AFTER seeing Leeds United fall to their third Championship away loss in succession, Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points from Sunday’s 3-0 defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.
How can “soft” Leeds be toughened up?
Whites head coach Thomas Christiansen gave an honest assessment of his side’s display at Hillsborough, admitting Leeds were “too soft in both boxes.”
“You have to be ready to compete 100 per cent, 120 per cent, making all the challenges like it’s the last one in the game,” said United’s head coach.
But Leeds most definitely failed to do that as the Owls rolled United over with worrying ease once Gary Hooper’s 25th-minute opener had put the hosts up and running.
United showed a real lack of steel, grit and durability and while Leeds certainly created chances themselves and could have scored three or four, Wednesday could have had six or seven.
United have a soft centre - clearly highlighted by successive away defeats at Millwall, Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday - and it is down to Christiansen to change that.
The Dane must also work the oracle with the players that he currently has given that their is no longer a loan window and with the transfer window not opening up again until January.
Should Ronaldo Vieira start in midfield?
Analysing United’s centre midfield is a tricky one as Eunan O’Kane had a rare stinker at Hillsborough, an uncharacteristic blot on an otherwise impressive copybook from the Irishman so far this season.
The 27-year-old was very possibly still feeling the effects of whatever ailment kept him out of Tuesday night’s loss at new leaders Cardiff City in which he was replaced by Mateusz Klich who endured a very difficult Whites league debut.
That said, O’Kane also started the previous Saturday’s clash at Millwall alongside the almost ever present Kalvin Phillips yet Leeds were readily brushed aside at The Den and with Klich not looking ready, Vieira is the obvious candidate with which Christiansen could change his central midfield should he wish to do so.
It should also be remembered that Vurnon Anita is naturally a central midfielder and a very good one, despite having played for Leeds predominantly at left back.
The Dutchman is another centre-midfield option for Christiansen though Anita was missing from the match day 18 for the second game running.
Will Felix Wiedwald be dropped?
Christiansen admitted he would “analyse” the performance of goalkeeper Wiedwald whilst not wishing to place individual responsibility on the German for United’s defeat at Hillsborough.
But Wiedwald again showed a lack of dominance and control of his box and both of Hooper’s goals should have been prevented.
Wiedwald looks nervous which cannot be good for the back four in front of him and the goalkeeping woes are all the more difficult to swallow in light of the excellent displays made last season by Rob Green who Wiedwald was bought in to replace.
Christiansen and his team now have two weeks to work with Wiedwald before the clash at home to Reading after the international break and improvements quickly need to be made.
The experienced Andy Lonergan and young Bailey Peacock-Farrell are the other goalkeeping options at Christiansen’s disposal and there are not surprisingly plenty of calls for a change in between the sticks after the international break.
Who should start out wide?
Kemar Roofe and Gjanni Alioski were given the nod to start on the wings at Hillsborough but both players put in disappointing performances with the duo taken off for Pablo Hernandez and Hadi Sacko just after the hour.
Stuart Dallas, introduced for the injured Pontus Jansson nine minutes later, is Christiansen’s other option out wide, along with Pawel Cibicki who again failed to even make the bench.
Two from six as far as wingers are concerned with Samu Saiz the first name on the team sheet at no 10 after his display at Hillsborough meaning Hernandez can only really hope to start out wide.
Alioski, meanwhile, appears the ‘first choice’ winger at present having started United’s last five league games and the Macedonian looked like being a revelation for Leeds based especially on his display in August’s 2-0 success at Nottingham Forest in which he scored a cracker.
But Alioski proved very disappointing at Hillsborough, too easily shrugged off the ball, and Christiansen is now left with a very difficult call as to who starts out wide, especially when the extra grit is required away from home.
How long will Pontus Jansson be out for?
United’s afternoon went from bad to worse in the 71st minute when Jansson charged into team-mate Kalvin Phillips and had to leave the field on a stretcher.
Christiansen said immediately after the game that he didn’t know what was wrong with the Swede who looked in some pain.
With Matthew Pennington failing to convince on his return to the side in Liam Cooper’s absence through suspension, it goes without saying that Leeds need an injury to Jansson like a hole in the head, for all that Jansson himself hardly excelled against Wednesday.
Conor Shaughnessy is the other option at centre back and the 21-year-old has impressed when called upon this season though Cooper will be back from suspension for the clash against Reading.