Gone are the days when following Leeds United was fairly straightforward, as heroes on the pitch would converse with the fans in the stands and a number of successful campaigns resulted in some trophy wins for the club. Now, it’s fair to say that supporting Leeds United is all about Premier League survival and a desperation to avoid dropping down into the Championship once again. Over to you, Javi Gracia.
The recently-appointed manager has been given a “flexible contract” that has certainly divided opinion, although it appears as though he’s essentially auditioning for the job long-term. After enduring the depressingly dull football Jesse Marsch served up, fans of The Whites should be excited at the appointment of a man who appears to be different. In fact, in terms of managing in Europe, Javi Gracia is in another league to the American. Many fans and experts alike think the appointment of the former Real Sociedad midfielder is a shrewd move. With that in mind, let’s assess some key reasons as to why Javi Gracia might just be the man to keep Leeds United in the Premier League.
He has kept Watford up before
First and foremost, Gracia clearly landed the job due to his numerous experiences in the game, with Leeds’ hierarchy surely taking hope from the remarkable turnaround he was responsible for at Watford in 2018. When he landed the job with the Hornets, relegation was almost a certainty, only for the club to eventually stay up fairly comfortably with an eight-point gap between them in 14th and the drop zone. Although Premier League betting odds have Leeds United at just over evens for the drop and the scenario at the club is different compared to what he faced at Watford, Gracia knows what’s required to stay in the best league in the world. Under Marsch, it felt as though the club was almost resigned to the drop, with a manager who simply doesn’t understand Leeds United and what’s needed to retain your status and kick further on in one of the most competitive competitions in football. Gracia will be more than aware of that following his experiences at Watford, with his victories over relegation rivals surely instilling confidence in the Leeds faithful. Under Gracia, Watford lost just one of their first five league matches, resulting in an upturn of form that eventually made survival far more achievable. With all things considered, Gracia’s appointment therefore makes a great deal of sense. The former Valencia boss has extensive experience that he will surely use to guide Leeds United to safety.
A more attack-minded approach is a certainty
It’s fair to say that Leeds had a decent January window overall, although the team is still weak in certain areas. The fact remains, though, that unless you’re Todd Boehly at Chelsea, no Premier League club can conduct a great deal of business during the season, but the fact that Leeds managed to add the likes of Weston McKennie can only be a good thing. Now, with Gracia through the door alongside some new recruits, such as Max Wober and Georginio Rutter, a new-look side could be on the horizon. Gracia will certainly favour a more attack-minded approach too, with the bright manager known for employing a great deal of variance depending on the opponent. For example, during his first seven games in charge of Watford, the Spaniard used five different formations. As such, the defensive and essentially stubborn approach that Leeds fans witnessed under Jesse Marsch looks to be a thing of the past, with a more positive manager now leading the Leeds United troops into what is a crucial period of the season.
Gracia is a likeable character
Not everyone necessarily took to Jesse Marsch, the players included. It was clear from the offset that he had to win over a lot of people at Leeds United and, ultimately, he failed to do so. Gracia has to do the same, of course, but he has the ingredients to do so. For example, he is a likeable character who always engages with the fans and the press in the right manner. Watford fans loved him. Gracia’s unassuming nature will surely endear him to the Leeds United faithful, too.