Leeds United head coach Uwe Rosler has been highly encouraged by his team’s opening week of the season and feels a first victory of the new campaign is not far away. Lee Sobot reports.
Head coach Uwe Rosler is not surprised that Leeds United’s first two games of the season have been eventful.
“With me it’s never been boring. I can promise you that,” confesses the former Wigan and Brentford boss, chirpier than he might have been despite an exhausting exit from the Capital One Cup at Doncaster Rovers.
Yet Rosler still sees no reason why he should not have a spring in his step – insisting he’s highly encouraged by the first week of the season and feeling under no pressure to bag a first win at Reading tomorrow afternoon.
Rosler looked to be embarking on the perfect competitive start in his Whites role after 83 minutes of last Saturday’s Elland Road season opener against Burnley when Mirco Antenucci fired home to give United the lead.
Sam Vokes proved the party pooper with his headed equaliser three minutes later but Leeds could still take positives from a strong performance against a likely promotion contender so early in the campaign.
The positives from Thursday evening at Doncaster were less easy to find – with the harsh facts being that Leeds played an exhausting 120 minutes of football just three days before tomorrow’s clash at Reading only to be knocked out of the League Cup by their Yorkshire rivals and lose Lewis Cook to a three-match ban.
Yet Rosler has few worries about a Capital One Cup hangover at the Madejski tomorrow and believes United are already close to clicking and bagging their first win of the campaign. Asked if he felt under pressure to secure United’s first success of the season at Reading, a relaxed Rosler replied: “No, I don’t think like that.
“Since I came here we have scored in every single game but we have to be better defensively because we have to start seeing games out and we have to start building clean sheets.
“And that’s not always only the defenders, that’s the whole team but in general I think we have come a long way already.
“I think we will get Tom Adeyemi back. I think Sol Bamba will be available and Sam Byram will be available from the start and also Chris Wood will be available though Mirco Antenucci was very good on Thursday I felt.
“We will add players to it and we will add a freshness and energy again to it.
“Some players had to go to the limit against Doncaster and we will see how they recover and then we make a selection. We’ll see how we recover as a group.
“It’s not good physically being tired and it’s not good mentally them losing the game so we need to pick up the players. The players have to pick themselves up and we are now looking forward to the next three games.
“It was not optimal – going 120 minutes and not winning it but there are no complaints about effort.
“We lost our heads a little bit in that situation and we got caught up a little bit – like we addressed about last year – in having too many penalties against and too many red cards. In the heat of the moment we reacted once or twice a little bit too rash and that cost us the game.”
What cannot be doubted is United’s effort in defeat on Thursday as the ten men of Leeds held the 11 of Doncaster at bay for 83 minutes after Cook’s 37th-minute dismissal.
Rosler has continually championed a desire for high tempo, pressing football, but says the “next stage of development” for his side is in learning the art of occasionally calming the game down when in possession of the ball. United’s head coach also says he would name the same starting line-up again if given the chance to replay the Doncaster tie, insisting that Cook’s red card quite simply changed the game.
“I wouldn’t have changed anything, especially when you see we have to play three games in eight days so I would not change anything again,” said Rosler. “I think in the second half and especially in extra-time we looked more like scoring and some players surprised me very positively in the 120 minutes – like Mirco who I thought was very good.
“Lewis scored his first goal for us and was very excited, probably a little bit too excited. In that split second he was probably a bit too excited. So I’m not too harsh on him.
“Before that everything was working, we were leading, we were in control though we could have used the ball a little bit better.
“At the moment we play very good without the ball, very high tempo, very aggressive and pressing. But when we have the ball we are continuously playing in the same tempo and sometimes we have to step on the ball and keep the ball and calm the game down. That’s the next stage of our learning curve.
“I learnt a lot about the players at Doncaster but we are keeping that internal. I think it’s important that I learn about the players. Yes, we had pre-season and yes, we had friendly games but I think sometimes those games where you are under pressure, where it is a really competitive game, that tells you a lot in how we react in certain situations and how we are coping. There were some very good performances out there but also other performances we have to improve.”
The next measure of that improvement comes at Reading tomorrow afternoon – where Rosler knows United’s die-hard support will again back his men to the hilt.
The near 3,500 travelling Whites contingent were in superb voice throughout Thursday night’s Capital One Cup clash – even in the lashing rain – and there is no questioning just how much Rosler desires to grant them their first victory.
Rosler added: “We had great support at Doncaster and I really wish for the supporters that we had won the game because that would have been fantastic momentum taking into the next three really important games.
“The support was fantastic and I think the players gave a lot back.
“I learned a lot about the players and the character of the team and I think they gave me everything out there.
“There were some very good performances from certain players but in the league we are playing and at the level we are playing if you make the fewest mistakes on corners and throw-ins for example you come a long way.”