Categories: Premier League

The fall and rise of Leeds United

Since its formation, Leeds United cemented their status in the Premier League as one of the biggest clubs in England. The club went into the 1992/93 inaugural Premier League season as Champions of England following their first division title victory in 1991/92.

The club also won their solitary FA Cup and League Cup titles coming in 1972 and 1968, respectively. Leeds played European football for five consecutive seasons between 1998 and 2003 and reached the semi-finals of the Champions league in 2001. In 2002/03 season, financial problems caused by mismanagement from Chairman Peter Risdale left Leeds United in a mess. Leeds finished 15th that season before being relegated the following season.

After 16 years of numerous battles and heartaches in the lower tiers of English football, Leeds United have finally ended their stay in the lower leagues and found their way back to the English top-flight. During those long 16 years, the club spent 13 seasons in the Championship and three other seasons in the League One after 2007. The club went into administration that same year under Ken Bates and struggled to improve under subsequent owners GFH Capital before businessman Massimo Celino bought the club. Despite being under new ownership, Leeds continued to struggle. Under Celino, the club hired seven managers within three years. However, Leed’s fortunes began to change after current owner Andrea Radrizzani acquired a 50 percent stake in the club in 2017 before purchasing the remaining 50 percent from Celino the following year.

Radrizzani’s acquisition of the club signaled the dawning of a new era. He quickly made a bold statement of intent by appointing the former Athletic Bilbao and Olympique Marseille boss Marcelo Bielsa two years ago. The appointment was an expensive gamble, but Marcelo Bielsa proved to be an instant hit, transforming the same squad he inherited into genuine promotion challengers in his first season. They went into the playoffs in Marcelo Bielsa’s first season but exited the competition at the hands of Derby County. Despite the disappointment of failing to return to the Premier League last season, the club managed to regroup and mount another bid for Premier League promotion this season. The long wait for Premier League promotion has finally ended as Leeds were crowned champions with two games to spare. Marcelo Bielsa is a household name in world football and now will get the chance to test his skills in the Premier League.

Is Bielsa the right man to guide Leeds in the Premier League?

Marcelo Bielsa started his managerial career with Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina as an assistant manager. A few years later, Bielsa went on to manage several clubs in Mexico. He then made his coaching debut in Europe at the Spanish side Athletic Bilbao and helped the club reach the Europa League final in the 2011/12 season. After departing Atheltic Bilbao, Bielsa went on to manage clubs in France and Italy before moving to Leeds United in 2018. At the national team level, he managed the Argentina national team. However, he achieved significant success as coach of the Chile national team, helping them book a place in the 2010 World Cup.

Under Bielsa, Leeds has gained notoriety for their unique brand of football and quality. During his short time at the Club, Bielsa has managed to help his players reach their full potential and play as a collective unit.

The team has been excellent in both the attacking and defensive side of the game. This season, the club has scored 77 goals. The defense has also played a crucial role in their Championship-winning run, conceding just 35 goals in 46 games as they boast of the best defensive record in the second-tier. Bielsa has done an incredible job and managed the team the right way. Bielsa inherited a team that finished 13th in the Championship.

In just two years, he has managed to secure automatic promotion to the Premier League. He has also brought the identity of Leeds back and convinced the fans to buy into his project. Bielsa has proven to be the most significant figure in Leeds’ renaissance. The relentless Argentinian has changed the club’s entire culture. He has turned developed some of the players in the club. The likes of Kalvin Philips, Mateusz Klich, Luke Ayling, and Liam Cooper have all improved immeasurably. With the Argentinian’s tactical genius steering the ship, Leeds United could prove to be a tough prospect in the Premier League next season.

What’s next for Bielsa and Leeds United?

In the past 16 years, Leeds United has struggled at times to maintain a stable structure within the club. At long last, they have finally got the formula right. The Club has a committed squad that has put together by Bielsa, Sporting director Victor Orta and owner Andrea Radrizzani.

Leeds will be hoping to replicate what Sheffield United have done this season and not struggle on their return like both Aston Villa or Norwich City. There are levels in the English top-flight league, and Bielsa will soon begin plotting out their survival plan. The club will be prioritizing Premier League survival before embarking on any further ambitions in the Premier League. Bielsa currently has a small squad. For Leeds to survive relegation next season, he will have to add extra quality signings to complement his current team.

Kwesi Dallo

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