FRESH from witnessing a disappointing end to an unsatisfactory week at Elland Road, Lee Sobot looks at five issues highlighted by Saturday’s 1-0 loss at home to Championship visitors Nottingham Forest.
Mirco Antenucci up top alone doesn’t work at home in a 4-5-1
Leeds may have thrived at Bolton with Mirco Antenucci spear-heading a 4-5-1 but the Italian had no joy whatsoever on Saturday and barely got in the game. United’s best and only real chance fell to Souleymane Doukara in the third minute. Doukara headed wide after coming in from the wing. Antenucci had little chance of getting behind a Forest defence who sat deep throughout. The Italian striker is a gifted player but is five-foot-ten and it takes takes a tall and physical forward to lead the line in a 4-5-1. You need a player who can hold the ball up and win the lion’s share of headers. That player is six-foot-three Chris Wood who is again out injured and, with or without Wood, Leeds need a like for like option, be it as a replacement or cover. Norwich City are willing to part with Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty who is six-foot-four and a half. He is surely worth a bash with the emergency loan window opening on Tuesday. Lee Erwin did not look like the answer when coming on as a late sub.
The return of Gaetano Berardi cannot some soon enough
Right-back Scott Wootton was booed by some supporters when he was substituted towards the end of the second half. It should be remembered the 24-year-old is a centre-back playing out of position. There is no denying that United are struggling down the right flank and it was music to the ears of Whites supporters to learn on Thursday that Berardi was around two weeks away from making a return from his torn ankle ligament. The powerful and pacey Swiss international will be just what the doctor ordered for overlapping on the right wing.
United badly need Lewis Cook to sustain some form
Cook took all the plaudits for his display in the previous weekend’s FA Cup win at Bolton where it looked like having Toumani Diagouraga and Liam Bridcutt sat behind him appeared tailor-made to suit his game. The England Under-19s ace thrived in the number 10 role at Bolton but endured a frustrating afternoon against Forest who sat deep and marked him out of the game. The problem for Leeds is that Cook, along with whoever is running down the flanks, is one of only three players that ever looks like making something dangerous happen. Cook did not threaten once on Saturday and Leeds struggled as a consequence.
Sol Bamba has a fight on
Bamba, who last week voiced disappointment with United’s dealings in the January transfer window, was replaced by Liam Cooper at centre-back on Saturday and it has to be said that Steve Evans did not sound too impressed in the post-match press conference.
Faced with the suggestion that Bamba might not be happy with his role, Evans said: “That’s his problem isn’t it? His performances need to dictate that he should be in the team.”
It should be said that neither Liam Cooper or Giuseppe Bellusci had bad games on Saturday and Bamba will probably need to be tearing up trees in training to start against Middlesbrough a week on Monday.
United are still not making the most of their corners
Answers on a post card for the last time United scored from a corner at Elland Road. Another five went wasted against Forest. There’s always a roar of expectancy when Leeds win a corner, with a few excited chants of “Leeds, Leeds, Leeds.” Sadly, United never look threatening from them despite hardly being a small team.