We are nine games into Leeds United’s Premier League return and, in truth, it’s going well.
Leeds have been on the end of a couple of heavy scorelines, but they’ve given a decent account of themselves in every game.
Marcelo Bielsa has guided Leeds to wins over Fulham, Sheffield United and Aston Villa, whilst his side have held both Man City and Arsenal at Elland Road.
A major headache at this stage is settling on Leeds’ strongest XI.
That leads the LeedsAllOver team into this feature where we each name our strongest XI and bench.
Illan Meslier: This position picks itself really with how he’s taken to the starting spot over Kiko Casilla, and he’s only going to get better as the games go by.
Luke Ayling: One of the first names on the team sheet, a natural leader that has shown already that he’s ready for the Premier League and can offer in the final third too.
Robin Koch: The Germany international has had a tough entrance to the English game but the quality he possesses is there for all to see. Needs to cut out sloppy errors, though.
Diego Llorente: Harsh on skipper Liam Cooper but a Spain international with a lot of La Liga experience demonstrates his ability, plus his capabilities to play out can’t be questioned too.
Stuart Dallas: A perfect summary of Marcelo Bielsa’s system, a brilliantly versatile and energetic defender that also shows up very often in the final third.
Kalvin Phillips: The lynchpin to everything we do under Bielsa, Phillips is arguably the most valuable player at our disposal and we need to build around him.
Mateusz Klich: The bridge between defence and attack, Klich’s mobility to move the ball into the final third as well as control the tempo of pressing is vital to us.
Raphinha: We’ve only seen glimpses of the Brazilian but the creativity and vision he possesses makes for an exciting prospect when he nails a starting spot down.
Rodrigo: Playing almost everywhere across the attack, Rodrigo’s absence proves how important he is to our play in the final third.
Jack Harrison: He’s had a tough couple of games recently but his efforts are outstanding and yield results by sheer endeavour more often than not, a key asset.
Patrick Bamford: Seven goals in nine games, we’re seeing a ruthless streak from Bamford that we questioned even existed during the Championship, and there’s no dropping him this season now.
Kiko Casilla, Liam Cooper, Gjanni Alioski, Pablo Hernandez, Ian Poveda, Helder Costa, Tyler Roberts.
In goal, I’d be sticking with Illan Meslier thanks, in part, to the unreliable nature of Kiko Casilla. Diego Llorente is an unknown quantity, so I’ll go with Liam Cooper to partner Robin Koch – who has been impressive since his summer to Yorkshire – in the centre back positions.
Given their consistently high level of their performances over the past year or so, Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas take up the full back positions.
Kalvin Phillips’ importance in the holding midfield becomes clearer with every game, regardless of whether or not he plays.
Attacking midfield is where it gets more interesting, but I’ve gone with the big money buys of Raphinha and Rodrigo – the latter of whom already looks a smart signing with his early season performances – as one half of the four.
Mateusz Klich and Manchester City loanee, Jack Harrison, are the other half. It means that after something of a quiet start to the season, Pablo Hernandez only makes the bench in my side.
I don’t think there is any debate that Patrick Bamford leads the line given the form that he is in at the minute.
Kiko Casilla, Diego Llorente, Ezgjan Alioski, Pascal Struijk, Pablo Hernandez, Helder Costa, Ian Poveda.
The goalkeeper has to be Illan Meslier. He’s growing constantly in the Premier League and needs to retain the faith of Marcelo Bielsa.
Equally, two positions not up for debate are at full-back. Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas are the epitome of consistency in this side.
For me, the debate comes at centre-back. Robin Koch should be a regular, whilst I’ve gone with Liam Cooper partnering him. He’s had a tough adaptation period in the Premier League and due to the fact I’ve not seen much of Diego Llorente, it’d be unfair to axe the skipper just yet.
Kalvin Phillips plays whenever he’s fit and that’s never a decision I question, whilst Mateusz Klich is, simply, undroppable.
Rodrigo Moreno takes a place in my midfield too. I think in time he’s going to become equally as important as Phillips, Ayling and a few others.
Jack Harrison offers some great balance on the left, but the right-side of midfield is another problem position.
Helder Costa has done well, Ian Poveda has impressed from the bench, whilst Raphinha started our fixture against Arsenal and did well. So, I’ve gone with Pablo Hernandez there.
He’s not as quick as the other options, but I think this side sometimes lacks his speed of thought. Against Arsenal, for example, I think Leeds unlock the Gunners’ defence with him on the pitch in the final half-hour. I can’t leave him out.
It’s got to be Patrick Bamford. We thought Rodrigo would knock him off his perch, but the club-record signing has driven Bielsa’s main man on. Seven in nine is some return.
Kiko Casilla, Diego Llorente, Pascal Struijk, Ezgjan Alioski, Ian Poveda, Helder Costa, Raphinha.
Our LeedsAllOver team unanimously agreed on nine of the starting XI, with centre-back and right-wing the only positions causing debate.
With two votes under his belt, Liam Cooper is in ahead of Diego Llorente, whilst Raphinha takes the right-wing berth with the backing of Kris and Toby.
Casilla is on the bench to cover Meslier, with Llorente, Struijk and Alioski providing cover for the defence and midfield.
Hernandez, Costa and Poveda offer plenty of attacking variety too.