On Saturday afternoon, Leeds United and Wolverhampton Wanderers will play their first Premier League match of the 2022/23 season at Elland Road. After having survived relegation in 2021/22, the host team is expecting a significantly better season, while Wolves are under stress to recover from a string of disappointing displays in the final weeks.
Since taking over from Marcelo Bielsa as Leeds’ manager, Jesse Marsch has caused controversy, especially when his team was in danger of dropping four straight games in the final stretch. Pascal Struijk’s last-second equaliser at Brighton & Hove Albion and the ensuing 2-1 victory at Brentford gave Marsch’s brief stint a favourable twist, allowing the Yorkshire heavyweights to make significant changes over the summer.
The loss of players like Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips is undoubtedly felt by many as a setback, but Marsch has been able to assemble a club with the money raised from their sales instead of becoming overly dependent on a small number of great players.
The fresh arrivals at Elland Road have a lot to prove, but Marsch would want them to do just that. Marsch wanted to bring in players who were prepared to raise the club’s profile in what will be a more competitive season as soon as Phillips and Raphinha were eager for new challenges.
Leeds can be pleased with their preseason as well; they have won three of their past five games after defeating Cagliari 6-2 only last weekend.
After losing all seven of their remaining fixtures in 2021–22, Wolves approach the upcoming season in need of regaining some impetus. Bruno Lage’s men finished in 10th place, which was a fairly unsatisfactory result since they had previously been in the Champions League race. They also missed out on playing in the Europa Conference League.
A knee injury to Raul Jimenez has prevented Wolves from fielding a full offensive in the first few games of the season, despite Lage’s decision to move to a back four with the addition of Nathan Collins during the preseason. The situation is far from being desirable, and Lage is forced to rely on Morgan Gibbs-White to inject some new energy into their efforts in the final third because numerous matchups that they would regard to be advantageous come within that span.
Their preseason can be characterised as dramatic, to say the least, with a victory over Besiktas and a draw at Sporting Lisbon complementing a loss to Levante in “The Battle Of Benidorm.”
When & Where?
Venue: Elland Road.
Date: Saturday, 6th August 2022.
Time: 15:00 BST.
Referee: Robert Jones.
Assistant Referees: Lee Betts, Ian Hussin.
Fourth Official: Michael Oliver.
VAR Official: Jarred Gillett.
Marsch should pick the same Leeds lineup that played against Cagliari last Saturday, pending any fitness concerns.
Liam Cooper, Junior Firpo, Luke Ayling, and Luis Sinisterra are all anticipated to return to action before the end of the month, but they will all be out this weekend due to injury, while Daniel James completes the third and final game of a three-match suspension.
Given that Wolves secured a draw at Sporting Lisbon on Saturday, Lage is expected to adopt the same strategy when selecting his team’s starting lineup.
One change might favour Hwang Hee-chan over Daniel Podence in the centre of the offence after the latter demonstrated his fitness throughout last weekend’s doubleheader.
Nelson Semedo won’t likely be back until later this month, while Adama Traore’s status is still up in the air; at best, he’ll be listed on the replacements’ bench.
Leeds’ objective last season was survival. This led to a lot of negative and reserved football as they focused on damage limitation rather than inflicting damage themselves.
However, this is not the story for this season. They might have kept their 4-2-3-1 setup but a much more aggressive system is deployed. The Yorkshire outfit has aggressively started counter-pressing (sort of like a gegenpressing system) and depends upon long-range quality passes rather than short-pass buildup. The 3 behind Bamford tuck inside in order to help out while the fullbacks help maintain the width in the attack. The deepest midfielder (which is usually Marc Roca) drops deep between two defenders in order to build from the back.
This system however is very much dependent upon the quality and the positional ability of Leeds’ players. They do lack major quality in certain areas namely left-back and central midfield, which could lead to issues in the early few games as players adjust to a new system.
Meanwhile, Wolves, on the other hand, have tried to change their 3-5-2/3-4-3 to a back four (typically a 4-3-3). That being said, they could create a fluid system which involves both a 3-4-3 along with the base being a 4-3-3.
However, they are still facing similar issues that they faced last season. Their defence might be one of the most reliable in Europe, but they do face problems when it comes to goalscoring. Furthermore, they will be without their best goalscorer, Raul Jimenez, for at least a month. They will need to rely upon Pedro Neto and Daniel Podence to pick up goals in order to get through the month.
But, Leeds will certainly face some issues with them being without a proper left-back and Wolves can particularly exploit those areas. With such a fluid system, Marsch and his men are taking a huge risk and Wolves can take advantage of the spaces left behind.
Jack Harrison – Leeds United
Since Leeds United were elevated to the Premier League in 2020/21, Jack Harrison has enjoyed two strong seasons. In his first season, he notched eight goals and ten assists. The next year, he notched eight goals and one assist with xG of 4.94 and xA of 4.01.
He is guaranteed to start for the club, being one of their most reliable starters, and will play an even bigger role now that Raphinha has left. He is capable of playing on both flanks and occasionally takes corners. Since Jesse Marsch has publicly stated that he wants Harrison to take more shots rather than only crosses, one would assume that Harrison will be given the green light to roam.
Jack Harrison should easily reach double-digit returns for goal contributions and has a major chance to do so for just goals as well.
Pedro Neto – Wolves
After recovering from a severe knee injury in February of last year, the Portuguese has made five starts. He eventually still scored a goal and provided an assist. In the 2020–21 season, Neto made 30 starts and recorded 30 points—five goals and eight assists—for xG and xA of 6.11 and 6.99, respectively.
At the end of the season, he led his teammates in goals, assists, xG, and xA. If he can get back to his previous form, he will unquestionably be the Wolves’ best offensive option.
Wolves need to concentrate on strengthening their play in the final third, though, as they aren’t the best in terms of advanced movement. Despite Wolves only having 38 goals and an xG of 44.23 at the end of the previous season, Neto can still pose a threat.
Leeds United (4-2-3-1) – Meslier; Struijk, Koch, Llorente, Kristensen; Roca, Adams; Aaronson, Rodrigo, Harrison; Bamford.
Wolves (4-3-3) – Sa; Jonny, Collins, Kilman, Ait-Nouri; Neves, Moutinho, Dendoncker; Gibbs-White, Podence, Neto.