Player Analysis: Leeds United’s three best signings under Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa is at the end of his third season in charge of Leeds United. During this time he has overseen an impressive evolution at Elland Road developing the players already at the club when he arrived in 2018 as well as bringing in some astute signings who have gone on to underpin the best Leeds team for two decades.

To go from 13th in the Championship in May 2018 to ninth in the Premier League three years later was always going to take some quality signings but which of his new arrivals have had the most impact on the team’s evolution? Today, we’re answering that question by looking at Marcelo Bielsa’s three best signings as Leeds United manager.

3. Patrick Bamford

A year ago Bamford wouldn’t have been on the list. His first season at Leeds was hampered by injury. However, he still finished that first campaign with a respectable return of nine goals in 23 Championship games.

His second season then divided opinion as his continued unreliability in front of goal caused Leeds to often drop points in games they should have won. He managed just 16 goals in 45 appearances which is a disappointing amount for the league leaders’ number nine as they finished 10 points clear at the top of the table. That element still resides in his game even now missing 21 big chances in the Premier League last season which was more than anyone else in the top flight last term.

However, Bamford is a brilliant all round centre forward and brings much more than just goals which is why Bielsa persisted with him ahead of the prolific Eddie Nketiah when he arrived on loan from Arsenal.

His link up play is essential to how Leeds attack and his ability to keep the ball is admirable. He’s also a hard worker starting the press masterfully helping Leeds win the ball back high up the pitch, a key facet of Bielsa ball. On average he comes up with over 18 pressures per 90.

On top of this, he’s gotten more clinical in front of goal. This season he made his 100th appearance for Leeds and now boasts a total of well over 50 goals and assists under Bielsa meaning he has scored more goals under Bielsa than any other player in his entire managerial career.

Last year his tally of 17 Premier League goals saw him end the season as the second most prolific English striker after Harry Kane whilst his 45% shot accuracy topped the golden boot winner’s.

2. Raphinha

Raphinha has lit the Premier League on fire since singing from Renne last summer. He is everything you want a winger to be. He’s agile, he’s explosive, he can pass the ball accurately and his shooting is deadly.

You always feels like something special is going to happen every time he picks the ball up after he can take on any defender in the league. His six goals and nine assists in the league last season highlights his influence on Marcelo Bielsa’s team and he is easily the new danger man in this Leeds United team.

The threat he poses in the final third is demonstrated by the fact he averages an expected goal every four games which is an impressive record for a winger as is his 2.92 shots per 90 which leaves him in the top 12% in the league. He conjures up 4.28 shot creating actions a game which is a truly impressive average as is the fact he registers an expected goal or assist more than every other game showing just how dangerous he is to opposition defences.

How long the 24 year old will remain at Leeds is another question, but they will need a few more like him if they’re to continue rising up the table.

1. Ben White

In terms of influence I don’t think anybody can rival Ben White. White was on loan at Leeds for their promotion campaign last season and played in all 46 league games along the way, even scoring a screamer in his final game for the club in a 4-0 victory over Charlton.

The Brighton defender always appeared so composed on the ball and he never looked like making a mistake with the ball at his feet; his decision making was superb as he always seemed to find the right man with his passes. His reading of the game was incredible and he would always step in to win the ball when he could. He developed a great partnership with captain Liam Cooper and with Kalvin Phillips in front of them.

The trio, especially what White and Phillips were able to achieve as a partnership, gave the Whites a strong base that led to them having the best defence in the Championship, and earning promotion to the Premier League.

It is true that his ability to act as a ball playing centre-back helped Bielsa continue the evolution of Leeds’ playing style so that it resembled what we expect in modern football whilst helping Leeds change what had let them down in 2018/29.

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