AFTER witnessing the latest chapter of the Leeds United v Blackburn Rovers series, Lee Sobot looks at a few talking points from Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory in the EFL Cup third round.
All eyes on Wednesday night’s draw
To the whole point of Tuesday night’s fixture first and foremost - with Rovers and Leeds both bidding to put their name in the hat for Wednesday night’s last 16 draw. Leeds will be ball no 3 and there is a major chance of United drawing a Premier League big gun. Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool are already definitely through while Manchester United will look to add their name to the hat with tonight’s televised clash at Northampton Town.
Tottenham Hotspur host Gillingham with West Ham United at home to Accrington and Manchester City visiting Swansea. If Manchester United, City, Spurs and West Ham all progress, that would put seven Premier League big guns in the next round, with Sunderland also visiting QPR tonight, Southampton welcoming Crystal Palace and Hull City at Stoke City. That is another three top flight teams potentially joining the party - potentially taking the tally to ten. In short, it is more likely than not that Leeds will draw a Premier League opponent in the next round. As it stands, including United, six Championship teams will definitely be in the next round, with Leeds joined by Newcastle United - which in itself would be a juicy last 16 clash - along with Norwich City, Reading, Preston North End and one of Fulham or Bristol City. The draw is scheduled to take place after the Northampton v Man U game, so technically speaking around 10pm, though the prospect of games going to extra time means the draw could be somewhat later. Even 10.30pm or later would be no surprise.
Kalvin Phillips is an option as no 10
There was plenty of head scratching attempting to guess Whites head coach Garry Monk’s formation last night with three seemingly defensive central midfielders selected in Eunan O’Kane, Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira, along with Alex Mowatt, Kemar Roofe and Marcus Antonsson. But Monk delivered two surprises by playing Phillips as an attacking midfielder and almost in the no 10 role behind lone striker Antonsson, with left-footed Mowatt surprisingly on the right wing and Roofe on the right. And neither moves were disasters. Mowatt actually looked to quite enjoy playing on the right and he had a decent first half before fading after the break. Roofe was also lively throughout, setting up Chris Wood’s winner, though Stuart Dallas and Hadi Sacko will surely still return on the flanks for Saturday’s home clash with Ipswich Town. There is no chance of Phillips replacing Pablo Hernandez as first choice no 10 but he played reasonably well without having a blinder and is at least worth bearing in mind for that position, something never really previously considered there before. Mowatt and Roofe might even be worth a go at some stage in that role.
Of the other seven players that came in to the side, Lewie Coyle shone brightest at right back, almost scoring a first-minute peach, but he has an unenviable task of battling it out with both Luke Ayling and now the fit again Gaetano Berardi to start. Captain Liam Cooper looked steady enough - one miscued clearance aside - without being as impressive as Kyle Bartley or Pontus Jansson at centre-back while Antonsson was his usual busy self upfront, though again looked a bit unsuited to the lone striker role. Marco Silvestri made some decent and sometimes dramatic stops in goal and kept a clean sheet which is all you can ask, even if some his goal kicks were poor. Midfielder Matt Grimes, a surprise inclusion in the squad as a substitute, came on too late to get involved. It was two other subs, Wood and most definitely Hernandez, who made the biggest impression overall. But none of the drafted in seven really did enough to suggest they should definitely keep their place for Saturday’s Championship clash at home to Ipswich Town, in which captain Liam Bridcutt will likely return for Vieira in centre midfield. After not even making Monk’s 18, things look pretty bleak for Luke Murphy and Toumani Diagouraga at Leeds.
Lowest crowd in seven years
It is impossible to have a talking points without mentioning Tuesday night’s sparse crowd of 8,488, the lowest at Elland Road since a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy win over Darlington in October 2009. The search before then went back to a League Cup victory over Barnet in 2006. But a second clash against struggling Blackburn in the space of eight days was always going to be a hard sell, for all that quite clearly it would have been more pleasing to see a busier Elland Road. What’s for certain is that if Whites assistant head coach Pep Clotet gets his wish in tonight’s fourth round draw, there certainly won’t be 8,000 at Elland Road for the last 16 clash in the fourth mid-week of October. Clotet smiled: “I’d like to see Leeds v Manchester United at Elland Road.