One thing we learned during Neil Redfearn’s time as caretaker is that this Leeds United squad are at their best when they play to their strengths.
I’ve watched plenty of Leeds this season and from what I can see, their strengths lie in attack.
They’re not hopelessly weak at the back and they’ve been sucked into plenty of tight games but this group of players are never going to be nil-nil specialists.
You’ll know the old cliche about attack being the best form of defence and in this instance it’s probably true.
Darko Milanic has had enough time to feel his way into the job at Leeds now and it’s fair to say that he’s not a coach who’s going to take massive risks. But I do think he’ll get most out of this squad by encouraging them to play on the front foot.
There were difficult patches during Redfearn’s four matches in charge, let’s not pretend otherwise, but we saw some great spells too. By far the best were the moments when Leeds got on the ball and went for it – the first half against Bolton, the second halves at Birmingham and Bournemouth and the entire game at home to Huddersfield.
Don’t get me wrong, you can’t go for broke every week. It’s horses for courses in the Championship and there are times when you’ve got to be sensible about who you’re playing; times, to be honest, when you’ve got to accept that the club you’re coming up against are better than you man-for-man.
But in my days as a manager, you looked for the fixtures where you really felt like the opportunity was there to have a go. And more than anything else, I always wanted to make sure that we carried a threat. Even if I expected a hard match and even if we weren’t likely to see too much of the ball, I wanted us to be aggressive and show as much ambition as we could.
The highlight of Leeds’ visit to Norwich City on Tuesday was the goal from Souleymane Doukara. I was a striker and I’d have been chuffed with that finish. He took it beautifully and that whole move proved what a threat Leeds can be when they get on the ball high up the field.
You’ve got Mirco Antenucci who knows where the goal is and in the flashes we’ve seen of him it’s pretty obvious that Adryan has quick feet and an attacking brain. Others in the squad – Billy Sharp as an example – are assets at this level and I reckon that every manager in the Championship will see Leeds as a danger. Not a danger to the play-offs, necessarily, but a handful on their day.
The disappointment at Carrow Road was that Norwich had so much of the game. An awful lot of it was played in the Leeds half and Doukara’s goal was one of the few occasions when Milanic’s side opened up the Norwich defence. When Doukara scored, I honestly thought Leeds might go on to win.
Norwich are a bit out of form and there seems to be some moaning going on at Carrow Road.
When it went 1-1, that was an invitiation to see what Norwich were made of – to test their confidence and try to use the crowd against them. It felt like Leeds settled for a point and good though that result was, maybe an opportunity went begging.
You can’t help looking at a match like that and wondering if Leeds should be a bit more confident in their own ability. They don’t need to be arrogant or cocky but they shouldn’t think that they lack the skill or the players to dominate games and win them convincingly.
Milanic obviously likes to counter-attack and Leeds are pretty good at that, despite their lack of blistering pace. When matches get stretched and legs get tired, Leeds will always carry a threat.
Quite a lot of teams play that way away from home and it can be an effective strategy. But in hindsight, Norwich will probably feel like they were given a fairly comfortable night.
It’s Wolves at home tomorrow and Wolves are starting to look like serious play-off contenders. They’re the sort of team who tempt you to sit back and play it safe but I’d much prefer to see Leeds fight fire with fire.
The team are organised under Milanic and pretty stable too. The key now is to trust in the squad’s attacking instinct and let it do the talking.