Christmas 2021 in Leeds has been made all the more enjoyable by the lack of football over the festive season. Naturally, this normally wouldn’t be the case in most seasons gone by with the sight of a dark Elland Road creaking in the winter solstice winds enough to bring most grown men and women to tears. But this year was slightly different, away from the eerie old stadium, the good folks of Leeds were cosy in their houses, fires roaring, gammons cooking, and most importantly, taking an unprecedented amount of satisfaction at the lack of football.
Indeed, the warm glow that most fans felt over Christmas was down to the fact that a host of Leeds’ games had been cancelled which would, crucially, provide Marcelo Bielsa’s depleted side with a much-needed chance to recharge. Come to think of it, it’s an unforgivable understatement to call this current Leeds squad depleted when you take into account that as many as nine first-team players are out with injury. Simply put, the break could not have come at a better time given that the latest football odds price Leeds at just 5/2 to be relegated.
Premier League players are at breaking point as frustration over the congested fixture list boils over.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) December 23, 2021
Needless to say, those odds began to drop steeply after the Whites suffered a 7-0 defeat at the Etihad Stadium in mid-December and then perhaps more concerningly, a 4-1 loss at Elland Road to a somewhat ordinary Arsenal side that were made to look like world-beaters.
You could safely say following the conclusion of that game that the Leeds spark had well and truly gone and there was a feeling that even with the players they had available, Bielsa’s men were seemed out of ideas. However, despite the obvious frustration at being outfoxed by a rather gormless Mikel Arteta on the sideline a week before Christmas, the Elland Road crowd stuck with the team and sang the name of their Argentine manager as Andre Marriner blew for full-time. It was a defiant stand and the clearest answer you would get to whether they wanted Bielsa to leave or not, but secretly, everyone who left the ground that night was praying for some divine intervention. Ask and you shall receive.
We will not return to Elland Road until the new year. By then we will be prepared to get back to winning ways. Everyone look after your health, it is the most important thing. Then we can start the new year well. Marching on together. 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/BKO8Jhp5P9
— Robin Koch (@RobinKoch25) December 27, 2021
It now looks like the earliest Leeds will be in action again is in the new year, which will mean that the side would have been handed a two-week break out of the blue. It should be said that it’s hard to measure how beneficial this break is going to be in terms of Leeds’ bid for Premier League survival, but it does feel like something unexpected needed to happen in order to stop the team’s run of bad luck. Now that it has, it can only be seen as a positive.
Looking back, this stoppage is reminiscent of Liam Cooper’s prodded goal against Brentford during Leeds’ promotion season in 2020, when everything seemed to be going wrong for the Whites. Even if Leeds could only draw at Griffin Park, Cooper’s rather desperate toe-poke acted as a momentum changer and Leeds wouldn’t lose another game for months, eventually securing promotion in July 2020.
Football is a lot like life in the sense that you need a healthy dose of timing and luck in your quest to achieve what you set out to do. Leeds United have unexpectedly been given both as they fight to stay up which could prove to be the difference come the late spring.