Leeds United: Four things Steve Evans has brought to the Whites

Steve Evans congratulates Lewis Cook after the win at Huddersfield. (Picture: Simon Hulme)
Steve Evans congratulates Lewis Cook after the win at Huddersfield. (Picture: Simon Hulme)
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Steve Evans has had five games in the hotseat at Leeds United and headed into the international break on the back of two straight wins.

The 3-0 defeat of Huddersfield Town on Saturday lifted Leeds into 15th place in the division, and talk of a relegation battle has faded away.

Evans has one defeat in his games in charge, against Blackburn Rovers at Elland Road. It’s an improvement on the previous five, when the Whites lost four under Uwe Rosler.

While it is still early doors for Evans, and there are no guarantees that form will continue in this vein, he is clearly due some credit for the turnaround.

Here we look back on the four major changes he has made to improve the side:

1: Taking away some defensive duties from Alex Mowatt

Under Rosler, Mowatt was struggling, that much was clear. it was little surprise to see Evans take him out of the firing line for his first three games.

However, the academy graduate is one of the more gifted players in the team, which meant that a workaround had to be found to get him firing again.

There is a reason why Mowatt has become such an integral part of the side since he made

his debut under Brian McDermott. He is gifted with a wand of a left foot, and is an exceptional threat from free-kicks and from range.

Sometimes, his fitness lets him down, and that can be intensified if too much is asked of him defensively. That could explain why under Rosler, an advocate of pressing all over the pitch, Mowatt often looked leggy and lethargic.

If anything, moving him away from his preferred position in the centre of midfield could be to Mowatt’s benefit. He’s started the last two games on the left wing, which may have left him with fewer defensive duties and more opportunity to provide moments of brilliance.

That could be all he needs, as Mowatt is a player defined by those touches of class.

2: Changing the system

Rosler’s 4-3-3 was the subject of significant criticism, not least for the fact that it tended to leave Chris Wood stranded up front by himself.

It would take a tactical dinosaur to argue that a lone striker does not work, given the fact that the majority of clubs in world football play with only one player up front.

However, the positioning of players around Wood left a lot to be desired in Rosler’s system.

The much vaunted wingers were played far too deep, and no central midfielders really got forward to support Wood, which meant the Kiwi striker often seemed isolated and out of sorts.

More than the switch to 4-4-2, what Evans has really done well in terms of the system is altering the attacking demands on the rest of the team.

The wingers are expected to push up when possible, and Mirco Antenucci provides a foil for Wood. Alone, the Italian provides more attacking support than the entire team tended to under Rosler.

3: Playing Stuart Dallas on his ‘natural’ side

Dallas was seen as one of the key additions in the summer, but it has taken a while for Leeds fans to take to him.

The reality is that his game tends to be slightly less spectacular than other wingers, less based around tricks and skills than, for example, Jordan Botaka.

Dallas does work incredibly hard, and his graft on the wing should, over time, endear him to the Elland Road faithful.

He’s also a talented player, and maybe giving him more of an opportunity to provide assists by playing him on the right will have a telling impact.

Again, it would be hard to criticise the notion of playing a winger on his unnatural side, given how many teams do it, but for Dallas, it helps to be able to provide in a manner that aids his raw statistics.

That was encapsulated by his cross for Mirco Antenucci’s opener, a peach of a ball that he simply would not have been able to play had he been on the left.

Dallas’s best moments for Leeds have come on the right - it may just have helped the team to have him out there.

4: Establishing a connection with the fans

One criticism that can be levelled at Rosler is that there seemed to be a disassociation between him and the club’s fanbase.

It was a bit of a surprise, given the excellent relationship he had as a player with fans of Manchester City. There he was famed for his highly intense and passionate style, which was quite unlike Rosler the coach. The German was far more analytical in his approach these days.

It is, however, like Evans, who is clearly taking great pride from being the head coach of Leeds United.

His celebrations with the fans after both wins have endeared him to the supporters, and may just help him going forward.

While it’s important to build credit with Cellino, it’s equally important to build it with the fanbase, as any opposition from them is likely to itch the Italian owner’s trigger finger.

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