There are two things you need in life to succeed as a Leeds fan: patience and optimism. There were two things Leeds needed last season to succeed as a team: goals from anyone other than McCormack; more importantly they needed to stop them going in at the other end.
Last Season (2013/14), Leeds United’s defence was, at times, simply not quite up to the job. Over the course of the season, Leeds were beaten 21 times with 8 teams scoring 3+ goals against them: including heavy defeats to Sheffield Wednesday (6-0) and to Bolton Wanderers (1-5). They only managed to keep 10 clean sheets and never for more than 2 games. Goal difference was -8 overall (-12 away) and Leeds allowed their opponent on average 13 shots per 90 minute average (14 shots per 90 minutes average). There was a marked inability to have a settled defence at Leeds United last year; only 3 players making 25+ appearances over the course of the 2013/14 season: Warnock (27 appearances), Lees (40 appearances) and Pearce (45 appearances).
Enter a new owner and a new regime; in the off-season things seem to have become more stable and transfers are being signed. Thus far, Leeds have signed 10 players and are in the market, apparently, for more. The signings so far are: Stuart Taylor (Free Agent), Marco Silvestri (Cagliari), Tommasso Bianchi (Sassuolo), Souleymane Doukara (Catania), Gaetano Berardi (Sampdoria), Jan Benedicic (AC Milan), Nicky Ajose (Peterborough), Liam Cooper (Chesterfield) and Billy Sharp (Southampton). However, it is the 10th signing that Leeds have made that is stirring much excitement amongst the Elland Road faithful; that of Giuseppe Bellusci (Catania) who has 99 appearances in Serie A over the past 5 seasons.
Bellusci, nicknamed ‘The Warrior’; probably looks the most consistent of the defensive signings linked with Leeds thus far. Throughout his 5 years in Serie A he amassed 7476 minutes (equivalent to 83 games) worth of playing time with the bulk of these coming between 2011 where he played 2706 minutes (30 games), 2081 minutes (23 games) and finally 1553 minutes (17 games). Looking at his passing and distribution he is a consistent player 2011-2014: averaging 37 passes (2011/12), 31 passes (2012/13) and 32 passes (2013/14) on a per 90 minute basis.
What makes him consistent is that his accuracy of passing over these three seasons is around 78-80%. His long ball accuracy (LBA) and final third accuracy (FTA) over the last 3 seasons is between 42-52% (LBA 52%, 52% and 42%; FTA 43%, 50%, 46%). Defensively, Bellusci looks strong and consistent: last 5 seasons of playing time only one error leading to a goal (2011/12) and only 6 errors over 5 seasons leading to shots on goal (4 of those coming in 2012/13). He was also strong in the air during 2013/14 season, winning over 66% of his aerial duels.
In the game against Watford, he performed solidly enough and can claim that Leeds were drawing when he left. Bellusci completed 28 passes against Watford with 25 general passes with 15 of these being ‘forward’ (avg length 25m) and 10 being ‘backwards’ (avg length 21m); Bellusci’s other 3 forward passes were ‘long balls’ (avg length 41m). Defensively, he made 1 successful tackle and was unsuccessful in the tackle 1 time also which gives Bellusci a starting ‘tackle ratio’ of 0.50. Bellusci also broke play up successfully 8 times with 2 blocks and 6 clearances.
With the other, confirmed signings of Silvestri (GK), Berardi (RB) and Cooper (DC) it does seem that Leeds are going some way to addressing some of the defensive frailties that led to 21 losses and 67 goals conceded during the 2013’14 season.
Could Giuseppe Bellusci be one more tumbler in the Leeds United defensive lock?
I’d say that yes, he has the passion and showed some good touches in his debut, the game against Watford, on Saturday 20th August 2014. However, getting sent off on his debut probably wasn’t uppermost in his thoughts when he donned the famous white of Leeds down at Vicarage Road. However, much must be thought of him as Leeds moved to turn the initial ‘loan to buy’ into a straight purchase for a reputed sum of £1.6 million.