Football Manager 2020: Leeds United – Tactics, formations, transfer targets & more

Leeds are pushing for promotion. Here’s our ultimate guide to get back to the big time.

George Howson by George Howson
football manager 2020 fm20 leeds team guide

The term “sleeping giant” is thrown around a lot in football but the most prevalent example of that is perhaps Leeds United in Football Manager 2020.

The club hasn’t competed in the Premier League since enduring financial turmoil that almost saw The Whites go out of business in the early 2000s.

That could all be about to change though, as Leeds almost got promoted to the top flight this season and currently sit top of the Championship.

Marcelo Bielsa has been revolutionary at Elland Road since his move to Yorkshire but can you replicate his exploits?

Here’s our comprehensive guide to getting Leeds back into the Premier League in Football Manager 20!

Club vision

Leeds United FM20 Club Vision 1
REALISTIC: Leeds’ goals are what you expect them to be

Leeds’ main goal is to obviously get out of the Championship and play Premier League football for the first time since 2004.

The board want you to win promotion at the first attempt, meaning either a top-two finish or winning the play-offs.

READ MORE: FM20 Real Madrid Guide

The board also want you to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup and the third round of the Carabao Cup but those won’t matter as long as you achieve promotion.

Going further in the future, the board want you to maintain your Premier League status while working towards a top-half finish by the end of the 2023/24 season.

Tactical style & formation

Leeds United FM20 Tactics
MIRRORING REAL-LIFE: Your best formation will be the one Leeds actually use

Leeds’ tactics have been very attacking and positive under Bielsa, something which you can and should continue during your time as manager.

Wing-play plays to your strengths the most, as your side has plenty of pace and talent in wide areas. If you’re struggling to score or playing against one of the bottom Championship clubs, you could use tiki-taka or vertical tiki-taka instead.

READ MORE: FM20 Wolves Team Guide

4-1-4-1 DM wide is your best formation, just like Bielsa’s side. 4-4-2 and 4-2-4 also recommended but if you’re needing to go more defensive, a variation of the 4-2-3-1 would probably be your best bet.

Your starting 11 should be Kiko Casilla in goal, with a back four of Luke Ayling, Ben White, Liam Cooper and Barry Douglas. Your central midfield trio are best being Kalvin Phillips (DM), Kateusz Klich and Adam Forshaw.

READ MORE: Wonderkid Eduardo Camavinga is a must-buy in FM20

Your two wingers should be the evergreen Pablo Hernandez and Helder Costa, who will provide service to your lone striker Patrick Bamford.

Your seven best subs are Illan Meslier (GK), Ezgjan Alioski, Jean-Kevin Augustin, Jack Harrison, Stuart Dallas, Tyler Roberts and Mateusz Bogusz.

Best players

Leeds have a team full of top quality Championship players and some that are already ready to be playing regularly in the Premier League.

Here’s the top five currently on their books in terms of current ability (CA).

PlayerPosAgeCA/PABest Stats
Kalvin PhilipsDM, M (C)23140/14917 natural fitness, 16 aggression, 16 work rate
Pablo HernandezAM (RLC)34137/15617 anticipation, 17 technique, 17 vision
Kiko CasillaGK32135/16018 rushing out, 16 reflexes, 16 bravery
Helder CostaAM (RL)25133/14516 acceleration, 16 dribbling, 16 flair
Ben WhiteD (C)21131/14815 composure, 15 stamina, 14 marking

The talent is well spread around the pitch, with goalkeeper, defence and midfield all being represented here. The main issue with Leeds’ squad though is how much it’s depending on loan signings.

In the list above, Costa, Casilla and White are all loan signings, meaning they aren’t signed to permanent deals at the start of your save.

Young talent

Leeds don’t have a great recent history when it comes to their youth players but they have produced Premier League talent. Sam Byram, Jonny Howson, and Scott Carson all once called Elland Road home.

Leeds have usually opted to buy their talent from lower league sides and nurture them into first-team players before selling for a profit. This should be part of your philosophy as manager but keeping your young talent should be a higher priority.

There are some really promising young players on Leeds’ books right now as well, so don’t sell them on until you have to. Here’s their top three according to their potential ability (PA):

Nohan Kenneh – CA 2 star (89), PA 4.5 star (140-170)

Nohan Kenneh FM20 Attributes
POTENTIAL SUPERSTAR: Kenneh could be a star in the Premier League

Nohan Kenneh is only a 16-year-old but his up to 170 PA value makes him top of this list. Kenneh is a ways off making a first-team appearance but giving him a chance at a National League side during your first season would be a good idea.

READ MORE: FM20: Arsenal team guide

The defensive midfielder could become an English international in the future if he reaches the top of his potential bracket. Despite his young age, his physical attributes are impressive, all being 11 or higher already which is vitel for his position.

Jamie Shackleton – CA 2.5 star (119), PA 4 star (130-160)

Jamie Shackleton FM20 Attributes
ONE OF OUR OWN: Shackleton could become a hometown hero for United

After making his first-team debut in the 2018-19 season, Jamie Shackleton has already proved he has a bright future with The Whites. The English central midifleder has a PA up to 160 and is already not far off the CA values of the starting players.

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If you get promoted to the Premier League, Shackleton could benefit from a loan to a Championship club or you can keep him at the club to help with your home-grown numbers.

Alfie McCalmont – CA 2.5 star (111), PA 4 star (130-160)

Alfie McCalmont FM20 Attributes
NORTHERN IRISH INTERNATIONAL: McCalmont is already a full international

Another player that’s been at Leeds their entire life is Alfie McCalmont. McCalmont could be lining up in central midfield alongside Shackleton before too long. The Northern Irishman hasn’t yet made his debut for the first-team so it could be worth loaning him out during your first season.

READ MORE: FM20: All the best contract expiry signings

The 19-year-old has already made his debut for the Northern Irish national team and it’s little wonder why as he has an excellent footballing brain.

Transfer targets

Leeds United FM20 Financial Projections
ON A KNIFE EDGE: Leeds’ financial situation isn’t healthy when you join

Starting transfer budget: £1.2 million

Remaining wage budget: £22,000 a week

Put simply, Leeds need to get promoted at the first time of asking, or they will fall foul of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. If you remain in the second tier, the bank will require an injection of £60m after three seasons to break even. Their current model isn’t sustainable.

Premier League TV money will change all of this, as turnover will rise by around £80m per season, which will make the club profitable, even with a healthy transfer budget.

READ MORE: All the best left midfielders (ML & AML) to sign in FM20

Leeds’ biggest omission from their squad is that of a natural defensive midfielder (DM). Kalvin Phillips is excellent but he’d be better used in central midfield with a natural DM in his place. Your transfer budget isn’t big enough to buy a new DM but you could loan one who has a weekly cost of up to £40k.

Josh McEachran FM20 attributes
SOLID OPTION: Josh McEachran wouldn’t break the bank and provide what you need

With wages of just £8k to cover, Josh McEachran is a very affordable option for your DM addition. The Englishman could also be bought for around £5m once your loan deal expires, so it’s worth adding that clause into his contract.

In truth, you probably shouldn’t buy him in the Summer of 2020, as he isn’t good enough for the Premier League and you’ll have to funds to purchase someone with more talent. Beware about putting him in the side for the Championship as well, as you’re only allowed five in the starting XI and subs.

Alternative options

If McEachran doesn’t tickle your fancy, consider these other DM players instead:

Name Age Club Country CA/PA Value Wage
Marvelous Nakamba 25 Aston Villa Zimbabwe 127/135 £12m £25k
Jack Colback 29 Newcastle England 122/130 £3.1m £35k
Ismaila Soro 21 Celtic Ivory Coast 118/145 £2m £10k

Future transfers

Helder Costa is set to join from Wolves for £15m in the summer of 2020 but you shouldn’t stop there as there are a lot of areas to improve.

Ben White would be a solid addition to the defence if you can get him permanently, although he will cost around £20m to buy. You could consider options like to fill his place. For around that price, you can purchase Juan Foyth, Issa Diop or Alessandro Bastoni.

READ MORE: The best wonderkid midfielders in Football Manager 2020

You’ll need a top-quality striker as well, Bamford isn’t good enough to be your number one forward in the Premier League. Assuming you’ll have a budget of around £25m for your striker, Odsonne Edouard, Neal Maupay and Moise Kean are all options you should look into.

Contracts

Leeds United FM20 Contracts
GOOD BUT WORK TO DO: There’s plenty to do for securing players in the coming seasons

Leeds have a grand total of five first-team players on loan at the club during your first season in change. White, Meslier, Harrison, Augustine and Costa although Costa will join permanently in the summer.

Berardi and Hernandez also have their deals up in June 2020. Berardi can leave on a free, he’s average in your team in the Championship and won’t be good enough for the top flight. Hernandez is one of the highest-rated players at the club and despite being 35 at the end of the season, he should be offered another year.

READ MORE: Best young goalkeepers (GK) to sign in Football Manager 2020

Going further forward, Ayling, O’Kane, McCalmont, Shackleton, Bouy, Douglas, Bogusz and Alioski and have deals that expire at the end of your second season. You can choose to keep or sell these players depending on how they perform in your first season and if they’re good enough for the top tier.

If we had to give a call now though, O’Kane and Bouy should be leaving Yorkshire.

Thankfully, Phillips, Casilla, Cooper, and Forshaw are all tied to long-term contracts when you join the club.

Return to Europe

Leeds’ short-term aim is to get back to the Premier League but they aren’t going to stop there. The West Yorkshire club will want to return to the heights which they reached in the ’90s and early 2000s.

Breaking into the top six is very difficult thanks to the financial might of these clubs. However, as Leicester and Wolves have shown, this is possible and there’s no reason why the Whites can’t join this group.

The board want Elland Road to be expanded, which will mean a capacity of almost 50,000. Being a one city club, the Leeds faithful will sell-out their stadium most weeks, as they have been doing in the Championship.

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The size of the club makes them a force to be reckoned with and they have decent financial backing too. It won’t be easy but there’s no reason why Leeds can’t make an appearance in the Europa League within your first five years at the helm.

You’ll have to buy smart and invest in youth but qualifying for continental football could be on the horizon. Don’t forget either, the Carabao Cup and FA Cup also offer a spot each for the Europa League.

Full Leeds United Player Ratings

PlayerAgePosRoleDutyRole AbilityCA/PA
Starting Lineup
Kiko Casilla32GKSKSupport3.5 star135/160
Luke Ayling27D/WB (R)WBDefend3 star127/134
Ben White21D (C)BPDSupport3.5 star131/148
Liam Cooper27D (C)CDDefend3 star128/129
Barry Douglas29D/WB (L)FBDefend3 star121/129
Kalvin Philips23DM, M (C)BBMSupport3.5 star140/149
Mateusz Klich29M/AM (C)DLPSupport3.5 star129/131
Adam Forshaw27DM, M (C)DLPDefend3 star122/129
Pablo Hernandez34AM (RLC)APSupport4 star137/156
Helder Costa25AM (RL)WBAttack3.5 star133/145
Patrick Bamford25AM (RC), STDLFSupport3 star125/140
Substitutes & Reserves
Illan Meslier19GKGDefend2.5 star117/120-150
Ezgjan Alioski27D/WB (L), M/AM (RL)WBSupport3 star126/139
Jean-Kevin Augustin22STAFAttack3 star127/145
Jack Harrison22M (R), AM (RL)WBSupport3 star124/141
Stuart Dallas28D (R), M/AM (RL)DWSupport3 star128/129
Tyler Roberts20AM (RLC), STAFAttack3 star120/138
Mateusz Bogusz17M/AM (C)MEZSupport2.5 star109/130-160
Gaetano Berardi30D (RLC)NFBDefend3 star123/126
Robbie Gotts19D/M (R)WSupport2 star108/110-140
Alfie McCalmont19DM, M (C)DLPSupport2.5 star111/130-160
Jamie Shackleton19M (C)APAttack2.5 star119/130-160
Ouasim Bouy26D (C), DM, M (C)DLPSupport2 star93/109

George Howson

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