Will Leeds Get Relegated in 2023?

What Does It Mean to Be Relegated?

The definition of relegation is finishing in the bottom three of the Premier League and then having to play football in the second tier of English football, but it is the economic impact of this that is devastating for football clubs.

Relegation from the Premier League is estimated to cost clubs £170 million. The average turnover in the Premier League is around £200 million, but in the Championship, it is only £20 million. So relegation has a catastrophic effect. There are payments for relegated clubs, known as ‘parachute payments’ to make the impact softer, this can add 30 million pounds a year, but they are only given for a few years.

There are also huge structural problems for clubs to fix when they get relegated as they have to find a way to lower their costs as their income has been drastically reduced. The main cost for clubs are player salaries. The average salary of a Premier League player is £60k a week, while in The Championship it is closer to £4k a week. It can also take years to get some players off the books because other clubs can not see value in their wages. This can set clubs back years. Leeds United themselves took about twenty years to recover from the last time they were relegated.

The local economy also benefits estimated to be around £70 million. The city of Leeds probably benefits less as they have high attendences even when in The Championship.

Consequently, there is huge pressure on clubs to avoid relegation from the Premier League and it is a large part of the reason why the clubs management sack managers who go on a bad run of performances, as even though they are a good manager they need a quick fix to turn things around.

That is how Jesse Marsch got the Leeds United job, as Marcelo Bielsa was fired in February last year after a poor run of results, despite getting Leeds promoted and performing well in the Premier League for the previous two seasons. Bielsa liked to work with small number of players, but had a bad run with injuries to key players and form suffered.

It is now crunch time for clubs to decide if they need to sack their manager and organise a quick fix. In some cases, the manager has lost the confidence or respect of the key players in the dressing room. Leeds narrowly avoided relegation on the final game last season, but now with the majority of the team available they still facing another tough fight to stay in the league, so the question is…

Can Leeds avoid relegation this year?

Leeds main problem is that all other teams around them have improved on last year, so they will need to improve as they only avoided relegation on the last game of the season and a number of their winning goals in the last ten games involved injury time goals to earn them crucial points. With the players now listening to Marsch for a year, they will be implementing more tactics from his playbook, so will this work? I am not so sure.

Ineffective Tactics

Leeds are very inconsisent and can’t play well for a full game. Their good results are the result of ‘bursts’ of energy, but as we move into the second half of the season opposition teams will try to weather these periods of the game then take their chances. Analysing their results in the league so far:

3 points agasint Wolves — Lage now sacked, Lopetegui has them playing better

1 point against Southampton — Hasenhuttl now sacked (from RB school), Jones has them playing better – also let a two goal lead slip late in the game.

3 points against Chelsea — Tuchel now sacked, Potter is doing worse but still likely to improve in my book

0 points away to Brighton — DeZerbi has improved them again after Potter left

1 point at home to Everton — Everton will soon sack Lampard you’d have imagine

0 points away to Brentford — Let in 5 goals, Brentford’s direct approach really cut Leeds open in this game

1 point at home to Villa — Gerrard now sacked, Emery an upgrade

0 points away to Palace — Viera still in charge – possible to pick up points against them in the home game

0 points at home to Arsenal — played well against Arsenal but didn’t get a result

0 points away to Leicester — Rogers still in charge but now playing poorly, possible to pick up points off in home game

0 points at home to Fulham — Fulham have gone from strength to strength, but possible to pick up points off in away game

3 points away to Liverpool — Marsch’s best result of the season

3 points at home to Bournemouth — back to back wins for Leeds, like to get points off Bournemouth again

0 points away to Spurs — Spurs should be just as tough in second game as they compete for Champions League and also have injured players back

0 points at home to Man City — Well beaton here

1 point away to Newcastle — lucky to get a point

1 point at home to West Ham — Season hasn’t gone to plan so far for Moynes

0 points away to Aston Villa — But Leeds were the better side

That totals to 17 points after 18 games. They will, most likely, need to get 20 points in the next 20 games to avoid relegation. To do that they will need to play better and that means scoring more goals.

The four games since the World Cup have not shown much improvement despite Jesse Marsch having five weeks with the players to further get his tactics across and refine them. The Villa game did show signs but is that any different that the signs in the Arsenal or Liverpool games? The real test will be in the up coming games against Forest, Everton and Southampton – that said I can see them taking points off Manchester United, considering how well they have done against some of the other big six teams.

Rather than refine them, there are reports in The Athletic that senior players are in disagreemnet with Marsch and by the sounds of it are losing or have lost confidence in his methods. Going by the photo used I’m guessing that Bamford is one of those players. Frustration might be heightened by recent signings meaning more competition for Bamford as well as frustration that Marsch footballing style is likely to mean it increases his risk of injury.


They have scored 25 goals, with ten of them coming from Rodrigo. He has been over-performing though and would only be expected to score 7 of those chances.

The other side is that Patrick Bamford has been under-performing so if he can get fit and stay fit he can fire Leeds to safety. The only issue is that he missed the majority of last season through injury and missed much of this season as well. He has 400 minutes and was expected to score 5 goals, but he actually only scored one. Perhaps this was bad luck which can turn to good luck in the second half of the season.

Next is Summerville with 4 goals, which he scored in four games in a row but again his xG is 2. Also those games were really open with Leeds conceding eleven goals. He is also now injured for a month.

Luis Sinistera has two goals and looks to be real attacking threat for Leeds, but again he has missed the majority of the season with injury and when he has played he has only averaged 51 minutes in his 9 appearances. This suggests that he is carrying an injury and was being managed, however he has not played now since the defeat to Fulham on October 23rd.

Unfortunately, Brenden Aaronson hasn’t been able to contribute as many goals as might have been hoped after he scored against Chelsea. He has averaged 1.39 shots per game, but after 18 games he should only expect to have two goals. He is also Marsch most picked forward player and is a key part of Marsch identity in terms of representing his footballing philosophy of high press, direct football. If Marsch drops him, even though at 22 he might need a rest, he might feel that it is an admission that his tactics are ineffective.


Jack Harrison has the highest assists for Leeds this seaon with four. He had started as first choice in the left attacking position and made three assists in the first six games from this position. Since then he has been dropped and when he has played he has been played out of position with his Sinistera, Summerville and now Ngonto playing in this position.

Marsch has relied on one formation this season, with 91% of minutes being played with 4-2-3-1 and while many teams in the league like to play a consistent formation that works for them, Leeds are very limited even within this formation as they only have a few players who play well in this system and only one player can play wide left at a time!

Where are the assists going to come from if the front three behind Rodrigo are: Ngonto-Harrison-Aaronson? The key pass numbers per 90 for these three players are: 1- 2.3 – 1.68. Most clubs would typically have full backs that make supporting or over-lapping runs but Struijk is a centre back playing left back and so doesn’t tend to be that effective attacking even though he does get high up the pitch – his key passes per 90 is 0.66. Kristenson on the right hand side was known for his attacking returns for RB Salzburg but doesn’t tend to get that far forward to provide width on the right – his key passes per 90 is 0.47. With Ayling now being selected at right back, it does look like he is crossing the halfway line to provide more options on the right. This will help to create space for others up front. It will also leave more space in behind him and his pass completion rate is only 70% so far, so a pass is likely to lead to a counter-attack.


Tyler Adams has been the best thing about Leeds this season. He has quietly put in consistently good performances averaging 4.2 tackles per game and 1.4 interceptions. It is vital that he maintains his performances and keep himself fit. He also has one of the highest pass completion rates in the side at 83%.

His partner in the double pivot is Roca who for me is a passenger in the side. Adams averages 55 passes per game, while Roca who is known for his passing is only making 39 per game. Key passes are 0.85, while Adams are again higher at 1.31. Roca though has been undroppable playing in 18 games.

The defence is a flat back four with Koch and Llorente being the first choice until the Brentford game where they let in five goals, where Cooper then came in to partner Koch. Llorente has been responsible for two errors which have led to goals; Cooper though has one error leading to a goal so far. The defence is shaky and has not improved that much on last season where they let in15 shots per game; this seaon Marsch’s side is averaging 13.7.

Illan Meslier is alongside Adams one of their best players this season. At 21 he must be one of the best young goalkeepers in world football. He has improved on his performances last season and has been assured in nets for Leeds. He is fifth in most saves this season. His numbers of saves are down on last year but that is probably because the defence have improved slightly. He has claimed an average of one cross a game, compared with last year where he would only claim two every three games, demonstrating his own growing confidence.

Possible Improvements?

Leeds have signed two players in the January transfer window which I imagine they are doing to support the team in the short term as well as in the years ahead. Rutter is a promising young forward signed from German side Hoffenheim while Wober is a reasonably experienced central defender which will offer competition to Cooper and Koch. He will need at least six games to get used to Premier League football and putting him in at this point in the season is high risk. Particularly as the next six games for Leeds could make or break their season as they play:

  • Brentford (H)
  • Nottingham Forrest (A)
  • Manchester United (H)
  • Everton (A)
  • Southampton (H)
  • Chelsea (A)

I’d also like to see Marsch try a 4-3-3 with a midfield of Harrison-Adams-Aaronson and a front three of Ngnonto-Rodrigo-Sinistera (when fit). Bamford of course will get in ahead of Rodrigo most of the time when fit too. That would mean two of their best left midfielders can play and brings Aaronson deeper, taking the creativity pressure off him and allows the team to benefit more from his work rate.

Commercial Pressure

With the 49ers ownership being on the bring of a takeover at Leeds it may also make the situation even more tense this year. If they can stay up then the takeover is much more straight-forward, whereas if they do not the the 49ers might look to renegotiate and it will ultimately effect decision-making within the club and the culture of this paralysis can feed into the players and the performances on the pitch.

My Take

Leeds are an injury to Meslier/Koch/Adams/Rodrigo away from relegation. If they can stay fit and get eight to ten points from these next six games, I think they can survive; if not, I think they will finish seventeenth. However, there are 2.2 injuries on average in a Premier League game, so the chances are high that at least one will get injured, at least for a short time.

They do not create enough in open play and their high press is too sporadic to be effective. Marsch hasn’t been proven at this level and failed in the Bundesliga so he’ll have to show that he can make the right decisons in the next six games in particular. For me he lacks authority but seems to be personable; however it is hard to see this style of play sustaining for the longer term. He seems very close to the management having come through the Red Bull Group so they will likely stick with him until the end of the season, especially having backed him further in this transfer window.

They are 4.7 on Betfair to be relegated which implies a 21% chance. Unfortunately for Leeds fan I think there is some value in that price based on what we’ve seen so far this season.

Let’s see how this goes.

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