Leeds United: Our versatility at centre-back could pay dividends – Lorimer

Liam Cooper.
Liam Cooper.
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The centre-back situation at Leeds United is a good one for us.

I’m all for settled teams and settled partnerships but it’s no bad thing to be able to use horses for courses in the Championship.

The centre of defence has been a problem area for quite some time and I’m struggling to think of the last pairing at Leeds who genuinely filled me with confidence.

I’m not entirely sure which two from Jason Pearce, Liam Cooper and Giuseppe Bellusci would make the best combination but it’s obvious that Neil Redfearn is happy with all of his options. It’s a far better scenario than having a bunch of centre-backs you don’t really trust.

What it means is that Neil has the freedom to tailor his defence depending on the opposition. If his team are up against a big, powerful side then he might look to the two centre-backs who are most dominant in the air. If the opposition have quick strikers then he’s got scope for a different approach.

Our game at Blackburn on Saturday is a case in point. They’ve got two fairly prolific forwards – Jordan Rhodes and Rudy Gestede – but neither of them really thrive on high deliveries into the box.

They’re both pretty pacey and they much prefer to have the ball at their feet. They want chances to run onto and opportunities to finish, and they’re more likely to get those against a slow defence.

In Neil’s shoes I’d be tempted to go for the quickest pairing he has. But really, I’m one of these people who prefers to see managers and coaches stick with a winning line-up.

It seems like a risk to me to disrupt a side who are either right in form or coming off the back of a good result. It’s a bit like fate – by making unnecessary changes, you’re almost asking for trouble. And you’re disappointing lads who’ve done nothing wrong.

Our performance against Blackpool was good and as much as Blackpool aren’t the best yardstick in the Championship, I thought we made them look poor in the first half.

The quality of our passing and movement was difficult to live with and the goals were excellent. The way I judge a performance is by thinking about how other sides would have coped with it. And in truth, even the top teams in the Championship would have had a hard time before the break.

Cooper took a lot of praise for the way he played in that match and I have to say that I’ve been impressed by him every time I’ve seen him. He hasn’t been involved too much – less than he deserved, perhaps – but he’s rarely put a foot wrong.

The only time I thought he struggled was when Darko Milanic used him at left-back at home to Reading and given that Cooper is not a left-back, I wouldn’t hold that against him. For me, he’s worth a place in the team and I’d say he’s earned the right to keep it at Blackburn.

As for Pearce and Bellusci, it’s difficult to call. I suppose in one respect you could say that if Bellusci finds himself on the bench this weekend, it’s a lesson for him about the cost of picking up suspensions. He’s had a couple already this season and as managers constantly tell you, one door closing opens another door for someone else. Cooper came in and took his chance. That’s how it goes.

The bottom line is that I think we’ve got a talented crop of defenders on our hands. But my biggest concern about this team – and I’ve felt like this from an early stage of the season – is the number of goals they’re conceding from corners and free-kicks.

It’s been a problem right the way through and it was a bit of an issue against Blackpool, even though we got the result and the points. If you saw Nile Ranger’s goal it must have looked like quite a few we’ve seen this Leeds side concede over the past few months.

There’s clearly an issue with the opposition winning headers and balls inside our box. Obviously you can warn against that and coach players to guard against it but we are suffering from a certain lack of height.

We’re a fairly small team up front and you couldn’t say that any of our defenders are towering obstacles. That’s the way it goes sometimes and ultimately clubs want good players rather than players of a certain size. But with a week of the loan window to go, it wouldn’t surprise me if Neil was looking for a bit more physical presence.

I don’t for one minute think he’ll break from his style of play because passing football is the style he knows best and the attacking end of the team looks excellent when everything clicks. But on the defensive side, I reckon we could be much more ruthless and a bit less soft. That’s probably what Neil meant when he spoke a few weeks ago about wanting to create “the full package”.

Norman Hunter clears the ball for Bristol City on their visit to Elland Road to face his former club Leeds United in March 1978. The Robins won 2-0, giving them the double over the Whites having won 3-2 at Ashton Gate the previous October. Picture: Laurie Mercer.

Flashback - Bristol City v Leeds United - When Whites legend Norman Hunter rocked his former club