An obvious help to Leeds United's London curse is missing but change of mindset needed at set pieces - Dom Matteo

SOMETIMES going to London can be a big reality check for all of us and that’s me being honest.

Wednesday, 10th March 2021, 5:45 am

I had a mixed bag of fortunes results-wise in the capital with Leeds and Liverpool.

Arsenal were the big ones when I was at Leeds and they were the better side at that point but we sometimes managed to nick a result like when we won 3-2 with Mark Viduka’s late winner at Highbury.

But I genuinely believe there is a north/south divide and I have always thought that.

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THREAT: West Ham bombard Leeds United with another set piece in Monday night's clash at the London Stadium as 'keeper Illan Meslier collects under pressure from Tomas Soucek. Photo by IAN WALTON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

I just thought that sometimes they thought we were an easy touch and we thought they were an easy touch too and that’s just the way it was.

There has always been that rivalry for me between north and south.

Not an awful lot of people mention it now but it is there, especially when you look through Leeds United’s history and Liverpool’s too - there has always been a good rivalry against the London clubs.

But sometimes it’s about the clubs you play for and Leeds and Liverpool are very passionate clubs where the demands of the fans are on you and I genuinely think that if we had Leeds fans in the ground, such as in Monday night’s clash at West Ham, then that definitely would have helped.

Leeds didn’t play that badly but we have just got to get better at defending set-pieces.

I know it looks as though there is a big height difference between the two teams but I can’t buy into that.

If you get done, you get done and it’s basically your responsibility to defend and defend well.

We do that at times but are we expanding so much energy trying to get forward all the time that we sometimes forget to defend?

I got found out a few times on that because we were always so forward-thinking and usually had most of the ball.

Diego Llorente came in for a bit of criticism from Jamie Carragher on Sky for his marking for West Ham’s second goal, and I used to like marking one person so it was my job.

Don’t get me wrong, if the ball comes into a certain area you have got to attack it but my man was my responsibility and if he scored that was my fault. I liked it that way.

You might get a good delivery and somebody then gets a run on you which does happen.

But you have got to be so much stronger and more alive to that.

Sometimes when we are defending it’s not just about putting your head in somewhere but reading the situation better and, at the moment, I don’t think we are doing that well.

We are not reading situations as well as we should be and if that means getting tighter and getting hold of people, then so be it.

People like Jamie Carragher when he played, and even myself, we had to get tighter to people.

We were facing great players and you had to be physical against them. I think the players nowadays are that worried that if you touch anybody and they go over then a penalty is given.

It’s so difficult for the lads nowadays as you can’t touch anyone.

It’s becoming a non-contact sport really and I hate that.

Tackling is a massive part of the game and it’s a skill.

People will say about someone like Carragher that he was a tough and hard player, which he was.

But he also understood how to win games and he understood how to manage games.

That’s what we have got to get better at, and are we doing enough defensively, all of us?

You can’t just look at the centre-backs as it’s the responsibility of all of you and there have been times where other people have been found wanting as well.

It’s something that can be worked on.

I don’t know what Marcelo Bielsa’s philosophy is on set-pieces but I worked for Tony Pulis and we absolutely worked on set-pieces constantly, almost to the point where we didn’t do any football training!

It was set-piece, set-piece, set-piece but it was effective and nobody wanted to be against us at them because we were physically stronger and we attacked everything.

That’s what the Leeds players have got to get back to.

We have got to start attacking everything, in both boxes as well.

Patrick Bamford has had an unbelievable season but he is having to put such a big shift in and I’m not sure if Bielsa got the selection right at West Ham out wide.

I thought he picked the wrong side. I know people will say how can you say that about Bielsa and who are you?

But I have just got my own opinion and I think Jack Harrison should definitely have played.

I don’t really understand why he has not been playing lately because he has been one of the most consistent players and everyone is going to have the odd game where they are not brilliant.

Raphinha is the one with the most credit at the moment and if he doesn’t play, is it a worry? He is becoming that important really.

But I just wish we could have a little bit more desire to go and win those first headers.

I don’t think it’s a lack of effort or the lads not having a go; the Premier League is just ruthless at times.

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Thank you Laura Collins