MOT Super Fans: Wigan defeat proved changes need to be made to Leeds side
This column is part of a regular series from our panel of Leeds United Super Fans. Each week, our Super Fans will deliver their verdicts on the biggest talking points and news stories around Elland Road and Thorp Arch
This week truly can be summed up by those immortal words we hear so often at Elland road during Marching on Together.
“And we’ve had our ups and downs” has never felt more relevant than during the last week.
The second-half performance against Millwall was Leeds at their free-flowing best. The Bielsa-ball patterns of play we have grown so accustomed to, the neat triangles, the high-intensity murder-ball-like press, and the catalogue of quality chances were all out in full force.
Leeds were unstoppable and it really felt like it could be a major turning point in our season.
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Millwall played Leeds at their own game early doors, targeting the full-backs and boxing Leeds in, forcing them into sloppy uncharacteristic errors.
Some poor defending aided by a simply woeful refereeing performance from Darren England saw Leeds 2-0 down before half time, despite some good passages of play in what was not a terrible first-half performance in the main.
Millwall were clinical despite our large domination over the ball.
Cries of “it’s happening again” and clear, audible boos for the first time under Bielsa. The mood was worse than ever. Elland Road felt like a cauldron of misery. Toxic.
In fairness, they came out flying in the second half. It lifted everyone and as soon as one went in, you felt we could do it. The Leeds animal of the second half has only been seen at full throttle twice during this barren run of two wins in ten. The first half performance against Arsenal, and the second half thriller against Millwall. Leeds hitting a whole different gear than any team can seem to handle.
The team were magnificent throughout, man for man. Solid defensively, creating chances, and, more importantly, taking them.
This level of performance repeated will see Leeds win the league at a canter, but with 16 games to go and no sort of consistent form currently, it’s hard to see how on earth this will possibly come to fruition.
The Wigan game gave Leeds a chance at redemption for a loss that derailed our season at Elland Road last year, and also the rare chance to win back to back home games.
All this on the back of two fantastic recent signings (on paper) in Ian Poveda and Jean-Kevin Augustin and a magnificent win. The mood felt positive at last, the pieces were falling into place. Their best week really since mid-December with another expectant sell out crowd. Unfortunately, the story felt all too familiar didn’t it?
The highs and lows, the ups and downs…
Leeds mustered 28 shots against Millwall scoring three times. Against Wigan they had 19, but failed to score at all. The statistics are staggering, more shots than any other side, more big chances too.
Bamford has had more shots than any other player in the entire division. Harrison somehow missed an open goal and hit the post, Costa was wasteful with shots and crosses.
Leeds could have, and should have, been out of sight by half time. The lack of cutting edge, the lack of killer instinct in front of goal, that clinical finish where all composure seems to desert them. It’s been our Achilles heel all season long.
What is it down to? Are they simply bad players? Or are they feeling the mental pressure again? The weight of the shirt? The weight of expectation and pressure to get this club back up to where it belongs? Whatever it is, Bielsa needs a solution, and fast.
As it is, they lost 1-0 thanks to a truly horrendous Casilla error. Leeds’ corner record reads four goals scored in over 100 corners, and more goals conceded from set-pieces than from open play. Do we do set-piece training? If we could defend set-pieces marginally better, and take chances just slightly more regularly, we’d have the division wrapped up in no time.
Fans were left with that empty feeling of despair back again. It had vanished against Millwall but so quickly it returns to ruin weekends once more.
To add salt to the wound, Wigan have won three of the last 37 away games, two of which have now come at Elland Road. A truly damning, horrendous statistic. Let’s hope this is the last we see of them here for some time.
Leeds go into what looks to be their season-defining fixtures with it all to do to remain in the automatic promotion spots. They play 4th, 5th, and 6th currently in the table in Nottingham Forest, Brentford, and Bristol City.
They are exactly the sort of games to put this right and make a statement. Adding Augustin and Poveda into the mix and making changes may see the revival Leeds need; a refresher to the attacking options.
However, knowing Bielsa and his stubbornness to change, his loyalty to players who play poorly simply because the system is what he trusts, it is unlikely we will see any major changes. Despite the poor form of Bamford and Casilla among others for a while now.
The Argentine has come under his first widespread major bout of criticism from the fanbase, which, in truth, is fair. I trust the man wholeheartedly, but Poveda may have changed the game, or the option of Augustin even for 20 minutes or so would have been helpful to lift the team.
He may lack Bielsa-level fitness at the moment, and the tactical awareness of the team’s style may not be up to scratch yet but his presence would have helped give the players and fans a boost.
The fact Callum Robinson, and Scott Hogan were signed this week and had a hand in goals for their respective teams is a pretty damning indictment. Augustin, in the same situation, could have been involved. Changes need to be made somewhere now, chances need to be taken. Blind loyalty to underperforming players will not get Leeds out of this division. A kick up the backside will.
Adam Elliott is a member of the MOT Super Fans panel and provides his post-match thoughts on Leeds after every game
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