Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa has a big job ahead of him when Leeds realizes his dream of being promoted James Gill – Danehouse / Getty Images
Leeds United has dreamed of being promoted to the Premier League since the club's relegation in 2004.
Despite a dismal performance in their first return match against Cardiff after the three-month break, Marcelo Bielsa's men performed brilliantly in their 3-0 win over Fulham to give the best indication that the whites are finally going for a chance top level back.
The Leeds team celebrate their win over Fulham on Elland Road | George Wood / Getty Images
With only seven games remaining, none of the seven best teams, and a healthy eight point gap between themselves and third-placed Brentford, Leeds finally seems to have climbed the mountain that they have tried to agree over the past 16 seasons – but the hard work is beginning just starting.
Bielsa's team was by far the best team in the league this season – despite the occasional wobble – and produced brilliant football at times, but also showed that they have the character to get results when they're not in top form.
However, the gap between the championship and the Premier League in class is no secret, and if Leeds wants to make sure that they become an integral part of the top division again, Bielsa has to ring the changes this summer.
7️⃣ games left! pic.twitter.com/BgQkUgN61p
– Leeds United (@LUFC), June 28, 2020
One of Leeds' success this season was their solid defense, and the key to that stability was Brighton borrower Ben White. The 22-year-old has had success in his first season in the championship and has given the Leeds defense, who has been sorely missing last season with the talented but fiery Pontus Jansson in the heart of the backline, calm.
It is not surprisingly rumored that the youngster is on the wish list of many Premier League clubs this summer. Whether he's moving to a new pasture or staying at the Brighton Parents' Club, one thing is certain: it is unlikely that he will be a Leeds player next season.
Not only is Bielsa likely to be on the market for a central defender, a goalkeeper will no doubt be at the top of his summer shopping list. Former Real Madrid player and current Leeds number one Kiko Casilla has by no means convinced this campaign and made a number of mistakes that led to goals. His successor Illan Meslier also failed to build confidence in Leeds' defenses when played. He looks shaky when he leaves his line.
Defensive reinforcements are a must this summer, but the problems don't end there.
Probably the best Leeds player this season was Pablo Hernández. The Spanish magician has scored six goals and six assists and was clearly missed by the team after having suffered a 0-2 loss to Cardiff due to an injury.
Pablo Hernandez signs a two-year contract extension with Leeds United until 2022. There is hardly a more enjoyable player who can watch this side of relegation in 2004. #Lufc pic.twitter.com/M9btQuE5gl
– Phil Hay (@PhilHay_), November 19, 2019
Swansea is not considered good enough for the Premier League in 2014. It is clear that the Swans missed a trick of letting it go. Six years later, at the age of 35, Hernández will struggle to impact the arguably toughest league in the world that Leeds will expect him to do.
Strength across the board was key to Leeds' success this year. Hernández was skilfully supported by Jack Harrison on the opposite side – but that's another cause for concern. Harrison is another borrower in the Leeds ranks, and the Manchester City mother club will undoubtedly charge a high fee if Bielsa is to sign the winger.
The final signing of another borrower – Hélder Costa – has already been agreed with the mother club Wolverhampton Wanderers and is expected to enter into force in July. The princely sum of £ 15m was spent by the Leeds hierarchy, but with just three league players this season and an overwhelming campaign by the Portuguese international, it's hard to understand why Leeds wasn't paying attention to a permanent deal for Harrison.
? Yes @ Harrison_Jack11! pic.twitter.com/469pcfkoDn
– Leeds United (@LUFC), June 27, 2020
The man for whom the above wingers are to serve in Leeds this season is Patrick Bamford, and this is another problem for the York shiremen.
The former Middlesbrough man Bamford had numerous cracks in the Premier League – five different clubs offer him a chance – and yet he has only one goal for his name in the English top league.
Patrick Bamford has missed 27 "big chances" for Leeds this season, 10 more than any other player.
TWENTY. SEVEN. ???
Would you have won the league with a decent striker? pic.twitter.com/bkBpPdWdxP
– Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) June 23, 2020
And it's not like he will make the leap back to the Premier League if the whites are promoted. Bamford has had a pretty hot season – despite its 14 goals. The striker, who has regularly been the brunt of frustration for Leeds fans, has spurned opportunity after opportunity and is clearly deprived of confidence and crumbling under pressure to be the main character of a Leeds United club.
It looks like Leeds is returning to the Premier League this season and they deserve every second of the recognition and praise that will undoubtedly come.
However, Bielsa's hard work begins the second they realize their dream, because if they don't spend much money in the summer, they'll be back where they started in the championship next year.