MOT View: Sheff Weds key player absense could mean Leeds 28y/o will have field day on Sat
Leeds United welcome Yorkshire rivals Sheffield Wednesday to Elland Road on Saturday knowing that Garry Monk will be without key striker Steven Fletcher for the game.
Fletcher, 32, has scored 12 goals in 22 Championship appearances this season but the former Wolves striker is set for a 10-week-long spell on the sidelines with a serious knee injury [BBC Sport].
Sheffield Wednesday have seen their form dip in recent weeks when they have been without the Scottish striker from the off, losing their last three games in which he has failed to start.
And now it seems as though Leeds have the perfect chance to pile more misery on their local rivals this weekend when they make their way to Elland Road.
One player who will be licking his lips over Fletcher’s absence is going to be Leeds’ centre-back and captain Liam Cooper.
The 28-year-old has been in good form for the Whites this season but is bound to have a field day this weekend when the Owls rock up in West Yorkshire without their main target man.
Sheffield Wednesday utilise a style of play that makes the most of Fletcher’s aerial prowess.
According to stats by WhoScored, Fletcher has averaged 6.4 aerial duels won per match in the Championship this season, which ranks him fourth out of the second tier’s strikers.
He has a success rate of winning 50 per cent of the aerial duels he has been involved with and the Owls’ tactic of playing long balls up to the Scotsman is bound to be scuppered by his absence this weekend.
Cooper, on the other hand, is Leeds’ leading man when it comes to dealing with aerial threats.
He’s won 4.4 per game this season in the league [WhoScored], winning around 58 per cent of the aerial duels he has taken part in.
Atdhe Nuhiu is more than likely going to be the man who Monk relies on to replace Fletcher’s aerial presence in the attack but the Kosovan international has been nowhere near as successful when the ball has been off the deck than his crocked team-mate.
Nuhiu – who has only scored twice in 22 Championship appearances this term – has won, on average, 4.9 aerial duels per game. Slightly more than Cooper, admittedly, but definitely fewer than Fletcher.
WhoScored shows that Sheffield Wednesday have attempted 1,884 long-range passes this season but have only completed 40 per cent of them.
Leeds have attempted 1,651 but have a 47 per cent success rate with theirs.
Monk’s side has a clear way of playing but they are really going to struggle without their target man Fletcher up front on Saturday – and for the nine weeks that follow.
Leeds’ defence has leaked goals lately despite looking so formidable before the festive period.
Maybe this weekend we will finally see Kiko Casilla, Cooper and Ben White shutting out opponents and keeping a clean sheet for the first time since December 10.
In other Leeds United news, Phil Hay says Leeds are on the verge of sealing a new arrival.