2021 has truly turned out to be a year in two halves for Leeds United with two seasons separated by a summer of stark contrasting fortunes.
Of the 22 games played this year in last season’s competition, United have averaged 1.64 points per game. It’s a comeback that would see them flirt with European qualification over 38 matches.
Out of the 18 games of the current season, it’s 0.89 points per game. That’s 34 points over a full season and closer to 18th than you’d like.
It’s hard to overcome the recency bias of our last experiences of the year, but it would be grossly unfair to forget how exciting the Whites were in the first half of 2021 as they made their way down the home stretch in a amazing shape.
Here’s a look at the best and worst times of the year.
My personal highlight
It’s not the last time April 10 will be mentioned, but the ecstasy of winning Manchester City will never leave me. The Leeds press kit was unsure of what to do with the day’s adrenaline rush. Watching Stuart Dallas pull away from the late winner was almost like an out of body experience.
By the way, seeing Marcelo Bielsa so overjoyed in his post-match aired interviews was also special. We all know how many hours he devotes to this job and to see his pleasure in securing such an unlikely victory was incredible.
My personal weak point
It happened just at the start of the year in the second game only. This FA Cup loss to Crawley Town was about as dark as it gets.
It had been a brutally long trip, it was freezing cold, the team was understaffed, untimely replacements were planned in advance and disrespectful, we didn’t even get a chance to question Bielsa afterwards. the game because of the facilities and then it was still five hours back north on a Sunday afternoon.
My player of the year
Raphinha. Quickly becoming one of the most sought-after wingers in European football after its international explosion with Brazil.
In what has been a generally disappointing start to the season for the club, Raphinha has made Leeds look like a one-man attack for the most part.
Every time he gets on the ball he looks like he’s shaking things up in the final third.
The pace of work and the lack of ego made him a valuable asset and allowed him to pass Bielsa’s teamwork test with flying colors.
A big smash from Fernandinho left his campaign breathless in April, but the ex-Rennes got the upper hand in 21/22.
Perhaps replaced Phillips as the squad’s most important player due to his offensive impact from the side.
Every square inch is Elland Road’s talisman and is sure to attract big deals next summer.
The biggest disappointment
Mateusz Klich is arguably the most interesting person in the Leeds squad. His attitude off the pitch, his character and his interviews have always intrigued and fascinated me. He’s different and it’s awesome.
This makes his decline in the field all the more difficult to swallow. It has been a difficult year for the Poland international who has not reached the level of influence he has shown in his championship pomp.
History will never forget his role in the football club’s rise to power under Bielsa, but if 2022 doesn’t show an increase in his performance, he could end up considering his options this summer as minutes dry up with a World Cup on the horizon.
The trip to Leicester City at the end of January is perhaps the best team performance of the year as well as the most entertaining game overall.
He combined a strong start from the opposition, a Leeds element that weathered the storm before putting in one of their best performances and toppling a genuine European contender on their own turf.
Better individual performance
While a number of defensive players shone with their resilience under immense pressure, with one man down, at the Etihad Stadium in April, I would rather watch the key man with the best team performance.
Patrick Bamford was sensational at King Power Stadium. An emphatic and precise goal slammed into the roof of the net with two altruistic assists. One of his rare performances in the second half of last season that matched his meteoric debut.
What made me smile
I said it would be mentioned again and it’s hard to look past the emotions of winning at City. You really had to keep from smiling like an objective journalist in the press gallery. A truly amazing day for everyone involved at the club.