Norwich City 0
Leeds United 3 (Klich 21, Alioski 26, Hernandez 67)
I’m finding it hard to explain exactly how Leeds are picking up such overwhelming results as this 0 – 3 win at Norwich; it just seems so easy at the moment! OK, we had a bit of a reality check down at Swansea, where it was far from easy to even scrape a draw, but we did have to cope with some late changes to the line-up down there and Swansea had some particular skills that kept us in check and forced us to think about the opposition for a change. But yesterday, at Carrow Road, it was the now familiar well-oiled Bielsa machine that rolled across the splendid looking Norwich pitch sweeping all in its path.
A look at the match stats reveals that Leeds dominated the possession again as we have done in every game although, that aside, the rest of the stats were not that different to those at the Liberty on Tuesday. Norwich managed 10 attempts at our goal (we had 12 at theirs) and a whopping 10 corners to our 4, those are not the stats of a team that was outplayed and yet we fired in three excellent goals and the whole thing “felt” very comfortable.
My guess is it is a little bit of everything. We undoubtedly have a fine coach who revels in the fine detail of creating a winning formation and combination of players. There is no doubt that we have a team so fit that we’d give a team of butchers’ dogs a run for their money. We already knew that, on their day, the group of players we usually fielded last season could do a decent job in the Championship, after all, we were top of the table this time last season, albeit we now know we’d had a far easier start than this time round.
But Bielsa has also subtly changed the side we used last season and we now look far stronger than we did at any stage under either TC or Hecky; Bailey Peacock-Farrell is now the regular number one and the ghost of Felix Wiedwald is long gone and with it that constant feeling that something in goal wasn’t quite right. We’ve brought in Barry Douglas to finally solve the revolving door syndrome we had in the left back slot; we have Mateusz Klich back and he is like a new signing and seems perfect for the role Bielsa has given him. We have Kalvin Phillips in a defined role in which he seems perfectly at home and which again is a perfect fit in this Bielsa machine as is, unlikely as it first seemed, the fit of Berardi at centre back. We have Kemar Roofe playing the striking role he always told us he prefers. We also have a side that seems comfortable and seldom gets riled, although that of course is also easy when the wins are regularly coming. Add it all up and we look much stronger now even though yesterday’s starting XI could, apart from BD, have been picked last season. We have those all-important intangible things too – belief and momentum. Belief that we are actually a very difficult side to play against and the momentum that comes from winning games. Yes, it is all pretty much perfect for us at the moment and it feels as though it will take some pretty major spanners in the works to halt this Leeds machine. We have already coped with injuries to Adam Forshaw and Liam Cooper and the loss of Ronnie Vieira, all of which we winced at, thinking they might derail us, but without any of them yesterday our progress continued serenely on.
I'm sure there will be bigger set-backs to overcome in the next few weeks and months but there is a confidence and faith amongst the fan base now that Bielsa will see it right.
We can now have a few days off from the tension of keeping the Championship machine together and see how the B team gets on with its Carabao Cup campaign, before we end this part of the season with that juicy looking encounter with Middlesbrough; Assombalonga, Howson, Clayton, Ayala and all!
Norwich C Leeds Utd
Possession 41% 59%
Shots 10 12
On Target 2 5
Corners 10 4
Fouls 13 16