The system used by Leeds United in the last two games is well suited to playing away from home. Almost every away side sets up like that now: defending deep, keeping compact and trying to hit teams on the break with a lone striker up front.
It worked for us in the FA Cup at Bolton because Bolton as the home club were expected to be on the front foot and stay on the front foot but at Elland Road the same formation is asking for trouble. Nottingham Forest proved that on Saturday and they weren’t the first to do so.
Steve Evans might not have liked their style, and in fairness it isn’t the most attractive, but half the battle in professional football is knowing your opposition. Anyone who watches our games at home will realise that we have a big problem when we’re asked to play through a crowded midfield and a disciplined defence. Quite simply, we don’t have the quality to do that.
You could go back to our defeat to Birmingham City under Uwe Rosler to see what I’m talking about. On that afternoon they let us have all of the possession and all of the territory but picked us off with two slick goals. If you want to call that negative football then fine but Birmingham are eighth in the table and in contention for the play-offs. As the saying goes, it’s a results business. They’ll be quite happy with their lot.
The more I think about our home record, the less I feel that our players are guilty of bottling it in front of the Elland Road crowd. I honestly don’t believe that’s what’s happening. I just feel that the lack of quality in our squad offers no great chance of cutting apart a team who concentrate on giving you nothing.
Our results at home have picked up under Steve but the fact remains that our form at Elland Road over the course of the season is very poor. We’ve played 15 times there and won four games. In total we’ve scored 12 goals. I’m sorry but those are shocking statistics. And they prove again that major changes to the team are necessary in the summer.
The biggest frustration for me on Saturday was that Forest’s defence had it so easy. For all the pressure they were under, they didn’t have to deal with anyone who was bullying them, hassling them or dragging them all over the pitch. They were fairly comfortable throughout.
I heard quite a lot of criticism of Mirco Antenucci but I actually felt sorry for him. He was stranded up front with no support and no chance of doing anything, in a role that doesn’t really suit him.
Souleymane Doukara’s had a good little spell but he seemed to decide on Saturday that he’d play between the halfway line and the penalty box rather than inside the penalty box.
His early header was the only time when we looked like scoring.
It’s fair to say that we’re missing Chris Wood and games like Saturday’s remind you of what he brings to the team.
There’s no doubt that his finishing could have been better at times but he’s much more of a handful in the Championship than any of our other forwards. He’s someone who Forest’s centre-backs would have had their work cut out against. There’s an awful lot to look at when the season ends but the lack of options up front has to be high up the list.
We move onto Monday’s game against Middlesbrough now and I’m fascinated to see how that goes. Boro are one of the few visiting teams who might break from convention at Elland Road and play on the front foot. Like every side at the top of the division, they’re coming under the pressure of the run-in now and that might have shown in Tuesday’s game at MK Dons. They needed a last-gasp header from Jordan Rhodes to earn a point. But Boro have a big strong defence who give nothing away. We simply cannot afford to be as blunt as we were against Forest or another difficult night will be on the cards.