The attention of most English Premier League fans is fixated on the top of the table where Arsenal and Manchester City are in a two-horse race to become the 2022-23 champions of England. Although the Premier League title race is exciting, the battle to avoid relegation is arguably more so because dropping into the second tier of English football comes with significant pitfalls.

Each season, the bottom three teams in the Premier League table are relegated to the Championship, and three teams from the Championship replace them. The financial implications of relegation are massive thanks to prize money, sponsorship deals, and the cast sums Premier League teams earn from television deals. It is no wonder Premier League teams do everything they can to stay in the top division.

Dreadful Form Leaves Leeds Second From Bottom

Leeds United is a Premier League team in a relegation battle. Leeds was challenging for Premier League honors and playing in the UEFA Champions League in the early 2000s, but gross money mismanagement saw them relegated at the end of the 2003-04 season. It took them 16 seasons to return to the big time. After finishing a respectable ninth during their first season back in the Premier League, Leeds avoided relegation on the final day of the 2021-22 campaign. Leeds is one of the three favorites for the dreaded drop this season, according to the best betting sites online.

The Yorkshire-based team started the season in fine form, winning two and drawing one of their opening three fixtures. A run of eight games without a win, which included six defeats, was halted by a shock 2-1 victory away at Liverpool and an epic 4-3 win over fellow strugglers Bournemouth, a game in which Leeds trailed 1-3 at one stage. That victory over Bournemouth was on November 5, when Leeds last triumphed in a Premier League fixture.

Leeds go into the weekend’s fixture against bottom side Southampton having not won for ten consecutive games. They are leaking goals, are not scoring at the other end of the pitch, and the team looks like a shambles. A lack of results and with the club looking certain to finish in the bottom three resulted in the club relieving Jesse Marsch of his duties as head coach. Leeds played with an interim manager for their last three games, but this week, Spain’s Javi Gracia was installed at the helm.

Gracia competed in more than 430 games as a professional footballer before becoming a coach in 2004. The Spaniard managed then-Premier League outfit Watford between January 2018 and September 2019, guiding them to Premier League safety and the club’s first FA Cup final in 35 years. A poor start to the following season saw the trigger-happy Watford owner sack Gracia, although the Watford fans are full of praise for him to this day.

A Monumental Task For Gracia

Gracia inherits a team void of confidence, one that is struggling to find its identity. Under the coaching of the legendary Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds was one of the best-attacking teams in the division. Their passing was slick, their pressing relentless, and they were always in with a chance of causing an upset. Marsh ripped up that playbook, preferring a narrow style that has not worked for any top-flight team in any of Europe’s top leagues.

Although Gracia has a monumental task ahead of him, not least because he probably needs 16 points from the remaining 15 games to stay in the Premier League when Leeds have managed to accumulate only 19 points from 23 games so far, there is plenty of talent within the Leeds United squad. Gracia is known for galvanizing his players, which is precisely what is needed at the Elland Road club. The porous Leeds defense is a cause for concern. Still, the roster is packed with talents such as American trio Tyler Adams, Weston McKinnie, and Brendan Aaronson, in addition to fellow midfielders Luis Sinisterra, Crysenscio Summerville, and Jack Harrison in midfield. Leeds also has plenty of attacking options, including fit-again Patrick Bamford, Italian teenage sensation Willy Gnoto, and club record signing Georgino Rutter.

Suppose Gracia can rebuild Leeds’ shattered confidence and plays a formation and style that utilizes the strengths of his personnel. In that case, he may pull off a great escape and keep Leeds United in the Premier League.