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5 Reasons Why Arsenal Can Win the League

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Nicolas Pepe Arsenal

The last time Arsenal won the Premier League, Manchester City wasn’t even a big club. It’s been donkey’s years and the fans are growing tired. This summer saw the Gunners’ hierarchy finally put their money where their mouth was. Now for the first time in a long time, Arsenal look set to challenge for the Premier League title. Let’s discuss why.

Here are five reasons why Arsenal can win the league.

#5 Youth Prospects

There’s been an evident changing of the guard at the Emirates this year. Freddie Ljungberg’s promotion to assistant manager has shown Emery’s faith in playing youth prospects this season. And why wouldn’t he, the Gunners have some of the best upcoming youngsters in England. Reiss Nelson, Joe Willock and Emile Smith-Rowe are all in contention to start for the first team, not because of potential, but productivity. These prospects have given Emery a new dimension this season, as their hunger is there for all to see.

#4 Unai Emery’s second season

At the top level of football, not many managers get a lot of time to fully implement their style at a football club. If results don’t correspond, a coach can often be forced to change his philosophy or face the sack. For Unai Emery, he has a grace period of two years at Arsenal, with the higher-ups giving him time to build his squad and implement a philosophy.

Last season, we saw slight improvements from the old regime, but ultimately UCL qualification wasn’t achieved. This season, Emery has been able to change training regimes and breed a tactical identity at the Emirates, meaning there’s no excuse for no improvement this campaign.

 #3 Returning Injuries

They’ll be like a new signing,” is something Arsène Wenger used to say in relation to every injury the club had. But in this scenario, his words couldn’t hold more truth. By the end of October, the Gunners will be welcoming back Rob Holding and Hector Bellerín. These are two players that missed the majority of last season through a knee injury and crucial ligament rupture respectively. Both of these defenders are first-team picks for Emery, giving him the strength in depth a top-four challenging team needs.

#2 Improved Defence

It’s been evident for close to a decade that Arsenal has needed defensive reinforcements. This summer, the Arsenal higher-ups FINALLY addressed that deficiency. On Deadline Day, the Gunners signed one of the league’s most experienced defenders, David Luiz, a player who is a significant upgrade on the error-prone Shkodran Mustafi. On top of that, they signed one of the UK’s most promising left-backs in Kieran Tierney. The Gunners conceded 51 goals last season, the signing of these two players will significantly reduce that embarrassing total.

#1 Nicolas Pepe

Throughout last season, a whole host of clubs kept tabs on the exciting Nicolas Pepe. He was one of Europe’s most wanted players and for the first time in a long time, Arsenal has pulled off a real coup in the transfer market! Last season, the Ivorian scored 22 goals and provided 11 assists in 38 Ligue 1 appearances. That’s a strike rate that made him one of Europe’s most productive attackers.

The 24-year-old may take some time to adjust to the pace of the Premier League but once he gets going, he’ll form a formidable front three with Alexandre Lacazette and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang.

How Will Manchester United Fare if Paul Pogba Leaves

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Paul Pogba

Whether he’s playing well or not, Paul Pogba is the most talked about player in England. The Frenchman is a global superstar that transcends the sport. His return to Old Trafford was branded as #Pogback, with many hailing him as the second coming of David Beckham. Unfortunately, his relationship with the United fans has soured since then.  

Below-par performances and a public spat with José Mourinho has turned public opinion against Pogba, with him becoming the scapegoat for all of United’s shortcomings. In spite of the belittling of his ability, the Frenchman is still an attractive prospect to many of Europe’s top teams, especially Real Madrid. Zinedine Zidane has made it clear that the midfielder is his top target for the summer, with Los Blancos hoping to secure a deal before the end of the European summer window.

Here’s how United will fare if Paul Pogba leaves.

Less Creativity

Last season, Paul Pogba was Manchester United’s primary source of chance creation. To prove that, he finished as United’s top scorer and assist provider, with 13 goals and 9 assists in 35 PL appearances.  On top of that, the 25-year-old maintained an 83% pass accuracy across the season, whilst averaging 60 passes a game. Such creativity will not be replicated by anyone else in the squad.

Technical Ability

Paul Pogba is one of those players that could lose the ball twelve times but produce one moment of magic to turn the whole game on its head. It’s that x-factor ability that United will miss the most and it’s an ability that can only be appreciated once it’s gone. From a technical standpoint, there’s no player better than Paul Pogba at United, his striking ability, technique and football intelligence are levels above his teammates. No one else at the club has the capability of producing moments of brilliance to change games.

Marketing Effect

I think people are underestimating how much of an asset the Frenchman is to Manchester United. He is by far and away the most famous player in Manchester today, known all over the world. There’s a reason why the higher-ups decided to sign him to a contract worth over £250,000-a-week, because they know how much he’ll generate them.

He’s a symbol of excellence for ethnic minorities in football, an inspiration to developing countries across the globe, this can be seen through his worldwide shirt sales. In his first weeks at the club, his shirt sales surpassed £190million.As a World Cup winner and Serie A champion, Pogba holds value in the market that the owners and Ed Woodward appreciate far more than his apparent shortcomings on the pitch.  

Ideal XI

If Paul Pogba were to swap Old Trafford for the Bernabéu, here’s the best possible line-up Manchester United could produce.

From a technical standpoint, only Juan Mata comes close to Paul Pogba. The Spaniard would now have to act as the creative hub for United, helping to pull the strings of their pacey attack. However, the two midfielders behind him won’t be able to offer much support in the final third for him. Matic would act as the holding midfielder, thus shielding the back four.

While Scott McTominay would have to do his best to make third man runs into the box, acting as the box to box midfielder. United’s pacey front three will as they always do, make intelligent runs into the box and down the flanks, however, all the pressure will be on Mata’s shoulders to supply them with the service Paul Pogba has done for years.

How Paulo Dybala Could Drastically Improve Manchester United

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Paulo Dybala
Paulo Dybala

Manchester United and Juventus have agreed on a swap deal in principle involving Paulo Dybala and Romelu Lukaku according to sources in Italy.

Dybala wants to meet with new head coach Maurizio Sarri before making any decisions about his future as the attacker is keen to stay at Turin.

If the Argentine player does decide to move to Old Trafford, United fans can expect him to bring in something new and different.

Manchester United had a sub-par 2018\2019 season and are looking to strengthen their squad this summer, having already signed Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Daniel James the Reds still need more new faces and Dybala would be perfect for that.

With 78 goals and 30 assists in 182 appearances, his quality is underlined.
Dybala’s possesses a skill set that would help United in an area where they have been lacking quality. That lack of quality was on display in United’s recent pre-season 1-0 win against Kristiansund as they found it difficult to get past the Kristiansund men who wanted to sit back and defend for 90 minutes. When facing opponents that play in that manner United have lacked the spark to unlock and dominate the final third.

The Red Devils haven’t had a natural playmaker in a while and when they did, the players were pushed wide very often. Shinji Kagawa, Juan Mata, and Angel Di Maria were all used in that manner. Jesse Lingard has been the man to operate behind the striker in recent years but isnt’t exactly a player Solskjaer would look to for a creative spark when needed.

Solskjaer could also look to play Dybala up top alongside Marcus Rashford in a 4-4-2 formation but that would mean Paul Pogba wouldn’t be as effective as he isn’t known to fare well in the sort of midfield role in a 4-4-2.

It would be exciting to see ‘La Joya’ in the Premier League playing every weekend and he is a player with a lot of technique that is easy on the eyes.
The swap deal would favor both clubs as both players would be improvements on the options the clubs currently have.

Can Leeds United Progress in the Play Offs?

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Leeds United

After Norwich City and Sheffield United booked their automatic return to the Premier League it came at the expense of Leeds United who for the majority of the season had occupied one of the top two spaces. They have been the standout side but Marcelo Bielsa’s men have dropped vital points recently against Brentford and Wigan. The question is will they discover their form when it matters most?

Since their return to the Championship they have failed to finish inside any of the promotion places with 7th being their best finish in 2016/17. It is a strange to think that Leeds, with all their history, have not been in the top flight since 2004. They are a club great stature and this season we have seen them play like they deserve to be in the top flight once again.

Bielsa will know that he has to beat Ipswich this weekend to finish in 3rd place with West Brom looking to pip them to have possibly the more favourable play off semi-final game. However, there will be no easy game in the treacherous play offs. With West Brom and Aston Villa already confirmed it could be Frank Lampard’s Derby County or Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough that could occupy that final place. Lampard and Bielsa have history already this season after “spygate” and Pulis knows how to get a side promoted. It should be an intriguing run in!

But Leeds need to be at the top of their game to get anything and need to avoid complacency. The favourite can often be humbled in the play offs especially in the Championship. Take for example Cardiff in 2010, Derby in 2014, Reading in 2017 and Aston Villa in 2018 all these sides headed into the final and were expected to win but fell short at the last hurdle. However, Leeds need to get to the final first and that is going to be no easy task.

After the battle of Elland Road against Aston Villa it could be suggested that the Yorkshire side are slightly rattled that they did not make automatic promotion but they have to be more composed in their future games especially in defence. After such impressive displays at the back over the course of the season they have conceded in their past three games (granted the Aston Villa goal was a strange one). But their consistency at the back, especially between Liam Cooper and Pontus Jansson, has been their most desirable attribute. They have the 3rd best defensive record in the league behind Sheffield United and Middlesbrough.

You have to favour Leeds to progress in the play offs but as stated they have to be at their very best. Bielsa will have to use his best mind games to get his way to the Premier League at the first time of asking. However, if they fail there will be question marks over the future of some players and maybe even the manager but they should certainly take the positives in what has been a thrilling season for them. 

Three Youngsters That Could Benefit From Chelsea’s Transfer Ban

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Last week, Chelsea were slapped with a massive two-window transfer ban. The ban will restrict them from making any signing this summer and next January. With an ageing and under performing squad, now is perhaps the worst time for the Blues to be hit with such a punishment.

However, as luck would have it, Chelsea own perhaps the best youth academy on the planet, with 29 players currently on loan around Europe. I think now would be better than any time for the Blues to finally use their rich reserves.

Here are three youngsters that could benefit from Chelsea’s transfer ban.

#1 Tammy Abraham

Tammy Abraham Chelsea

This season, Chelsea’s striker woes have continued to haunt the fans and the manager. Alvaro Morata was deemed not good enough, so he was shipped off, in his absence Gonzalo Higuaín stepped in, but even he hasn’t perhaps hit the heights Sarri wanted.

While on the bench, Olivier Giroud has been limited to substitute cameos in which he hasn’t impressed. The two-window ban may force Chelsea’s hand to stop looking to the market and start looking at one of their own.

Tammy Abraham has been quietly finetuning his trade at Aston Villa, impressively scoring 20 goals in 26 appearances. He currently sits as the third top scorer in the Championship. Yes, that may be a level below, but he proved last season with Swansea that he can also score in the Premier League.

Abraham’s most impressive traits are his ability to hold up play, his pace, strength, work rate and composure in front of goal. With Chelsea’s current striker crisis, Abraham may be the club’s only solution in the near future.

#2 Mason Mount

Mason Mount Chelsea

Currently, on loan at Derby, Mason Mount is undoubtedly one of Chelsea’s most exciting young talents. Frank Lampard recognises the youngster as a first team starter for him with Mount starting 32 games this season.

In that time the 20-year-old has scored six goals, provided two assists, averaged 2.1 key passes a game and completed 76.1% of his passes. Such is his versatility, the 20-year-old has played 18 games as a CM and eight as a CAM.

It’s quite clear at the Bridge right now that there’s a lot of debate around the third midfielder position. Currently, Ross Barkley, Matteo Kovačić & Reuben Loftus-Cheek are competing for that spot, but none have made it their own. Mason Mount could be the missing piece in the Sarriball jigsaw.  

#3 Calum Hudson-Odoi

I don’t know about you, but when I hear Bayern Munich are avidly chasing an 18-year-old winger I instantly think the kid must be good. It’s pretty safe to say that the German Champions know what they’re talking about when it comes to wide players as they still have the legendary duo of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. Even in recent seasons, they’ve signed gems in Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman, now they want Calum Hudson-Odoi.

Just so you know how good a player we’re talking about here, many have likened the Chelsea youngster to the ability of Jadon Sancho. The Dortmund winger knew his worth and refused to settle for limited opportunities at City, however, for Hudson-Odoi he may not have to force a move anymore with this ominous ban.

The 18-year-old is pacey, tricky, intelligent and brave, what more could Maurizio Sarri want in a winger, considering he has under performing ones like Willian and Pedro? As hard as it may be, it’s time for Chelsea to use their award-winning academy….

Why Liverpool Must Approach the Second Leg Against Bayern Munich With Caution

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Liverpool vs Bayern Munich
Liverpool vs Bayern Munich

Last Tuesday, two heavyweight contenders for the UEFA Champions League locked horns. In perhaps the most mouth-watering tie of the knockout stage, Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool welcomed Niko Kovač’s under-fire Bayern Munich team to a ruckus Anfield.

With all the attacking power on display, the two teams gave us a tactical 0-0 first leg. In the second leg, Liverpool will have the advantage of the away goal rule but must still operate with caution.

Here’s why Liverpool must adopt a pragmatic approach against Bayern at the Allianz Arena.

At Anfield, the 5-time European Champions put in a resolute and cautious performance to secure a precious away clean sheet. They showed Liverpool huge amounts of respect in how they deployed 10 men behind the ball and only looked to counter-attack.

That’s a testament to how far the Reds have come under Jurgen Klopp, as they were even billed as the favourites in the build-up to this tie. At the Allianz Arena, Liverpool must return the favour in terms of cautiousness.

Counter Attack Mentality

Since Cristiano Ronaldo swapped the sunsets of Madrid for the stunning skyline of Turin, Real Madrid’s counter-attacking force has not been the same. This, therefore, establishes Liverpool as the best counter-attacking team on the planet. The pace of Sadio Mané and Mohammad Salah fused with the positional intelligence of Roberto Firmino is a frightening thought for any defence, including Bayern Munich.

The Reds must seek to hit Bayern on the counter-attack, as the Germans are a team that like to dominate possession and deploy a high line to keep their opponents penned in. In the league, they’ve averaged 62.5% possession, Liverpool must allow them to become comfortable in possession, ever willing to hit on the break.

Formation Change

In order to aid a counter-attacking mentality, Klopp should alter his normal wide 4-3-3 to a conservative 4-1-2-1-2. This would present the Reds as a compact, narrow and tough to break down unit. This would force Bayern to play through the flanks and cross into an already Virgil van Dijk marked Robert Lewandowski.

Whilst the Germans are operating in the flanks in Liverpool’s half, Klopp’s forwards could hang on the last line of defence, ready to expose the space left behind by Bayern’s offensive-minded full-backs.

Away Goal Advantage

Arsène Wenger has been an advocator for the abolishment of the away goal rule. The Frenchman believes it encourages teams to be more cautious at home, thus having a negative effect on the overall tie. Regardless, for the second leg, Liverpool can use that rule to their advantage.

It’s a miracle Bayern were able to keep Liverpool at bay for one game, it’d be a miracle if they could do it for the whole 180 minutes. Especially when you consider the Reds have scored 70 goals in 35 games this season, averaging 2.3 goals per game.

In stark contrast, it’s no secret that Bayern Munich hasn’t been at their dominating best this season. We’re used to seeing the Bavarians several points clear at the top of the Bundesliga by early January, instead, they’re trailing a young Borussia Dortmund side. After 22 league games, Munich trail Dortmund by three points having lost four games, conceding 26 goals in the process.

Long story short, this is not the Bayern of old and a trip to the Allianz Arena is now no longer what it used to be. Liverpool are still favourites to progress to the next stage, as long as they approach the game with caution and in respect for a Bayern team, although struggling, still full of quality.

League One Preview: Bradford vs Portsmouth

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League One Preview Bradford vs Portsmouth

Bradford: This week we focus on a battle that concerns the top and the bottom of the League One table. There is surely only one winner in this match up right?

Bradford

What a terrible start to the season it has been for the Yorkshire side, and they are rooted to the bottom of the league with just ten points. With three wins under their belt, they are unlikely to make it four as the last time they won was in August against Shrewsbury.

Having already sacked Michael Collins at the start of September, current manager David Hopkin will be fearing that his job is in jeopardy as well. With just the one win under his belt and his side conceding eight goals in their previous two games, the Bradford owners might be tempted once again to sack their manager for the second time this season.

It is hard to find positives for the Bantams at the moment, but their attacking midfielder Jack Payne has at least tried to make something happen for him. The loanee has four goals to his name and plenty of creativity to find the front men, but it all depends if they can finish the chances that he has created and at the moment they cannot.

Portsmouth

The start of the season could not have gone better for Portsmouth who are loving being top of the league at the moment. 16 games into the regular season and they have lost just once against Gillingham and with Peterborough hot on their tails, they will not want to slip up again to allow them to overtake.

The experienced Kenny Jackett has done a superb job so far especially after taking over from successful manager Paul Cook. However, after his brief spell with Rotherham United, many wondered if he was still up to the task after success at Millwall, Swansea and Wolverhampton Wanderers. But he has proved them all wrong by just finishing outside the playoffs last season and now topping the table.

Compared to Bradford there are plenty of positives for Portsmouth one being their very own Jamie Vardy. Ronan Curtis is just 22 years old and is having a superb year. He is the team’s top goal scorer with six goals, been linked with Championship clubs and even earned a call-up to the national team. You feel the only way is up for him.

Head to Head

In recent history, Bradford have been the victorious side with two wins in their previous two meetings last season. A 1-0 away win, and a 3-1 win at home was perfect for Bradford as they saw off Portsmouth. However, these two fallen Premier League sides are fighting at the opposite ends of the table this season and fortune looks like it may favour Pompey.

Outcome

This game is only going one way. It would be a huge upset if Bradford were to get anything against Portsmouth and leave plenty of neutral fans disappointed if they had a bet on. My prediction is 3-0 to Portsmouth. Sorry Bradford fans

Is Eric Bailly’s time up at Manchester United?

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Eric Baily Manchester Unitred

The Manchester United defender is only in his third season but it looks like he might be surplus to requirements. In recent weeks he has been in and out of the squad but on the weekend against Newcastle United, he was hooked after the team shipped two goals within ten minutes. Sports betting sites around the planet are abuzz with the question if manager Jose Mourinho had enough of the Ivorian defender?

During the Newcastle game, Bailly was replaced with defensive midfielder Scott McTominay, who struggled and was left on the sidelines to watch the comeback. Will he be reintegrated into the squad after the international break?

It looks possible that he will do due to frailties at the back and Mourinho’s lack of trust in his other centre-halves such as Victor Lindelof, who was left on the sidelines for the whole game when two defensive midfielders played at centre back. However, Mourinho could be tempted to play Nemanja Matic as a ball playing centre-half when they return against Chelsea as fans seek the attacking nature of the second half against Newcastle once more.

With plenty of competition for centre-half Bailly should have really cemented his place in the squad. With a terrible performance against Brighton, he looked to be out of the squad for good but he has managed to force his way back in due to terrible performances from the other centre-backs at the club. Against Valencia, he looked more energetic, determined and the Bailly we saw from his first season at the club. However, within ten minutes against Newcastle, he was made to be the fall guy once again.

Despite being the first signing of Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United tenure and enjoying success in the form of the Europa League and League Cup he has endured a difficult time. After missing out on game time at the end of the season due to Mourinho’s decision to play likes of Phil Jones, Chris Smalling and Marcos Rojo because they were possibly heading off to the World Cup with their respected countries.

Former Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand feels like this could be the end of the road for Bailly. He stated it was humiliating to be brought off that early into the game especially at Old Trafford. It will be really tough for Bailly to force his way back into Mourinho’s thinking now.

Chris Smalling seems to be the favourite choice for Mourinho and he would have hoped that Bailly would be able to partner the Englishman on a regular basis but the Portuguese manager has often rotated and failed to decide on a partnership at the heart of the defence.

With January fast approaching you can imagine that Mourinho will be demanding a centre-half once again; despite Ed Woodward denying him a new one in the summer. He has spent heavily in that position but he clearly does not trust his players and that is fundamentally where he builds his title-winning sides.

Pakistan A Thrash New Zealand A in T20 Warm Up

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Pakistan vs New Zealand

5-20 off four overs from Pakistan A medium pacer Umaid Asif along with two wickets apiece from left-arm seamers Waqas Maqsood and Shaheen Shah Afridi helped roll the visitors for only 65 in 12.2 overs. It then just took Pakistan three more balls than New Zealand A faced to chase down the target for an eight-wicket win.

After winning the toss and choosing to bat first New Zealand A Captain Corey Andersonwouldn’t have been happy to see his side one wicket down after only five balls. When opening batsman Glenn Phillips was caught by Hussain Talat off the bowling of Waqas Maqsood for 4.

Shaheen Shah Afridi removed Mark Chapman in the third over when he was caught behind for 3 by Mohammad Hasan. Afridi, former Pakistan Under 19’s player, was on a hat-trick after he removed fellow opening batsman George Worker the next ball after he chopped on for 1 off 9 deliveries with the score at 11-3 after 3.3 overs.

Umaid Asif was among the wickets himself with his very first delivery as Tom Bruce picked out Asif Ali for 1. New Zealand A Captain Corey Anderson and Wicket Keeper Tim Seifert tried to stop the flow of wickets and went on to attack. Only for Anderson to get bowled by an Asif slower ball for 16 off 12.

Seifert was the only other batsmen to make a score into double figures with 26 off 17 an innings that hit five fours. Asif ended with 5-20 off four overs as he cleaned through the middle order to help roll New Zealand A for 65 in 12.2 overs.

There was the tiniest glimmer of hope for New Zealand A of defending this well below par total was Pakistan A opening batsman Sahibzada Farhan was run out by Phillips for 1 off five balls with the score at 15-1 after 3.3 overs.

Fellow opener Pakistan A Skipper Umar Amin fell in the next over hit wicket off the bowling of Kyle Jamieson for 20 off 21. Iftikhar Ahmed and Hussain Talat put on 44 for the third wicket and guided Pakistan A home, with Ahmed ending not out on 26 off 27 and Talat not out on 16 off 24 giving Pakistan A an eight-wicket win with 43 balls to spare.

New Zealand A will hope for a better showing on Monday when they face Pakistan A in the second match of their three-match series leading up to the Blackcaps tour of Pakistan.

Can Leeds Stay the Distance and Claim Promotion?

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Leeds United

Under Marco Bielsa, Leeds United have started the season strongly, deservedly occupying the top positions for the bulk of the opening weeks. However, there is still no room for complacency, with Sheffield United, West Brom and Middlesbrough standing as Leeds’ likeliest bars to automatic promotion.

In strictly numerical terms, Bielsa’s men have an obvious target in the short term, and their counter-attacking brand of football should see them achieve it. Tellingly, each of the last eight Championship teams to achieve automatic promotion to the Premier League have done so after scoring at least 29 points by the first weekend of November.

Leeds have every conceivable chance of reaching this sacred target. If they are to achieve it, the general belief is that they will do so by closing out October with two vital – but eminently winnable – home games, against Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest, after a trip to Blackburn.

Horrible histories hurt hopeful aura

Even if Leeds fall just short of said mark, a tally of 23 points before the October international break is usually a good one, at least in the context of staying alive within the promotion race until the very end. This is reflected more empirically by the latest Championship outright index seen here, which has Leeds down as third-favourites to win the title in addition to sealing promotion.

Encouraging though that is to see, Leeds teams have developed a habit of starting seasons vigorously before fading away after Christmas. Last season was another addition to the litany of disappointments after a flying start. Under Thomas Christiansen, the Whites took 17 points from the first 21 available and kept six clean sheets in a row. After a 1-0 defeat at rivals Millwall on 16 September, Leeds won two and lost six of the following eight matches.

That sequence gave the Whites a tally of just 23 points after 15 games and put them at a very real disadvantage in the excuse of a race for an automatic promotion that would ensue. While a good run in December kept Leeds’ hopes alive, a horrendous run of 11 defeats and just four wins after the New Year finally saw Christiansen lose his job.

Marco, the maverick magician

After a strong start, the Whites finished a whole 30 points behind the second automatic promotion spot. Current projections imply that Leeds will almost certainly beat the points tally they had going into November last year, providing them with more momentum than ever before. If those projections are to be realised, then the presence of Bielsa on the touchline will be a crucial factor.

There can be no denying that Biesla’s touchline passion, though excessive on occasion, is a unique selling point in a league where the reserved and the frantic mix. While Bielsa is perhaps closer to the latter category, his passion is not without purpose. There is a genuine sense of mutual respect in the Elland Road dressing room, and it the sort that bears broad similarities to Leeds’ other promotion rivals.

Captain Cooper’s collectivism creates Championship chance

Positive and pragmatic leadership on the touchline is essential, but so too is the presence of a captain who would willingly die for the white shirt.

Admittedly, captain Liam Cooper had a day to forget in his last game before the international break, with his mistake directly causing Brentford’s equaliser in a disappointing 1-1 draw at Elland Road. However, his leadership is crucial to establishing good structural play on the pitch, and this is evidenced by the 7.76 average rating he boasted prior to his aberration against the Bees.

Cooper’s rate of clearances per game, and win rate per challenge, also compares favourably to other defensive captains in the division. Bielsa has also given Cooper license to roam forward, and while this is never a move without risk, Cooper has thrived more often than not under Bielsa’s approach. The captain himself has also moved to praise other teammates, particularly lauding Tyler Roberts after Leeds’ win at Yorkshire rivals Hull.

Roofe/Roberts relationship revealed as real deal

As of the October international break, Roberts is, in fact, the only recognised striker in the Leeds squad to have scored. While this reliance on the young Roberts as a focal point is not to every Leeds fan’s taste, it matters little as long as Kemar Roofe is behind him. On occasion, they have looked as dynamic as Dele Alli and Harry Kane, leaving opposition defences baffled.

With Roofe himself chipping in with four goals before the October international break, the signs are encouraging in Leeds’ final third. Ultimately, all the components needed for a strong challenge at the top are there.

While injuries may yet play their part, especially when the festive fixtures start to pile up, the fact remains that nobody will particularly relish a trip to Elland Road from here onwards. For now, however, all eyes will be on Leeds’ performance at Ewood Park immediately after the international break. Three points there will, unquestionably, see Bielsa’s men enjoy drastically shortened odds.