Having led the Championship for much of the campaign, Leeds United slipped into second place – albeit on goal difference only – with defeat to new leaders Norwich City last time out.
Of course, the Whites are sill in the thick of the promotion, and title, hunt, but a run that has seen them lose three of their last five league games has had a damaging effect on their chances.
It is perhaps unsurprising that Leeds are experiencing a slump at this stage of the season. According to Transfermarkt, Leeds’ first team squad only amounts to 23 players, with an average age of 25.5. Norwich, meanwhile, have a 24-man squad with an average age of 26.4. Third placed Sheffield United have a 25-man squad with an average age of 27.8.
Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa is famed and lauded for his use of young players, but his preference for a small, inexperienced group could be hampering the Elland Road club.
Football FanCast’s Will Jones and Harry Sherlock have debated whether or not Leeds can sustain their title bid given Bielsa’s intense use of such a small squad.
Bielsa has introduced a remarkably intense, fast-paced and high-pressured style of play to Elland Road. His squad have adapted magnificently and run themselves into the ground week in, week out.
The young players under the Argentine coach’s command have blossomed, whilst the Leeds veterans have been reinvigorated by his methods. At the end of the season, they will all be utterly exhausted. Until then, they have what it takes to keep going.
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The recent defeats to Stoke and Norwich have been damaging, but they were not symptomatic of fatigue. Leeds still outran their opponents, they just lacked the final flourish of quality. Good form will return and Leeds will get back on track.
They may have stumbled a little, but Bielsa’s side don’t look as though they’re on the verge of collapse.
Leeds are going to struggle if they continue in this vein.
Marcelo Bielsa does not like to use a big squad but already his players are showing signs of cracking under the strain he has placed upon them.
They have won just one of their last three games, falling to damaging defeats to both Norwich City and Stoke City.
A slip to second-place has set nerves jangling at Elland Road, and they will continue if Bielsa does not alter his modus operandi.
Sheffield United, in third, are breathing down their necks and have lost just one of their last four outings.
The gap between Leeds and the Blades is now three points; Bielsa should call on his back-up brigade soon or risk the wheels falling clean off.