Leeds United: Five decisions for Rosler to make ahead of Brighton visit

Will Buckley on his debut against Birmingham
Will Buckley on his debut against Birmingham
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Leeds United’s unwanted record matching run of home games without a win has been hugely discussed since the loss against Birmingham City.

Brighton also have a record they will want to end on Saturday - they have not won during October since their move to the AMEX Stadium in 2011.

Tom Adeyemi celebrates after scoring against Derby

Tom Adeyemi celebrates after scoring against Derby

Head coach Uwe Rosler will likely be pleased by that statistic, but knows he has some key decisions to make if he wants to win his first game at Elland Road.

Buckley or Botaka?

Having had no wingers at their disposal last season, Leeds suddenly find themselves with a veritable smorgasbord of options for the flanks.

Admittedly, Sam Byram is still a makeshift player when he plays in a more advanced role, but having three specialists in the form of Stuart Dallas, Will Buckley and Jordan Botaka gives Uwe Rosler real options out wide.

Liam Cooper and Sol Bamba have often been Uwe Rosler's preferred defensive pairing

Liam Cooper and Sol Bamba have often been Uwe Rosler's preferred defensive pairing

Dallas has been relatively impressive since the start of the campaign, and can probably expect to call the left-wing role his own at this point. He’ll have been buoyed by Northern Ireland’s qualification for Euro 2016, and his own impressive display against Greece.

That leaves one position free on the right, and with Byram seemingly out of favour, it comes down to a question of Buckley or Botaka.

The former Brighton winger struggled on his Leeds debut, but had been cast aside at Sunderland and was clearly not match fit.

Botaka impressed, but it was only a short display with no requirement except to attack and try to seek out an equaliser.

Ross Turnbull suffered a long-term injury over the international break

Ross Turnbull suffered a long-term injury over the international break

Rosler now has a choice on his hands between two very different players. Botaka differs most to Dallas on the left, but Buckley is proven in the Championship, and could be inspired by facing off against his former side.

The midfield conundrum

Leeds have had no set midfield combination this season, but the reality is that Lewis Cook is almost certain to start.

Alex Mowatt will probably expect a place in the starting line-up, but should Mirco Antenucci’s recent form warrant his inclusion, it’s hard to find a place for the Leeds academy graduate.

If there are only two roles in central midfield available, because Antenucci is selected to partner Chris Wood or play slightly deeper in a 4-2-3-1, Cook’s partner becomes an interesting discussion.

Mowatt is not the sort of player to sit deep and allow Cook to burst forward, something that is a key feature of the England Under-19 international’s game. He’s at his best when he’s allowed a modicum of freedom.

That also means that his best partner is probably not Luke Murphy. Murphy played exceptionally well in the second half of last season, but it may be the case that it’s slightly too difficult to fit him into the starting line-up.

The best option is probably loanee Tom Adeyemi, who is the most defensive minded midfielder available to Rosler.

Adeyemi has the capacity to break up play, and given Leeds are facing a Brighton side that is likely to sit deep, having him there to guard against counters while allowing Cook and one of Mowatt or Antenucci to break forward is probably the best option.

Who will partner Bamba?

Speaking to Radio Leeds last night, Rosler clarified that because Sol Bamba is his captain, he will be a permanent fixture in the centre of Leeds’ defence.

Bamba may have made a mistake against Middlesbrough, but the game was already lost by that point, in part due to a poor display from Guiseppe Bellusci.

The question of Bellusci or Liam Cooper is one that coaches have struggled with since both defenders were signed.

Neil Redfearn ended up preferring Cooper to partner Bamba, and Rosler himself said that he likes to have one left-footed and one right-footed player in the middle of his backline.

Bellusci and Cooper have been rotated all season, but Rosler has tended to play the former Chesterfield man with more regularity. He has been more solid than Bellusci, but there are still question marks over his play.

It’s anticipated that Cooper will start on Saturday, but it would not be a surprise to see Leeds dip back into the market to find a permanent partner for Bamba in the future.

Goalkeeping woes

Ross Turnbull’s long-term injury, suffered in a behind closed doors game, has left Rosler without an experienced option to backup Marco Silvestri.

Charlie Horton will take his place on the bench on Saturday, but Horton is viewed in a purely developmental role for now, and Rosler himself thinks that sitting on the bench would be detrimental to Horton’s long-term improvement.

As a result, the Whites are expected to bring in another goalkeeper to take over from Turnbull.

Silvestri’s form has been questioned this campaign, and there have been calls for him to be replaced.

That comes in great contrast to Brighton’s situation. David Stockdale, a Leeds United fan, is permanently settled between the sticks for the south coast club. His solidity and presence helps explain Brighton’s exceptional undefeated start to the season.

With no pressure on Silvestri from an option in reserve, Leeds will have to hope he can keep up his recent turnaround in form.

If not, Stockdale, who has been repeatedly linked with a move to Elland Road over the years, might serve as a reminder of what might have been.

The Israeli factor

While Israel may have failed to have qualified for the European Championship next summer, there is something of a golden generation developing for the nation.

An explanation behind Brighton’s sudden shift from a mid-table side to promotion challengers is two significant signings made from the middle eastern country during 2015.

Beram Kayal was brought in during the January transfer window, and the former Celtic man has offered Brighton a significant presence in the middle of the pitch.

He’s the sort of defensive minded midfielder that teams can build around, and helps make Brighton incredibly difficult to break down.

At the top end of the pitch, bargain buy Tomer Hemed has scored five goals in seven games since joining from Almeria in the summer.

Hemed is a goalscorer, pure and simple, and the sort of player who will worry Leeds’ defence.

The two additions from Israel have made a huge impact for Brighton, and are two players that Rosler needs to think about when he sets up his team for Saturday.

Photo Essay........
Monchengladbach in Austria last week.
Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

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