There’s no getting away from the fact, it was a disappointing night at Elland Road last Friday, but it’s important we don’t lose sight of the good work that has been done so far.
A lot of the Leeds fans I’ve spoken to have been disappointed and I can see why, especially when you play on a Friday night because the result can make or break your weekend. And it has seemed at times this season that it’s been a case of one step forward and one step back. After the two 4-1 defeats, we seemed to get things back together, kept the back door shut, and looked a tighter, stronger unit. Then came Chelsea and West Ham.
It seems like we have a couple of good weeks, but then go back to type. You have to remember it is very much a work in progress. Marcelo Bielsa is still looking for the right formula. There’s a not a lot wrong, but it’s small details that win you games. We had the clean sheets against Arsenal and Everton, and we need to get back to that asap. Teams are working Leeds out, and I’d just like to see Marcelo mix things up a little bit. I’m not saying giving players a rest or anything, but picking a team to get results, and being less rigid in the way we approach and try and attack all the time.
A good example is Luke Ayling playing as a centre-back. He’s done well, but it’s difficult when he’s such an attacking player because naturally he gets sucked into going forward too much. We just have switch on defensively. We have players bombing on, but it’s leaving us exposed. You need one back against two or two against three. I know it’s the modern way to get forward, but you have two go back to basics sometimes and shore things up.
It’s important we think about the good stuff that’s been done, but I think there’s a few lessons to be learned. It feels like we’ve lost momentum a bit now. Don’t get me wrong, West Ham are a decent side. David Moyes has gone a good job there, and they could have scored three or four, but they looked very comfortable, and that’s a bit worrying, especially when we will soon be coming to the point where we start to play teams for a second time in the season when they’ve had a good chance to look at Leeds.
One individual battle which I took a keen interest in was that between Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips. They are both vying for a place in the England team for the Euros, and Rice’s performance at Leeds was outstanding, He showed real quality and led by example from start to finish. Kalvin has done fantastic for Leeds this season and is without as doubt the key man, and I’m sure he will have learnt from the game against West Ham, coming up against Rice in form like that.
It’s also been disappointing that there’s been no fans in yet because that would help. I see the fans at other grounds – even the 2,000 who booed Arsenal off after their latest horror show against Burnley – and there’s no hiding from the fact that we are missing the fans at Elland Road. We’ve won just one of our six games at Elland Road, and I can safely say that with the backing of the Leeds fans, the team would have fared far better on home soil than that, partly because the opposition wouldn’t have fancied it. Whether it’s 30,000 or 2,000, Leeds fans are something else, and you’d be hard pushed to find many opponents who would want to come to Elland Road with any sort of crowd in. All that said, I hate harping on about that because you have to get on with the job until we are told otherwise.
Onwards and upwards. And bring on Newcastle, followed on by that lot from over the pennines.