With Leeds United being 11 points clear of the relegation zone after 18 games played, it’s fair to assume they have greater aspirations than survival in their first season back in the Premier League.
The much-celebrated Marcelo Bielsa has brought his entertaining brand of football to the highest level of the English game and succeeded in making Leeds a genuine threat to any side in the division.
Yet Bielsa’s style is not without risk, and as a result Leeds have been on the end of a few hidings, most notably a 6-2 loss at league leaders Manchester United and a 4-1 defeat at Crystal Palace.
They even slipped to a 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Crawley Town earlier this month, which paved the way for a 10-day breather ahead of their next fixture, a visit to Steve Bruce’s struggling Newcastle.
It’s difficult to know which Leeds United will show up when they take to the field, which is one of the reasons they’ve become the neutral’s choice to watch if not bet on.
But with nine defeats compared to seven wins – plus two draws – will Leeds’ inconsistency cost them a place in the top 10 come the end of the season?
Bookmakers currently give them odds of 5/2 for a top 10 finish, with a top six finish – which had been suggested as a possibility in the early stages of the season – now a distant chance at 33/1.
Despite all the pre-season optimism surrounding Leeds, a top 10 finish would represent an excellent outcome for a club who spent 16 years outside the top tier, although some will suggest their summer spending spree should warrant more ambition.
According to Leeds Live, the club had a net spend of £102.9million in the summer transfer window, which might explain why Bielsa is yet to sign any new players in the January window, which runs until February 1.
They’ve been linked with Wigan Athletic youngster Sean McGurk, Fiorentina defensive midfielder Erick Pulgar and Nottingham Forest striker Brennan Johnson, but should Leeds invest in the next seven days or hold out until the summer?
“If they want to compete with the top half of the table then they need to spend some money this month,” former Leeds striker Tore Andre Flo told bookmakers.co.uk.
“There aren’t that many rumours around players coming in but who knows what’s in the pipeline. Virtually every team will consider strengthening and I’m sure Leeds are no different.”
Flo was disappointed not to be watching his old side in FA Cup action at the weekend, a competition he won with Chelsea in 2000, but accepts the league is the priority for Bielsa and has no concerns over Leeds being sucked into a relegation fight if they don’t invest.
“The Crawley defeat was a big blow, although these things happen,” he said.
“In the league they have surprised a lot of teams, but they’re a bit up and down. But they’re definitely good enough to stay in the league and from there they can get stronger in the coming seasons.”
Indeed, few punters will be backing Leeds to go down even at their attractive odds of 22/1. A top 10 finish appears to be the target at this stage and a very achievable one at that.
They’re odds-on to beat Newcastle on Tuesday and an away win would heap further pressure on sack race favourite Steve Bruce.