Leeds fans will be delighted with the start of the 2017-18 campaign, but there is no chance that Thomas Christiansen will be resting on his laurels. The season is still in its opening stages, and there is a lot of football yet to be played. However, sitting comfortably in third place, Leeds have gained some early momentum and developed the art of creating a winning formula. Can this continue?
After the international break, there is no reason why Leeds cannot continue their impressive form. Successive games at Elland Road against Burton and Birmingham are winnable games, with these two teams currently sitting in 21st and 22nd respectively with just one win each from five games. Four consecutive clean sheets means that Leeds will not be conceding early, and roared on by what should be decent Elland Road crowds, Leeds should hopefully have the quality to see off both teams.
Leeds do not seem to be missing Chris Wood, despite the New Zealand scoring for Burnley at Wembley in a 1-1 draw versus Tottenham. Indeed, four goals have been scored in two league games without Wood with Leeds’ attacking players such as Kemar Roofe, Ezgjan Alioski, Samuel Saiz and Pablo Hernandez having the ability to interchange in the forward positions, with flexibility and flair on display.
A more like-for-like replacement for Wood is the physical presence of Jay-Roy Grot from NEC Nijmegan, who at six-foot-four, is a big bloke for just nineteen years of age. Having just completed the signing of Swedish Under-21 striker/winger, Pawel Cibicki and Hamburg forward, Pierre-Michel-Lasogga, Leeds have plenty of options with Caleb Ekuban also fighting for a place, having taken his goal well against Port Vale in the cup. In fact, Christiansen is spoilt for choice, something that was not the case in the attacking department last season, with only Souleymane Doukara and an off-fire Marcus Antonsson providing any sort of back-up for Chris Wood.
Some could have accused Leeds of being somewhat predictable last season, as they were heavily reliant on Chris Wood. Now there is an element of unpredictability about Leeds for opposition to grapple with before games when undergoing research. Leeds could play Roofe up front on the back of his four goals in two games against Newport and Forest. Alternatively, Grot or Lassogga could lead the line with Saiz or Hernandez just off a physical striker. Such selection issues are only good for the side.
After the two home games, Leeds will have to be at their best if they are to continue their unbeaten run. A fiery trip to The Den to play a Millwall side who have just hammered Norwich City 4-0 is going to be a testing encounter. This will be followed by two games against the early pacesetters in Ipswich at home then Cardiff away. To round off this tricky period of games, Leeds then travel to Hillsborough for the Yorkshire Derby against Sheffield Wednesday. Christiansen and his players can only take one game at a time, but as the games come thick and fast after the international break, Leeds will have to be mentally and physically raring to go.
It is indubitably clear that there is confidence seeping through the team at the moment, and the new signings of Saiz and Alioski are proving to be instant fan’s favourites. The feel-good factor was displayed in abundance at Forest as Alioski slid on his knees in front of the ecstatic away fans after his thumping low strike sealed a 2-0 win. Both Saiz and Alioski are direct and cause plenty of problems for Championship defences. Together, they are as exciting as Leeds have had in recent seasons in terms of quality of player.
The defence has been solid so far, with Liam Cooper looking rejuvenated this season. Jansson and Ayling are continuing to fight with every ounce of blood and sweat they possess for the cause. It will not be easy to maintain the unbeaten run, but Leeds will be refreshed and ready to do exactly that after they return to league action after the international break.