Birmingham City 1 Leeds United 0: Shaughnessy over Klich and Anita, starting Saiz and a pivotal January - Talking Points

FROM THE BENCH: Leeds United's Samu Saiz, right, takes on Birmingham City's Craig Gardner. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
FROM THE BENCH: Leeds United's Samu Saiz, right, takes on Birmingham City's Craig Gardner. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
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AFTER seeing Leeds United’s winning run come to an end with a 1-0 loss at Birmingham City, the YEP’s Lee Sobot looks at a few talking points from Saturday’s loss at St Andrew’s.

Matesuz Klich’s role at Leeds

Polish international central midfielder Klich looked to have been handed the ideal opportunity to net a rare start for Leeds as news emerged that fellow centre midfielders Eunan O’Kane and Ronaldo Vieira would both miss the clash at St Andrew’s with injury.

Yet Whites head coach Thomas Christiansen instead opted to start the very inexperienced Conor Shaughnessy alongside Kalvin Phillips with Shaugnessy also preferred to former Newcastle United man Vurnon Anita.

Klich has been capped ten times by the Polish national side and Anita made 27 appearances for a Newcastle United team that won the Championship last season whereas former Reading youth player Shaughnessy had never started a league game in midfield.

It looked like a bit of a gamble and Christiansen explained that the more physical presence of Shaughnessy was selected specifically to deal with the threat of Southampton loanee striker Sam Gallagher and Shaughnessy still kept his place when Klich was finally called for in the second half as the Pole instead replaced Phillips.

If O’Kane and Vieira are still missing, it may well be that Klich now starts on New Year’s Day for Leeds at home to Nottingham Forest.

If not, the fact that Klich is not starting even without O’Kane and Vieira does not bode particularly well for his immediate Whites future.

Should Christiansen have started Samu Saiz?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but the decision to start with a clearly fit Saiz on the bench at St Andrew’s is clearly now the subject of some debate.

Christiansen’s decision to stick as close as possible to the winning side that triumphed at Burton Albion was understandable and the Dane said his plan was always to bring a fresh Saiz on after the interval against a tiring Blues side with the game having opened up.

United’s attacking prowess not surprisingly improved after Spanish trickster Saiz was introduced in his favourite no 10 role as Pablo Hernandez switched to the left wing.

United’s problems were also in other areas such as centre midfield.

But Leeds ultimately failed to make a breakthrough during the 35 minutes that Saiz was on the pitch and the Spaniard will now surely start against Forest on New Year’s Day.

Who will start in the wing positions will be the main imponderable with Hernandez, Pawel Cibicki and Gjanni Alioski seemingly competing for two spots out wide assuming Kemar Roofe keeps his place in the lone striker role ahead of Pierre-Michel Lasogga.

Strengthening the squad in January

Significant new recruits look a must if United are to maintain a solid promotion drive and with the transfer window set to open on Monday, all eyes will now be on the club’s ambition and recruitment in the new year.

The calls for another striker are obvious, especially with Caleb Ekuban injured, with Lasogga still failing to convince and Roofe only looking suited to the lone striker role in certain games.

And for all that Gaetano Berardi’s attitude and commitment cannot be questioned, there is no doubting that Leeds could do with a natural left back and Berardi has admitted that himself.

There also remains a feeling that Leeds could still do with a commanding and physical presence in centre midfield - especially when Vieira is missing - while there will naturally still be those arguing that United should still chase another goalkeeping option.

Felix Wiedwald produced a wonderful save to keep out a David Davis drive towards the end of the second half but his parry to keep out Jota’s fierce strike then fell at the feet of Jacques Maghoma to score the winning goal.

Wiedwald will probably feel he should have done better with Jota’s attempt which was admittedly hit with some power but the debate as to whether signing another ‘keeper is a must rolls on, though a left back and another goalscorer look top of the list.

January is often referred to as a difficult month in which to bring in new blood but the new year window could be pivotal to United’s season as a whole with Leeds still fifth but now just one point above seventh-placed Aston Villa and six adrift of second-placed Derby County.