It would be remiss of me not to touch briefly on the allegations of racism made by Cameron Jerome against Giuseppe Bellusci during Tuesday’s game at Norwich City.
Like anyone else I’m against all forms of racism but this is a delicate matter and while it’s in the hands of the Football Association it’s important that the process is fair to everyone involved.
There’s no reason to speculate about what may or may not have been said and it does no-one any good to debate this at length while the incident is being investigated. Jerome’s claims need to be taken seriously but at the same time, Bellusci is innocent until proven otherwise.
It’s a real shame when football gets overshadowed in this way but to turn our attention back to Leeds United’s season, a 1-1 draw at Norwich goes down as a good result in my book.
Every draw for Darko Milanic is another game he hasn’t won, and he must be desperate to get his first win on the board, but Carrow Road will be one of the more difficult stadiums to go to in the Championship. I don’t expect Norwich to spill many points there.
There were a few positives for me (although the less said about the drive home from Norfolk the better). Firstly, I thought our defence played very well.
We were a little shaky from set-pieces and Norwich’s goal came direct from a corner but the players dug in under a lot of pressure right to the end. Norwich had the better chances but I didn’t feel we were riding our luck too often.
Our goal was excellent too, a really good finish from Doukara, and the frustration for me was the fact that Norwich had so much of the game either side of it. There’s talent in the squad at Leeds and when we play well I think we’re a handful for any other side but on Tuesday there weren’t enough moments when our players got on the ball and really tried to express themselves.
Part of the problem was Norwich’s formation. They had two decent wingers and a couple of full-backs who liked to bomb on. That allowed them to get two-on-one against our own defenders and slowly but surely we slipped deeper into our half.
In those circumstances you find that your strikers get sucked behind the halfway line and even when the chance to counter-attack comes, you don’t have enough bodies up the field to make the most of the opportunity. That was certainly true on Tuesday and Norwich were camped in our half for large parts of the game.
There’s a lot of discussion about the diamond midfield which Milanic is using and a lot of debate about whether it’s the right system. It’s a new system, one I never saw when I was a player, and the reasoning behind it leads back to something I’ve complained about before – the chronic shortage of natural wide-men in England.
No club with out-and-out wingers would ever use a diamond midfield. The whole point of the diamond is that you compensate for the absence of wingers by giving your full-backs the responsibility to get up and down the field and provide some width.
I’m quite old-fashioned in my mentality and I was also a wide man in my day so to me, the best way to trouble teams is to get in behind them on the flanks and cause havoc with crosses into the box.
Norwich did that to pretty good effect on Tuesday and they’re blessed with the sort of wide players we don’t have at present. I’ve said previously that wingers seem to be a dying breed in England. and given the impact they can have, I honestly don’t understand why the game in general doesn’t work harder to produce more of them.
So as much as the diamond midfield might come in for criticism, Milanic is being pragmatic by using it.
I don’t think it’s the formation that will suit us best in the long run but I understand why he’s gone for that strategy in his first few games in charge. It’s compact, it’s solid and it suits the squad.
That said, Milanic needs to get a victory on the board so I wonder if he’ll go for broke against Wolves on Saturday. It’s a big game for us – a chance to consolidate a good draw at Norwich and get our season moving again.
This hasn’t been a brilliant spell in terms of results and performances but it hasn’t been a terrible one either.
A lot of Milanic’s games have been close and tight so I wouldn’t say we’re a million miles away.
The spirit is there and so is the talent. We just need it all to click.