After 16 years in the wilderness, Leeds United’s first season back in the Premier League is over. Marcelo Bielsa’s team finished ninth across an impressive 59 points. Their attacking style almost won universal plaudits while their at times generous defending tightened up as the season progressed. Here, we count down the contributions of Leeds’ players in the Premier League:
23. Niall Huggins (1 PL Appearance)
Huggins made his debut in the League Cup and came on as a second half substitute when Leeds was 4-0 down at Arsenal. Huggins showed some nice touches down the left side as Leeds fought back to end up on the wrong side of a 4-2 game. The 20-year old is likely to get more opportunities in the cups next season.
22. Leif Davis (2 PL Appearances)
The 21-year old showed enough promise to convince Bielsa to let veteran left-back Barry Douglas leave. Davis made two substitute appearances, including a late cameo against Manchester City as Leeds saw out a 1-1 draw. With Leeds likely to sign a left-back in the summer, Davis may be loaned out to gain more experience next season.
21. Gaetano Berardi (2 PL Appearances)
A heart-warming moment saw Leeds’ longest tenured player finally make his Premier League bow as a second half substitute in the penultimate game of the season; ten months removed from his ACL injury. Berardi had a tidy 45 minutes at Southampton and another hour against West Brom before a fitting send off from Leeds’ fans.
20. Kiko Casilla (3 PL Appearances)
Casilla’s troubled Leeds career fell even further with an error-strewn performance in the FA Cup loss at Crawley. He did surprisingly return to the side for the final two games of the season, making solid stops and showing his distribution skills to good effect. His late-season cameo was likely a move to put Casilla in the shop window for an exit this summer.
19. Jamie Shackleton (13 PL Appearances)
The lively midfielder gained more experience off the bench but didn’t find a consistent role with the team. After three seasons on the margins of the team, Shackleton is another who could be set for a loan move to the Championship to continue his development.
18. Ian Poveda (14 PL Appearances)
The young winger proved a useful option off the bench, with his pace causing tiring defenders problems. His highlight came in the draw with Manchester City when he roasted Benjamin Mendy. However, Poveda has yet to start a Premier League game. He will likely see opportunities to start in next season’s domestic cups.
17. Pablo Hernandez (16 PL Appearances)
Leeds’ best player of the last decade suffered a disappointing final season with the club as niggling injuries ruined his chances of a consistent run at the Premier League. He did still show glimpses of his creative talents, notably coming off the bench to bag two assists in the 5-2 win over Newcastle and a commanding final day display against West Brom. He received the rousing sendoff he deserved as fans returned to Elland Road where he’ll be remembered as a legend.
16. Tyler Roberts (27 PL Appearances, 1 Goal)
Roberts was a bystander in the first half of the season, leading many to predict his exit in January. However, when Rodrigo picked up a knee injury, Roberts got his first team chance. Roberts made 12 straight starts and showed some neat turns and tricks, but he struggled to find the back of the net. Roberts broke his Premier League duck at Southampton to finish the season with a goal and two assists, but he could be moved on from if Leeds adds another forward.
15. Helder Costa (22 PL Appearances, 3 Goals)
Costa got off to a brilliant start with two goals and an assist in Leeds’ opening two games. However, he soon found himself pushed out of first eleven by Raphinha and dropped down the pecking order by midseason. He did return with a goal at Arsenal which kicked off a solid run in the team; notably in the win at Manchester City. Injury curtailed his season in early May, but he finished the season with a useful three goals and three assists.
14. Robin Koch (17 PL Appearances)
The German international made a shaky start at Liverpool, but recovered to start the first 11 games of the season before an ankle injury put him out for three months. Koch returned in March and showed the versatility to play defensive midfield before Bielsa gave him leave from the final two games of the season. Koch showed presence in the air and confidence on the ball. With a clean bill of health, he should be key player next season.
13. Mateusz Klich (35 PL Appearances, 4 Goals)
This wasn’t quite the outstanding season Klich enjoyed in his first two years with Bielsa. The Polish international started well with a goal at Liverpool, but struggled to find his previous form. His attacking instincts at times left the midfield too exposed. Klich did find a strong finish to the campaign against Tottenham and scored a solo goal at Burnley to set himself up for a productive summer at the Euros.
12. Pascal Struijk (27 PL Appearances, 1 Goal)
The biggest surprise of Leeds’ season was the rise of Struijk. Pressed into service by injuries in central defence, the young Dutchman grew in stature as the season progressed and he finished with seven clean sheets to his name. Struijk’s heading from attacking set pieces needs to improve, but he appears to have the potential on the ball Bielsa demands of his defenders to go with his improving defensive skills.
11. Rodrigo (25 PL Appearances, 7 Goals)
The club’s record signing made a reasonable start to his Leeds career. Rodrigo settled into the #10 role behind Bamford and formed a good understanding with Raphinha. His progress was interrupted by Covid, which was followed by a 12-week injury layoff. The Spanish international came good late with four goals and an assist in the run in. Like Koch he will benefit from a full preseason ahead of his second campaign at Leeds.
10. Gjanni Alioski (36 PL Appearances, 2 Goals)
Alioski started the campaign on the bench, but soon established himself as a regular. As in previous seasons, he profited from an excellent understanding with Harrison down the left flank. He did make the odd mistake getting caught by some of the league’s best right wings, but his energy proved crucial on the counter attack. Out of contract this summer, he seems set to leave after representing North Macedonia at the Euros.
9. Liam Cooper (26 PL Appearances, 1 Goal)
The captain’s leadership qualities have never been in doubt, but despite numerous injury setbacks, Cooper grew into a Premier League player this season. There was the reckless challenge at Manchester City that saw him pick up Leeds’ only red card of the season and he will face a fight for his place next season from the likes of Koch and Struijk. However, lifting the Championship trophy, leading his team out in the Premier League and going to the Euros represents an impressive year for a player who’d spent the previous 13 seasons in the EFL.
8. Diego Llorente (15 PL Appearances, 1 Goal)
Leeds fans had a long wait to see Llorente, who suffered frustrating injury setbacks through the first half of the season. Once fit, the Span international made an impact in defence, as his presence coincided with a notable tightening of the Leeds backline. Llorente is likely the pick of the Leeds defenders on the ball and showed he can mix it and make crucial tackles. He’s also the only player ever to score a goal against a European Super League team.
7. Luke Ayling (38 PL Appearances)
A stalwart for Bielsa, Ayling made the most of his belated Premier League opportunity. An ever present, Ayling lead the Premier League in tackles, while his marauding runs forward and boundless energy on the right side became a hallmark of Leeds’ campaign. He was denied his first Premier League goal by a tight VAR call, but Ayling finished the campaign with 11 clean sheets.
6. Illan Meslier (35 PL Appearances)
The 21-year old goalkeeper continued his meteoric rise that started in last season’s run-in. He was frequently called into action and pulled off a series of stunning saves, while showing off his talents as a sweeper-keeper. Meslier did make a few mistakes, but showed the strength of character to bounce back and provide the solid presence in goal the team has often lacked in recent seasons. The challenge now is to cut out the odd errors as he gains experience.
5. Jack Harrison (36 PL Appearances, 8 Goals)
The third season for Harrison on loan at Leeds proved the most productive yet. He opened Leeds’ Premier League account with a stunning strike at Liverpool and his left wing crossing proved to be persistent through the campaign. In all, Harrison bagged eight goals and as many assists, with his most spectacular strike coming in the dying seconds against Newcastle. The buyout clause in Harrison’s loan is around £11million, as Leeds is almost certain to exercise it.
4. Kalvin Phillips (29 PL Appearances, 1 Goal)
Phillips has easily made the switch up to the Premier League, providing cover defensively as a deep playmaker. Leeds won just twice when Phillips was missing this season to further underline his importance to the team. He could do with adding a few more goals, but otherwise, he has been excellent through his first Premier League season. Hopefully his shoulder injury won’t keep him out of the Euros.
3. Raphinha (30 PL Appearances, 6 Goals)
As one of the summer’s best signings, Raphinha has bamboozled defenders with his array of tricks and proved to be Leeds’ most creative player. His pace has made him both a constant threat on the break and difficult to shake off when he is chasing back against opposing wingers. He finished top of the club’s assist chart with nine.
2. Patrick Bamford (37 PL Appearances, 17 Goals)
The most surprising star of the Premier League this season, many doubted Bamford’s suitability to the Premier League. From the start, he has looked potent in front of the goal to go with his undoubted team play. The hat trick at Aston Villa was his standout performance, but Bamford has rarely disappointed this season. He finished the season with 17 goals and seven assists to his name.
1. Stuart Dallas (38 Apps, 8 Goals)
Bielsa’s transformation of Leeds is best encapsulated by the progress of Dallas. The ‘Cookstown Cafu’ has again proved Bielsa’s utility weapon, playing in both fullback positions, central midfield and on the right wing. His preferred position now appears to be central midfield alongside Phillips, but he has looked Premier League-caliber wherever he has played. His brace in the win at Manchester City was the statement win of the campaign, but even putting that game aside, he has emerged as Leeds’ player of the year.