Leeds were relegated from the Premier League on Sunday after a three-year stay in the top flight.
The result meant Sam Allardyce’s side finished 19th in the table, five points behind 17th-placed Everton. Here, the PA news agency looks at some of the reasons why it went wrong.
Bielsa legacy casts shadow
Leeds chairman Andrea Radrizzani, former director of football Victor Orta and chief executive Angus Kinnear received huge acclaim when the club ended their 16-year Premier League exile in 2020. They played a masterstroke by appointing Marcelo Bielsa as head coach in 2018 but their legacy was always going to be defined by how they filled the vacuum after sacking the Argentinian in February 2022. The board felt they had to act after a poor run of results but, since then, they have got most of their key decisions wrong and the wheels have now fallen off.
What exactly did the board get wrong?
Bielsa’s successor Jesse Marsch was hailed as a natural replacement but performances and results did not improve. Leeds survived relegation last season on the final day and when Marsch was sacked in February this year, he left the club in a worse position in the table. The board’s failed, ill-conceived bids to hire Rayo Vallecano’s Andoni Iraola and Feyenoord’s Arne Slot led to accusations of panic and, after a fans’ backlash, they also reneged on appointing former Ajax boss Alfred Schreuder. So in came Javi Gracia for his ill-fated stint. The club admitted they had erred by parachuting Allardyce into Elland Road with four league games remaining.
Can relegation be blamed solely on the managers?
No. After Leeds defied the odds to finish ninth under Bielsa in their first season back in the top flight, they have failed to sufficiently strengthen their squad. A lack of cover for an injury-prone Patrick Bamford and midfielder Tyler Adams is a prime example. It has also been an imbalanced squad with wide players in abundance but no depth in other key areas. Some signings since promotion, such as Raphinha, Adams, Luis Sinisterra and Willy Gnonto, have been a success, but too many others have failed to make an impact, while the arrival of club-record signing Georginio Rutter has left fans scratching their heads.
Has the ownership issue muddied the waters?
The last-ditch appointment of Allardyce was symptomatic of Leeds’ mis-management and of a club in limbo since the investment arm of San Francisco 49ers increased its stake to 44 per cent at the end of 2021. 49ers Enterprises has an option to own 100 percent by January next year and the ownership issue has not helped decision-making. Orta’s resignation in protest over Gracia’s sacking has left Leeds without a director of football and, if Allardyce departs as expected, they will be without a long-term head coach. How relegation will affect the takeover remains to be seen, while Radrizzani has been linked with a move to buy Sampdoria. The club’s future direction is not clear.