Another midweek game, another thumping. To say Leeds were outclassed last night would be a severe understatement. It’s difficult to stomach, and equally difficult not to demand something be done, be it a change of expectations, a change of personnel or a change of manager. Either way, something MUST change.
My first suggestion is a strange one, but I have to question the attitude of the coaching staff, the players and ultimately the manager with regards to half time. Whilst the majority of the crowd may have been occupied by another dreadful attempt to win £50 by a member of The Revie Stand, I noticed that the Cardiff substitutes were put through a rigorous training session of running and passing with a coach keeping an eye on proceedings. Meanwhile, the Leeds substitutes were in groups of two kicking a ball about, talking and generally just passing the time before they returned to the dugout. A coach was nowhere to be seen. I realise that this is a minor issue and probably has little bearing on our current form but it looked like a Sunday League team against an established, professional outfit. We may not be at our most grandest at the moment but that doesn’t mean we have to abandon all sense of professionalism.
My next suggestion is an obvious one; The players. I could write all day about the shortcomings of our squad but my opinion, although deemed worthy enough to be read by a few hundred people browsing the internet, in the grand scheme of things is going to change very little, so I will get right to the point – More than half the squad are just not good enough. A point highlighted last night when the crowd reacted angrily and ferociously to a few heavy tackles just before half time, the ball fell to Bradley Johnson, who’s response to the heightened atmosphere was to loft the ball to the far corner flag and out for a goal kick, no team-mate was within 30 yards of his pass… I say ‘pass’ in the broadest sense of the word, in actual fact it was a desperate attempt to get rid of the ball for fear of incurring the wrath of the crowd – a trait that has no place at this level. Similarly, when Schmeichel was looking to release the ball early ALL ten outfield players had their back to him, seemingly praying that he wouldn’t choose to pass to them.
He was far from alone though, Robert Snodgrass is rapidly earning the accolade of ‘Most overrated player of a generation’ and the entire back four have struggled all season, regardless of which quartet is chosen. Rule number one of defending is ‘never let the ball bounce’, if you do, disasters similar to that of the opening goal last night happen. It’s easy to blame Schmeichel but he clearly shouted for the ball, only to be dispossessed by Bruce getting in the way… Amateurish.
One passage of play last night underlined the difference in quality between ourselves and Cardiff; Jay Bothroyd picked up a long ball played into the right-hand channel from a central defender, he had barely moved 10 yards across the penalty area, yet the ball was at his feet and he had turned to attack the goal. The pass was weighted just over Neil Collins and between the central defender and full back – A simple pass, yet so effective. We managed to quell that attack and within 30 seconds had punted the ball at Davide Somma’s neck, in the hope of something similar whilst surrounded by 3 Cardiff defenders…
This brings me on nicely to The Manager, I like Simon Grayson and the job he has done at Elland Road is undoubtedly a good one, but should one of the seemingly never ending line of people I know who love poking fun at Leeds United defeats ask me how Leeds set out last night, or indeed against Leicester, I couldn’t answer them. I couldn’t tell them what our game plan was, or what we attempted to do to stifle the unquestionable talent of Craig Bellamy. We appear to just take to the pitch and play off the cuff, whatever happens, happens and we’ll deal with it afterwards…
I hate questioning the manager because it’s his right to test his skills at this level having finally dragged us out of League One but I have to question a few things;
His Signings; For every Kasper Schmeichel and Paddy Kisnorbo there have been several Frede Bessone, Jason Crowe, Gary McShefferey and apparently Ross McCormack – disappeared without trace.
His Tactics; or lack thereof. As I mentioned, what has our game plan been these last few weeks? Now that we don’t have the quick striker we seem to be devoid of ideas. I thought Grayson had solved that with the acquisition of countless wingers, yet last night we had a left footer on the right and a central midfielder on the left… I don’t know either.
Another thing I noticed last night (yes I was paying close attention) was, from one of our corners a Cardiff player found himself with the ball, facing his own goal roughly around the penalty spot, a precarious position to be in for any player. Yet, without looking he hooked the ball out to the right back position where his right winger collected the ball and proceeded up the pitch. This might be a happy coincidence but I doubt it, it’s obviously a premeditated tactic when clearing in such a situation – he knew his player was there. Can you imagine the current Leeds team having such a plan?? no, thought not. That is ultimately down to the manager.
His Selection Policy: Another defeat last night and the expected departure of George McCartney will mean another list of changes for Saturday. Injuries have been cruel this season but towards the end of McAllister’s reign I remember players complaining that one mistake meant a month on the bench, de ja vu?
Finally the fans, no not change the fans, and not another plea for some realistic expectation. Most fans seem to realise that anything above 15th is a decent season. I’d like to take issue with something that is a problem for our game on a National level, probably why our National team look as likely to win anything as Newcastle; Let me explain:
Last night Jonny Howson picked up the ball in central midfield and after noticing he had a little bit of space proceeded directly at the centre of the Cardiff defence, still going towards the edge of the area he was greeted unanimously with shouts from the crowd of “GET RID OF IT, GET RID OF IT…” Can you imagine that attitude in a football stadium anywhere else in the world?? Spain haven’t nurtured Iniesta, Xavi, Ramos etc on such mercurial teachings and nor was Lionel Messi ever taught to “GET RID OF IT..”
There will be those that point to our decent start and our acceptable league position but all promoted teams set off well with the momentum that promotion brings but after four defeats in five (three at home) we’re in a battle for survival.
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