David Prutton: Leeds United facing serious test of hearts and minds

Samu Saiz has hit the ground running for United. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Samu Saiz has hit the ground running for United. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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LEEDS UNITED have got a real tough run of games on their return from the international break.

The games are against teams which, in theory, Leeds will have rivalry with for being in those top positions.

Gjanni Alioski has hit the ground running for United. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

Gjanni Alioski has hit the ground running for United. PIC: Bruce Rollinson

It will be a test not only from a football perspective but also from a mental aspect of facing those bigger teams.

Leeds obviously signed off for the international break with the loss against Brentford who allowed Leeds to come back into the game in the second half.

But Brentford had dominated them, you’ve got to say, and it was a case of them playing really well.

For Leeds, it was a game where they were uncharacteristic in defence let’s say from what we have seen at certain points and for some reason the dip in form seems to have happened across the board with the players.

I don’t think it would be the end of Thomas Christiansen at Leeds if they lose the game but you have got think about the personnel involved and the fact that Thomas came in to replace Garry and because it seems like everything was moving in the right direction.

YEP columnist David Prutton

It’s not one or two that are out of sorts, it’s several and when it’s like that you are looking around for players to get you through it.

But it’s tough as when we talk about strength in depth or being able to mix it up to change it, there isn’t that much strength in depth at Leeds.

Sometimes, in a rut such as this, you can maybe chuck in two or three young lads that maybe haven’t got as much to lose and that are a bit more wide-eyed about the situation so they can snap them out of the form they are in.

But what Leeds have got – which is very good players – they are just struggling for confidence and form as much as anything and this is where we find out about he manager – whether he has got that ability to inspire players.

Pierre-Michel Lasogga has yet to find his feet for United.

Pierre-Michel Lasogga has yet to find his feet for United.

In the early season, Leeds looked organised, composed and assured and they just seem to be going away from that somewhat.

It’s seven league losses out of nine and that has got to be addressed as once you start getting into double figures, that’s when question marks are really raised.

If you look at a reference point, you can look at Bristol City last season as around December/January time they lost eight on the bounce. But they stuck by Lee Johnson and look where they are now. They are flying and they are fourth in the division.

Obviously they had somebody like Tammy Abraham scoring all of the goals but there are arguments to stick through the not-so-good times because it gives you perspective for when things are going slightly better.

But as we know, football is immediate, football is about right now and keeping a manager requires patience.

Leeds obviously return to action against Garry Monk’s Middlesbrough at Elland Road on Sunday and I could see Leeds beating them.

I can see them raising it because of the personnel that are in charge at Boro and that is obviously a good motivating factor.

I could see them beating Boro but I could also see Boro turning them over too. I can see Boro going there fired up with Garry in charge.

If you take the emotion out of it, Garry probably privately wants to get one over a club that we all know he had a lot of affinity with. The reaction he got from the fans when he left probably surprised him a little bit but it’s a fans prerogative to express themselves when they see somebody leaving.

I think Garry thought he was always going to be well-liked but it shows how quickly Leeds fans move on and suddenly they have got a new set of players and a new manager to sing about.

There will be a bit of emotion in it and for Leeds I think it will be a case of proving to themselves that the manager that moved left behind a good team and a good squad and that at this moment in time just need inspiring.

I don’t think it would be the end of Thomas Christiansen at Leeds if they lose the game but you have got think about the personnel involved and the fact that Thomas came in to replace Garry and because it seems like everything was moving in the right direction.

It was almost like Garry had taken them to a certain point and that Thomas was taking them on to another level. Boro are now up in fifth but they have had an indifferent start and perhaps not as much of a consistently strong start to the season as we thought after spending a lot of money.

But I think for Leeds it’s absolutely imperative from a pride point of view and also from a points and stakes in the league point of view that Garry doesn’t beat them and therefore vindicate his decision to leave because of where he saw the club heading. Otherwise you will think he might have been on to something there.

The jury is out on a lot of United’s summer signings.

Gjanni Alioski hit the ground running and Samu Saiz has hit the ground running.

With Pierre-Michel Lasogga, the proof is there in black and white because he has scored goals.

But his impact on the game is really quite astonishing really from a point of view of touches in the box and touches around the pitch. We did the game at Brentford and in the first half he touched the ball something like eight times, less than both goalkeepers and you thought ‘this is ridiculous.’

Whether that’s to do with him as an individual or whether that’s to do with the team and how they are playing, they need players in the game more.

Eddie Gray is right with what he said the other day about strengthening the spine of the team.

As good as we have seen Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira, maybe there is a shout to have a bit more experience there. It’s about being able to guide the rest of the team.

We thought perhaps Pontus Jansson would have been a player like that but he is struggling for form and confidence and when you go through the middle of the team and they are all like that it seems a case of players looking around and looking for someone to dig them out.

The spine from last season has not been replaced though this is also the time when you expect other players to come to the fore. Unfortunately, in the last nine games that hasn’t happened.

Whether the hierarchy at Leeds are prepared to spend the money required is a totally different thing but it feels like January is a long way away.

Between now and then you just hope that they are not cut adrift.

Gjanni Alioski celebrates scoring Leeds United's second goal against Middlesbrough.

Leeds United 2 Middlesbrough 1: Our season’s alive and kicking declares Christiansen