Picking Leeds United's Ideal XI for the 2020/21 Season

Josh Sim
Aug 7, 2020, 5:15 PM GMT+1
Leeds will be hoping for a successful first season back in the Premier League
Leeds will be hoping for a successful first season back in the Premier League / Nigel Roddis/Getty Images
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After 16 years, Leeds United are finally back in the Premier League.

Even a global pandemic could only delay their promotion, as they finished ten points clear at the top of the Championship. Having achieved their goal of returning to the top-flight, attention has now turned towards ensuring they remain in the league beyond next season.

A mid-table finish would mark a successful campaign for the Whites, who will face the challenge of competing against established clubs with bigger budgets and greater squad depths. While they certainly have a number of players capable of excelling in England's top division, investment will be needed to ensure they can maintain their best performances throughout the entire year.

With that in mind, let's put together their ideal XI for the 2020/21 campaign.

GK - Illan Meslier

Illan Meslier was a revelation for the Whites in the second-half of their season
Illan Meslier was a revelation for the Whites in the second-half of their season / Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Meslier was so good during his ten league appearances that the Yorkshire side moved to sign him permanently as soon as the Championship season ended.

The Frenchman kept seven clean sheets and only conceded four goals, as Bielsa's side won eight of their last 11 games to seal their title win. His terrific reflexes and shot-stopping ability earned him an extended run in the first team, and he never once looked uncomfortable with the pressure of being their starting goalkeeper.

His excellent form meant that veteran stopper Kiko Casilla was never really missed in goal, and at just 20 years old, there's plenty about him to get excited about as he prepares for a first season in England's top-flight.

RB - Luke Ayling

Ayling is a mainstay at the right-back position
Ayling is a mainstay at the right-back position / George Wood/Getty Images

A tireless worker on the right, Ayling was a key contributor for Leeds throughout their promotion-winning campaign.

His surging runs forward make him an attacking weapon, shown by his four goals and assists from the position. Assured at the back, he's strong in the air and has a great positional understanding, knowing where he should be to make the necessary tackle or interception for his team.

CB - Juan Foyth

Foyth could develop significantly under Bielsa's guidance
Foyth could develop significantly under Bielsa's guidance / TF-Images/Getty Images

With Ben White unlikely to return to the club, Foyth has been linked with the newly promoted club recently as they search for a replacement for the heart of their backline.

Still only 22 years old, the centre-back has already shown he's comfortable with the ball, having racked up a 86% pass completion rate in his limited appearances during the past season. While his decision-making and discipline hampers him at times, you wouldn't bet against the experienced Bielsa in improving both tremendously.

With the player clearly out of favour under José Mourinho, a fresh start could be ideal for the Spurs youngster.

CB - Liam Cooper

Liam Cooper embodies the heart of Leeds' team
Liam Cooper embodies the heart of Leeds' team / Michael Regan/Getty Images

The heart and soul of the Yorkshire club, Cooper anchored their defence superbly in their title-winning season.

A strong presence who hardly gives his opponents any time on the ball, the Scot missed just eight league games and leads his team by example with his fearless displays. Given that White has now left the club, Cooper's experience and leadership will help bring a sense of continuity and calmness to the lineup, as they adjust to life in the Premier League.

LB - Rico Henry

Rico Henry would be an excellent signing for the Yorkshire side
Rico Henry would be an excellent signing for the Yorkshire side / Alex Davidson/Getty Images

An impressive performer for Brentford, Rico Henry would be a great fit in the left-back position for Leeds.

The 23-year-old is a very capable defender, and has shown himself to be a tough opponent for many of the Championship's top wingers. Pacy and athletic, he's also willing to venture forward whenever asked to, chipping in with three assists on the attacking end last season.

His displays have led to widespread interest from numerous top-flight clubs, with the Whites among those pursuing the Englishman. While Stuart Dallas has filled in admirably in the role, a long-term solution would be ideal for the club - and Henry certainly fits the bill.

DM - Kalvin Phillips

Kalvin Phillips plays a starring role for Leeds
Kalvin Phillips plays a starring role for Leeds / James Gill - Danehouse/Getty Images

Few Championship players are more deserving of the chance to play top-flight football than Phillips, who has consistently excelled for the Yorkshire club whenever he's been selected.

Tidy with the ball, the 24-year-old has become the ideal defensive anchor for Bielsa, with his ability to win back possession matched by his smarts on the pitch in controlling the game's tempo. His manager trusts him completely to command his midfield, which has made him the first name on the teamsheet.

CM - José Gómez Campaña

Campaña impressed for Levante in La Liga and is in high demand
Campaña impressed for Levante in La Liga and is in high demand / Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

A player who loves to create chances, Campaña could be an inspired signing for Leeds, particularly in strengthening their goal tally in the top-flight.

The Levante midfielder racked up seven assists in La Liga last year and can do it all with the ball, using his superb passing, crossing or set-piece abilities. He's also a willing worker on the defensive end, which makes him a potential great fit for the club's playing style.

However, the Whites face heavy competition for his signature, with Arsenal, Aston Villa and Everton all interested in the 27-year-old. Still, added attacking flair is a must for the team to improve further, and Campaña would certainly bring just that.

CM - Mateusz Klich

Klich has always been a regular for the Whites
Klich has always been a regular for the Whites / James Williamson - AMA/Getty Images

Having missed just one league game this campaign, Klich's experience could be crucial in the Yorkshire club's return to the top flight.

The 30-year-old was an ever-present in the Championship and has been a consistent performer, notching up six goals and five assists last year. His ability to get forward and contribute will help his team hugely, as will his calming presence in midfield.

With Bielsa a huge fan of the Polish international, it's hard to see him anywhere but starting the first game of their Premier League season.

RW - Emiliano Buendía

Buendía has shown he's capable of thriving in the Premier League
Buendía has shown he's capable of thriving in the Premier League / Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

While Norwich ultimately found the top-flight to be a step too far, the performances of Buendía suggest he'd be a great addition for newly promoted Leeds.

Only three players notched up more key passes than the Argentinian, whose dribbling and passing ability made him a standout among the Canaries. Primarily a right-winger, he'll add top-flight experience and quality that would improve the club's attack considerably.

With the East Anglia side looking for around £20m to part ways with the 23-year-old, Buendía would be an automatic starter for the Whites if he chose to join them.

LW - Jack Harrison

Jack Harrison has returned for another year in Yorkshire
Jack Harrison has returned for another year in Yorkshire / George Wood/Getty Images

Only three players played more minutes for the Yorkshire club than Jack Harrison, who has become a key cog in Leeds' attack ever since he arrived in 2018.

The on-loan winger from Manchester City was hugely productive, scoring six goals and creating another eight in last season's Championship. A tireless worker, his ability to cause problems for defenders should translate well to the top-flight.

Having confirmed he'll be returning for a third year, he'll likely be a key contributor once again for Bielsa's team.

ST - Nicolás González

González is an exciting young attacking talent
González is an exciting young attacking talent / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

With Patrick Bamford inconsistent in front of goal, the potential signing of Stuttgart striker González could be the spark needed to add a clinical edge to the Whites' offense.

The 22-year-old is a versatile attacker who loves to carry the ball into dangerous positions, before firing in a powerful finish. While there's plenty of scope to improve on the defensive end, you can trust Bielsa to get the best out of him.

His attacking quality could be the difference-maker that ensures the Yorkshire side remain in the Premier League beyond next season.

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