Premier League 2022-23 preview No 10: Leeds

Guardian writers’ predicted position 18th (NB: this is not necessarily Will Unwin’s prediction but the average of our writers’ tips)

Last season’s position 17th

Odds to win the league (via Oddschecker): 750-1

Prospects

The hope at Elland Road is that the only way is up after scraping survival on the final day of last season. They have lost, arguably, their two best players in Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha but the money has been wisely reinvested in a new-looking squad. Ensuring there is greater depth to a side that struggled to cope with injuries was the focus over the summer because another season of square pegs in round holes when things get tough is unlikely to end well.

The teams that have come up look better equipped for the Premier League than those they have replaced, so the club that finished 17th last time need to improve. The notable arrivals come from abroad and could take time to settle in the Premier League. How quickly they adapt to England could determine how the season goes for Leeds. It is a fresh start for the team after a highly pressurised final few months of the campaign took its mental toll.

Ready for the Premier League 2022-23: Leeds – video

The incomings will shape an intense style of high pressing because Jesse Marsch wants to play with the 4-2-2-2 he has developed down the years from his time at Red Bull. There have been glimpses of it in pre-season as the players get accustomed to the level of aggression demanded from their head coach. Improving their home form will be crucial – they won once in the final nine matches at Elland Road and a repeat performance would make the fans restless.

The manager

Keeping Leeds up was an impressive feat considering the paper-thin squad he inherited from Marcelo Bielsa. This summer he is putting his mark on a team that needed a facelift regardless of who is in charge. His predecessor dismissed a number of targets in January, resulting in an injury-ravaged squad squeaking their way to survival. Those who know and have worked with Marsch speak of a highly intelligent man who knows football inside and out. Brenden Aaronson and Tyler Adams are well-known to the manager and jumped at the chance to work with him again, a sign of the loyalty he earns from players. Despite keeping Leeds up, he is yet to find popularity with the fans but a good start to the campaign would see that change quickly. Last season was about survival at all costs, now he can finally implement his blueprint for the long-term.

Jesse Marsch watches on during Leeds’ friendly at Blackpool in early July.
Jesse Marsch watches on during Leeds’ friendly at Blackpool in early July. Photograph: Simon Davies/ProSports/Shutterstock

Transfer coup

Luis Sinisterra. The estimated £100m earned by Leeds from the sales of Phillips and Raphinha has been wisely invested in players with potential. At 23 years old the Colombian winger has already shown what he can do in the Eredivisie with Feyenoord. He bounced back from a serious knee injury in 2020 to become an integral part of the side that made it to the Europa Conference League final last season. Full-backs will be fearful of his speed and ability to beat players one-on-one – it is up to him to show it on a consistent basis.

World Cup impact

The Americans Aaronson and Adams will be off to face, among others, England in Qatar. Daniel James will be in the Wales squad and Spain duo Diego Llorente and Rodrigo will be hopeful of call-ups if they start the season well. Apart from that the Thorp Arch car park could be pretty full throughout the month.

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Alternative attractions during World Cup

The Leeds defenders left in England could try to get some inspiration from the Royal Armouries Museum. Three thousand years of history when it comes to armoury and weaponry are covered by the museum. Liam Cooper could do with a mace.

Leading the shirt sales

Home town hero Phillips and the magical Raphinha have departed, meaning a new favourite is required in West Yorkshire. Patrick Bamford is loved by the Elland Road faithful and they will be longing for his return after he missed the majority of last season through injury, a major reason behind their struggle to score goals. To have their No 9 back will be a great boost to the supporters and Marsch because finding someone to score enough goals to keep a team in the Premier League is no mean feat.

Social climber

PR-driven social media accounts are very much the order of the day at Elland Road. Poland international Mateusz Klich stands out somewhat by showing a bit of personality in his output, even producing a mini-documentary about himself among the photos of his holidays, days on the golf course and meals with the family, which is slightly more enjoyable than images of dejected footballers with the tagline “we go again”. He celebrated New Year 2021 with a bottle of bubbly and a pair of shades and looks mildly intimidating in his pose.

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If Leeds were a Netflix doc …

I am sure some smart alec will be desperate to do a documentary to see if Jesse Marsch is the real-life Ted Lasso. Many a deleted scene would be needed when the director is abused for contriving ludicrous situations in a desperate attempt to show Americans have little idea about soccer. Oh what larfs could be had.

The Guardian