chanser i Premier League.
1. Leeds is back in the Premier League after many years away. Youve been through a lot since you where up, how bad was it at its worst?
One of the lyrics from the Leeds United anthem, Marching on Together, is ”And we’ve had our ups and downs.” Well the last 16 years has been 90% downs unfortunately and there are so many low points. The 3 seasons in League 1 (English 3rd tier) were bad enough but then losing in the FA Cup to non league Histon was a real low point. We’ve seen the best of youth academy players leave so our owners could pocket the money and countless managers who have tried and failed to bring the glory days back. It’s been a tough old road.
2. Now we Can welcome you back to the Premier League, where you belong, tell us a bit about last season, when you won promotion. How come you finally managed to get back?
Last Season will go down as one of our best without a doubt. For me, we were the best team in the league the season before but were perhaps not mentally ready to clear the final hurdle. However, last season the players knew what the manager wanted, we upgraded certain positions (centre back particularly) and we were mentally stronger. Some of the football we have been playing is the best I’ve seen for over 20 years. We had a little wobble after Christmas but the players overcame it and we won the league by 10 points.
3. Marcelo Bielsa, how important is he to this team? How would you describe him as a manager?
The way Marcelo Bielsa has turned the club around is astounding. He has taken a poor, mid-table Championship team, with players that a lot of the fanbase wouldn’t miss if they were sold and turned them into superstars. He has managed to unite the players and staff with the fans and the city. It’s not just about what he’s done on the pitch either, off it he has made us all appreciate and understand more about football and I’ve heard many fans say, he’s actually made them a better person because of the morals and the way he lives and speaks. I know that sounds unique, but he is a real one of a kind and one of the all time greats.
4. How would you describe the way Leeds plays?
We play a very high intensity press (something that you Liverpool fans will be familiar with). Without the ball we work harder than any other team and the players drilled to know where they need to be given any situation. With the ball, you’ll see attractive football with plenty of passing between defence and midfield. When an opportunity appears, you’ll see speed from one end of the pitch to the other. Leeds will be one of the fittest (if not the fittest) team in the league and they will be able to run teams into the ground.
5. Which players will be most important to you this season?
With all Bielsa teams, the sum of the parts is greater than the individual. It’s the system and the training that are our key components. Having said, Kalvin Philips (who’s been called up the England Team) is a vital cog in the system. He can drop back into the defence if required but he’ll mostly be conducting the orchestra from a deep lying midfield role. Also look out for our wide players (both wingers and full backs) who bomb on at any opportunity (Similar Robertson and TAA)
6. Are you satisfied with your job on the transfer market so far?
The transfer window has been very positive so far. It’s such a fine balance between breaking the bank and bringing 2 many new players in (like Fulham a couple of seasons ago) and just sticking with what you’ve got (like Norwich last season). With invested in our U23s and U18s in by bringing players with potential and then also made a couple of Marque signings with Rogrigo from Valencia and Koch from Freiburg, both international footballers with good pedigree. We don’t need many more but a No.10/winger and enough centre back would be nice be the window closes. Fingers crossed.
7. What kind of game do you expect at Anfield?
What a game to start with. It doesn’t get any harder than visiting Anfield. I expect Liverpool will play their typical pressing games and it will be interesting to see how Leeds can play themselves out of danger, it certainly won’t be by sitting back or playing hoofball. Liverpool quite rightly will start as strong favourites but Leeds will get their chances and I hope will be able to showcase exactly what they’re all about. Should be an absolute belter.