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Evolution Or Revolution – Leeds United


Evolution or Revolution is a new series from Stats Perform looking at which teams need only a few tweaks ahead of the 2020/21 season and which require a fundamental reboot. In this instalment, Jonny Cooper analyses the three areas Leeds United must focus on in their bid to retain Premier League status.

By: Jonathan Cooper

The 75th Most Clinical Team In England

Marcelo Bielsa favours attacking football, and Leeds have had comfortably the most shots of any English league team in the last two seasons (1,546), 118 more than their closest challengers, Manchester City. But their tally of 150 goals is bettered by four clubs in that time, with Liverpool scoring 24 more goals than Leeds despite having 380 fewer shots. More worrying for Leeds is their conversion rate of just 9.7%, the 75th worst of the 94 clubs to have featured in England’s top four divisions in that time.

Leeds Low Conversion Rate

Clearly creating a high number of chances per match is not Leeds’ problem, with their expected goals tally sitting at 88.5 for the 2019/20 Championship campaign, at least 12 higher than any other side. But Leeds underperformed that tally by 11.5 goals, finding the net just 77 times, with that underperformance the worst in the entire division for last season.

Leeds United xG Underperformance

Across the last two seasons under Bielsa, Leeds’ expected goals total was just over 171, but Leeds have scored 153 goals in the Championship in that time (including play-off goals), an underperformance of 18.

For a more in-depth and interactive look at all the advanced metrics, including expected goals, from the Championship last season, check out our interactive season review here.

In the Premier League, with chances at a higher premium, particularly against better teams, Leeds will have to show a more clinical edge in front of goal.

Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

The Need For More Options In Attack

Leeds scored 77 league goals in their title-winning campaign last season, the lowest tally by a Championship winner since 2015/16 when Burnley scored 72. The Whites were given a helping hand in those 77, with eight scored via own goals – the most they have ever benefitted from in a season in their history, and the most a team has benefitted in a league season since Swansea City in 2013/14 (also eight). In fact, “own goals” was their third-highest scorer last season.

Leeds United's Top Scorers 2019/20

-Own Goals8
3 =Harrison6
3 =Klich6

Although Bamford did finish as top scorer, using expected goals as a barometer to measure a player’s finishing, he would have been expected to have scored almost 28 goals in 2019/20, thereby underperforming by close to 12 goals, comfortably the worst difference in the division. Fourth on this list is another Leeds player, Jack Harrison.

Expected Goals Differential - Championship

In open play, it is a similar story: only one player had more shots in open play than Bamford (118) in the Championship in 2019/20 – Brentford’s Saïd Benrahma with 138 – but seven different players scored more open play goals than Bamford managed (11). His expected goals tally from open play shots was close to 21 but Bamford underperformed that by almost 10 goals, again comfortably the worst differential in last season’s Championship.

Championship 2019/20 - xG Underperformers

Championship 2019/20Open Play GoalsOpen Play xGxG DifferenceAverage xG of Shots
Patrick Bamford1120.9-9.90.18
Bobby De Cordova-Reid511.4-6.40.16
Sean Maguire16.2-5.20.10
André Ayew812.6-4.60.13
James Collins610.1-4.10.20

With Bamford having started 45 of Leeds’ 46 league games last season, there is little doubt that Marcelo Bielsa will hand him the opportunity to add to his appearances and goals in the top-flight, but more proficient finishing in front of goal will be crucial if Leeds are to make an impact on the Premier League.

Stats Perform Verdict: Evolution Required

Make More Use Of Set Pieces

Leeds will find chances at a premium in the top-flight and the ability to score from set plays can mean the difference between survival or relegation. In the Championship last season, the Whites scored the lowest percentage of any team from dead ball situations.

% Of Goals From Set Pieces - Championship 2019/20

RankTeam% Goals From Set Pieces
24Leeds United22%
20Queens Park Rangers27%

Being the league’s second-highest scorers might make you think this was less of an issue, but in fact, only two teams in the division scored fewer goals from set plays.

Goals From Set Pieces - Championship 2019/20

RankTeamGoals From Set Pieces
22 =Leeds United17
22 =Fulham17
22 =Hull City17
22 =Wigan Athletic17

Last season, Leeds took 68 more corners than any other team (355) but only scored from eight of those. At an average of 2.3%, only two teams had a lower conversion rate via corners in the division last season.

Conversion Rate From Corners - Championship

And when Pablo Hernández scored direct from a free-kick for Leeds against Burton Albion on Boxing Day 2017, no one could have predicted it would be 118 games until they scored another. Kalvin Phillips’ effort away at Blackburn in July was their 50th attempt from a direct free-kick since Hernández’s strike at Burton, with 12 different players trying, before Phillips finally succeeded.

Stats Perform Verdict: REvolution Required

Review other pieces in this series:
Manchester United
Manchester City
Tottenham Hotspur
Leicester City
West Brom

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