When Daniel Farke walked through the doors of Elland Road on July 4th Leeds United were in chaos. The 2022/23 season was a catastrophe and ended in a fittingly disastrous fashion with a 4-1 defeat at home to Tottenham condemning the club to yet another season outside the top flight. A dire run of form to close out the Premier League campaign saw the Lilywhites pick up just two points from their last nine games ultimately sealing their fate. The German boss was the man tasked with bringing Leeds back to the big time at the first time of asking amidst a whirlwind of descension and player transfer requests. It was a shaky start to proceedings but all things considered, so far so good. The club began the season as favourites for promotion and are still amongst the top contenders with just over a third of the season played out. But can he finish the job to bring Premier League football back to Elland Road as quickly as it left?
United currently sit third in the Championship table on 32 points with nine wins and five draws from their 17 games. Leicester and surprise package Ipswich currently occupy the top two spots with the Suffolk club holding a seven point lead on their promotion rivals and the Foxes a ten point lead. It’s a commanding position and one that will be difficult for Farke to rein in however, Leeds’ positive start has brought with it a level of assuredness and consistency that was dearly lacking over the past two league campaigns.
The 47-year-old’s experience in the Championship has come to the fore and provided the club with a level of stability that gives them a solid platform from which to launch the remainder of their promotion push. While it may be true that the club has lost ground on their competitors in the race for automatic promotion, hopes will be high that over time Leeds can close that gap. Their chances of doing that depend on a number of things. Firstly, whether Ipswich can maintain their current trajectory for the remainder of the season after having only just secured promotion from League One the season prior. Secondly, what the teams around them do in the play-off places, most notably fellow relegated team Southampton.
The Saints may have struggled in the early going but are now finding their rhythm and looking certain to challenge for promotion. And lastly, whether Farke’s side can maintain their composure from here. This league more than any other is notorious for being a tight affair where just a couple of poor results strung together could have severe implications. Just six points separates third from ninth and only nine points from third to 13th. Consistency is the name of the game in England’s second tier and while new online bookmakers still have Leeds at 8/13 to get promoted this year, their chances will begin to dwindle should they deviate from their current course.
Thankfully for Leeds fans though that doesn’t look like happening anytime soon. Their squad have been in fine form with the likes of new signing Joel Piroe and Dan James playing some of their best football to date. Farke has even managed to bring Wilfried Gnonto back on side after a public falling out following the Italian’s controversial transfer request this summer. Between the trio they have combined for a collective 17 goal contributions, an impressive tally. However, there are two players within this talented side that have stood out thus far and could propel Leeds all the way to the Premier League for 2024/25. If a Championship team of the season were made tomorrow, there is little doubt that Crysencio Summerville and Georginio Rutter would be front and centre in that combined XI. Between them they have made 21 goal contributions with the Dutchman tallying seven goals as the club’s top scorer this season while Georginio Rutter leads the way in assists with six so far this campaign.
They are tearing defences apart when on the pitch together with Summerville in particular proving week in and week out that he is the best winger the league has to offer. All in all, Leeds arguably have more attacking threat and clinical finishing now than they did under Marcelo Bielsa. Not to be outdone, Ethan Ampadu and Glen Kamara have controlled the midfield expertly while Illian Meslier continues to put in brilliant performances in between the sticks. The upshot of it all is that Leeds find themselves in a very favourable position after the first 17 games. Farke has provided the spark that has got this team firing on all cylinders. Their squad is brimming with talent and clearly benefiting from his previous experience of promotion contests. They obviously have the potential to go up this year, be it automatically or through the play-offs and even in the unlikely event that it wasn’t to be their year this time round, Leeds fans won’t have to worry about enduring another 16-year long wait for a return to the English top flight.
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