Daniel Farke's 'big call' flops after Archie Gray's out-of-position woes in Leeds v Norwich
Daniel Farke’s decision to play Archie Gray at right-back again for Leeds proved to be the wrong decision after he was exposed against Norwich City.
Graham Smyth called Farke’s decision here a “big call” in the Yorkshire Evening Post (22 October), but the youngster’s repeat errors could have proved costly if Leeds did not mount an astonishing comeback in the 3-2 win at Carrow Road on Saturday (21 October).
Farke should consider moving Gray back to his preferred position in defensive midfield after he thrived there in the early stages of the season.
Gray has been a standout for Leeds all season. The inexperienced 17-year-old has thrived in his first season of senior football so far and has emerged as one of the Championship’s brightest prospects.
Reports of Premier League interest may not have been on many Leeds fans’ bingo cards this season, but with Alan Nixon reporting (24 September) that Crystal Palace had registered interest, Gray’s impact is being noticed.
However, Farke may be doing the England under-19s star a disservice by opting to play him at right-back. Gray has now started in this position in Leeds’ last two games against the Canaries and Bristol City. While wins were found in these games, they were not the club’s most impressive performances of the season.
Gray leaving the midfield has impacted the side, and against Norwich, the youngster was exposed.
In the first half, his weak defending of Onel Hernandez looked like a foul, but his poor positioning meant Dan James had to cover for him as Dimitrios Giannoulis bore down on goal after the ball was released by Hernandez. Norwich were just inches away from extending their 1-0 after Giannoulis laid the ball off to Gabriel Sara, but better play from Gray could have prevented the opportunity altogether.
Gray was also suspect for the Canaries’ second goal. Hernandez’s neat footwork and dribbling were too much for Gray. The Norwich forward skated past Gray into the box and laid it off to Sara, whose excellent skill inside the box made the entire defence look foolish.
Gray is still a young and developing player and it is understandable that Farke may want to test him in different areas and find new positions for him. However, the right-back spot isn’t the one for him based on his performance against the Canaries.