MOT Super Fans: Leeds turn corner after standout performance from 24y/o at Griffin Park
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
One point from two crunch games makes for ugly reading but it isn’t quite all doom and gloom for Leeds fans.
The performance against Forest was rightfully criticised. The game showed a lack of fight, a lack of bottle, and in some cases the character and mentality needed to get promotion in the players.
A team who set up to frustrate the best teams did exactly that and ran out 2-0 winners.
However, it was the manner of the defeat which left fans furious. I think it is as bad as they have ever played under Bielsa – it’s difficult to think of many performances where they were that sub-par and second best to a well-drilled Nottingham Forest team.
Senior players who were involved last season simply didn’t seem up to it. The mental strength for some players seems to have already broken or is hanging by a thread. They need something to galvanise them, to unpick inside their head what is wrong.
It is widely documented that Bielsa is not a man manager, he is not hands-on, he does not regularly converse with players one to one. The Argentine would rather watch from a distance and leave it to his coaching team to do that side of things.
The pressures that come with this club mean you need leadership at key difficult moments, but as it stands players seem to be playing worse and really going into their shells.
The same mistakes from Casilla with the near post shot for Ameobi’s opener. The same chances being squandered by Bamford. Cooper planting a free header inside the six-yard-box straight at Samba in the Forest goal. Harrison taking far too much time on the ball and gifting them a second.
We are a team that generally have over 70% possession and we are simply not doing enough with it.
Sports psychology is still overlooked and underused in football in my opinion. Right now nothing could be more useful and imperative to these players.
Someone to help them combat the same fears as last season and the weight of pressure from the fanbase, both at games, and on social media. Talking is so important. It could be the difference-maker.
All change v Brentford
Having said that, none of that was on show on Tuesday night. It was a much brighter and more dominant display from Leeds.
The Brentford front three of Benrahma, Watkins, and Mbuemo are always a threat but between them barely mustered a chance. The skillful Algerian wasn’t even made to work for his opener when gifted a goal through Casilla’s ineptitude.
Sky’s graphic before the game showed in the last ten games there have been five individual errors leading to goals. Casilla made that six in eleven. Quite simply, not good enough.
On a more positive note; the impact of Kalvin Phillips cannot be understated, allowing Ben White to play his natural position, and Dallas to slot back into full-back gave the team greater balance and solidity. The 24-year-old was the man-of-the-match and dominated a usually free-flowing Brentford midfield. Spraying passes when in possession and shielding the back four with consummate ease throughout the game.
We have gone behind so often, but, rather ironically, found a way back into this game through an opposition goalkeeping error (makes for a nice change).
Perhaps this is a turning point? A huge valuable point on the road, in London, at Griffin Park where we always seem to struggle. That could be the lift the players needed. We continued to play with confidence in the second half, and with very little threat posed by Brentford too, we looked the more likely to win. If anything, the only other major disappointment outside of Casilla’s mistake was to not take all three points instead.
Not only did this performance help the fans believe in this group of players again, it gave us something to build on. Leeds have one of the easiest runs, on paper, of any of the promotion-chasing sides left in the division.
We play Fulham and Bristol City at home against teams in the top seven currently. And, also, we have eight of the bottom ten to play still, with the majority of those also coming at home. Games which are certainly winnable.
A win against Bristol City will have everyone believing again. With no clean sheet in 12 games in all competitions to speak of, perhaps that is the place to start too. We conceded 10 in our opening 21 games but since then have conceded 20 in the last 11. If we score first and keep it tight that will set us off to a good start on what looks like a more comfortable set of fixtures to navigate wins from.
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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