Considering Jeff Okudah was the third overall draft pick in 2020, his first two seasons in the NFL were quite poor to say the least. In fact, many people were already quick to throw around the word "bust" when mentioning his name. Towards the end of his rookie season, Okudah ranked dead last in yards allowed per route, and according...
Far-Fetched Friday: Leeds United Underdog Story of 2020-21 Premier League Season
By: Jake Lofgren
Every season there appears to be a smaller Premier League side that surpasses all expectations and challenges the big clubs. This season's underdog team has been Sheffield United. After finishing second last season in the Championship and making relatively no big changes to their squad, many considered them to be the worst team in Prem before the season began and a heavy relegation candidate. Now 31 games into the season, Sheffield have surprised everyone sitting in 8th place and are only five points off Manchester United in 5th with Europa League qualification looking more and more possible every week. Leicester City and Wolves have both had successful seasons as two teams also not a part of England's "top-6" clubs, but their success doesn't come as big of a surprise as Sheffield.
Welcome back to Far-Fetched Friday, where every Friday we give you a bold prediction that we believe will come to fruition. This Friday, we predict that Leeds United will return to the Premier League with a bang.
Looking ahead to next season, Leeds have shown some signs over the past couple seasons that they are building a team that could be quite successful in the Prem. Sheffield have proven this season that you don't have to dominate in the Championship to come into the Prem and comfortably avoid relegation. Sheffield were in great form in the latter part of last season, ensuring that they gained automatic qualification after being in a promotion play-off place most of the season. Meanwhile, Norwich City finished first in the Championship last season, and they have been the worst team in the Prem so far this season, as they sit dead last in the league table. Leeds are in a similar position right now, although they have been a top-2 team the whole season. They are only behind West Brom in 1st place by goal difference and are above Fulham in 3rd place by seven points with eight games left to play.
The point is that success in the Championship is not a clear indication of how the team will perform once they reach the Premier League.
The one thing that is needed by any team after getting promoted into the Premier League is an identity. Sheffield United, again, is a prime example of this. Sheffield have a manager and squad of players all bought into the team's style of play. The club did spend a little bit of money on new signings before the season began, but the core of the team remained the same. Aston Villa took a completely different approach to the season as they were one of the highest spending Premier League clubs before the season, spending well over 100 million on twelve new players. Aston Villa bought some great players and have a squad that is stronger than Sheffield's squad on paper. Although they have lacked a clear identity all season, they now find themselves in 19th place with seven games left in a heated relegation battle.
If Leeds are to get promoted, I would expect them to take a healthy mix of Sheffield and Aston Villa's approaches to the seasons. Leeds United is historically a big club in one of the larger cities in the country that does have a good amount of financial backing behind them, so I do expect them to spend some money. Plus, over the last few years, Leeds have established a clear identity under a great manager in Marcelo Bielsa.
Marcelo has managed multiple big clubs across all of Europe and has also managed the national teams of Argentina and Chile before taking over at Leeds. All of his teams attempt to play an attractive, attacking style of play and do not thrive on a defensive style like many teams do when they join the Premier League. Leeds already have a great squad mixed with younger talents and experienced players that, very much like Sheffield, could come in and find success immediately. They also have an extremely talented holding midfielder in Kalvin Phillips, who many believe to be the best player in England outside of the Premier League, attracting interest from some of the biggest clubs in England.
Leeds United is a club with a big following who have been waiting since 2004 to see their favorite team play in the first division again. Of course, their job in getting promoted is not over, but this season does feel like they are well on their way back. Leeds do have an owner backing them financially that has been investing wisely to get them back to this point. I expect Leeds should be willing to spend the money to get a few more key players before the new season, but if they can hold onto the core of the current squad, they already have the look of a Premier League side.
So like Wolves and Sheffield over the past few seasons, expect Leeds to come into the Premier League ready to place themselves in the upper half of the table.
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