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Leeds stand on the brink of Premier League relegation after Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at West Ham.
The Yorkshire club’s three-season stay in the top-flight will be over if they fail to beat Tottenham next Sunday and, depending on other results, victory on the final day might not be enough to save them.
Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the reasons why it has gone wrong at Elland Road.
Bielsa legacy casts shadow
Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani, former director of football Victor Orta and chief executive Angus Kinnear received huge acclaim when the club ended their 16-year Premier League exile in 2020. They played a masterstroke by handing the keys to the bus to head coach Marcelo Bielsa in 2018, but their legacy was always going to be defined by how they filled the vacuum after sacking him in February 2022. The bus stalled when poor results cost the Argentinian his job. The board has since got most of its key decisions wrong and all the wheels, one by one, have fallen off.
What exactly did the board get wrong?
Bielsa’s successor Jesse Marsch was hailed as a natural replacement, but performances and results did not improve. Leeds survived relegation last season on the final day and when Marsch was sacked in February this year he left the club in a worse position in the table. The board’s failed, ill-conceived bids to hire Rayo Vallecano’s Andoni Iraola and Feyenoord’s Arne Slot led to accusations of panic and, after a fans’ backlash, they also reneged on appointing former Ajax boss Alfred Schreuder. So in came Javi Gracia. The club then admitted they had erred in that decision by parachuting Sam Allardyce into Elland Road with four league games remaining.
Can relegation be blamed solely on the managers?
No. After Leeds defied the odds to finish ninth under Bielsa in their first season back in the top flight, they have failed to sufficiently strengthen their squad. A lack of cover for an injury-prone Patrick Bamford and midfielder Tyler Adams are prime examples. It has also been an imbalanced squad with wide players in abundance, but no depth in other key areas. Some signings since promotion, such as Raphinha, Adams, Luis Sinisterra and Willy Gnonto, have been a success, but too many others have failed to make an impact, while the arrival of club record signing Georginio Rutter has left fans scratching their heads.
Has the ownership issue muddied the waters?
The last-ditch appointment of Allardyce was symptomatic of Leeds’ mis-management and of a club in limbo since the investment arm of San Francisco 49ers increased its stake to 44 per cent at the end of 2021. 49ers Enterprises has an option to own 100 per cent by January next year and the ownership issue has not helped decision-making. Orta’s resignation in protest over Gracia’s sacking has left Leeds without a director of football and, if Allardyce departs as expected, they will be without a long-term head coach. How relegation would affect the takeover remains to be seen, while Radrizzani has been linked with a takeover of Sampdoria. With relegation looming a rudderless ship appears to be heading for the rocks.
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