THE Leeds United seasonal rollercoaster has already provided ups and downs with the new campaign barely a week old. Plus ca change, eh.
After the sheer relief of Wednesday night, when the Whites avoided a spot of indigestion on the Fylde coast by way of an EFL Cup opening-round penalty shoot-out victory at Fleetwood, there’s a short turnaround before Birmingham City arrive for the 2016-17 seasonal opener at Elland Road.
Here’s five things to expect ahead of Garry Monk’s first competitive game in charge at home.
1) Two up front anyone?
It is fair to say that the introduction of Marcus Antonsson certainly worked on Wednesday. The Swede may still only be on the opening page of the first chapter of his Leeds United story, but he looks to have something about him, whisper it gently.
His late equaliser at Fleetwood was instinctive and deadly and smacked of predatory nous and instantly endeared himself to the Whites faithful.
Antonsson buzzed around with intent and looked a real threat. With Chris Wood having played for much of his career alongside a strike partner with the jury out as to whether he truly cuts it as a solitary forward, perhaps working alongside Antonsson on a regular basis would get the best out of both of them and be good news for Leeds United in the long-run.
2) Can Pablo Hernandez ingratiate himself further in front of a wider audience after some exquisite moments at Fleetwood?
The silky Spaniard may not exactly be in the first flush of youth at 31. But his quality is clearly not in doubt. He looks a real technocrat.
Some of his touches in midweek were sumptuous and he looks blessed with an array of skills which could mark him out as a crowd favourite in the making.
After his tantalising offering, let’s hope he can step up to the Championship plate. He certainly looks bright and breezy and can spot a pass and has consummate technique. More please.
3) The case for the defence.
Early days, maybe, but it has been underwhelming, so far.
The concessions against Fleetwood were sloppy following on from the meek defensive performance at Loftus Road and United, not for the first time in recent seasons, lack a solid sheen.
It’s a time for simplicity at the back surely tomorrow - nothing fancy, just clear your lines and defend your box. Be decisive.
The first three points of a new season is always a big tick in the box. Not a million miles away is the first clean sheet, which garners confidence.
More especially when you have a new goalkeeper between the posts and centre-half, which Leeds do, with a new right-back added to the mix in Luke Ayling. Back-four units stand or fall by clean sheets; it’s as simple as that.
4) Will we get glimpses into the Garry Monk style? Or maybe it is better to be pragmatic for the time being.
Few pointers could be seen in the miserable loss at QPR, with Leeds largely on the back foot and failing to impose themselves on the game after being overrun in midfield and being second best.
The start of the season is a funny time, mind. Fans look for style traits, but given the gruelling nature of the opening month of the season when games come thick and fast and there is a lack of preparation time between games and new players must be bedded in, perhaps it is better to be pragmatic for the time being.
Given the short turnaround from Wednesday night, it is probably a bit much to expect a fine-tuned, free-flowing performance with players still feeling their way into the new league season. Some positive elements would be good, mind.
5) Fatigue and recovery time.
This sort of links in with the above.
Birmingham boss Gary Rowett must have had a big gleam on his face when he realised Leeds were taken to extra-time by Fleetwood, with his Blues side having their feet up, albeit with a bit to ponder after a 1-0 EFL Cup loss to Oxford on Tuesday.
After arriving back from Fleetwood in the early hours of Thursday morning, the emphasis will have been on recovery before running through the tactical stuff at Thorp Arch this morning. One thing is for sure, endurance and concentration levels will be tested tomorrow.