Breathtaking at Aston Villa, Pascal Struijk reaction, storming Luke Ayling and dealing with Jamie Vardy - Dominic Matteo

Former Leeds United player and fan favourite Dominic Matteo pens his latest thoughts on what's going on at Elland Road.

Wednesday, 28th October 2020, 6:00 am
Leeds United's players celebrated at Aston Villa. (Getty)

I hold a genuine belief that Leeds United’s win over Aston Villa is the best performance from a team wearing the club’s colours since relegation from the Premier League.

I was trying to think back and, for all of the games we’ve seen in the last couple of seasons from this great team, they were just breathtaking and on another level.

It reminded me of a match I was involved in with Leeds away at Charlton.

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We won 6-1 down at The Valley, but the positivity right throughout the team was incredible and you came away not really being able to knock anyone at all - it was exactly like that.

The change early on was obviously massive with Pascal Struijk going off for Jamie Shackleton and the way that Pascal dealt with that was outstanding I felt.

He was disappointed to be taken off and it was a long and lonely walk for him, it was the right decision for the team though and that’s what Bielsa is all about - the team is the priority and you are just a cog in the machine.

If he believes a change is needed for the benefit of his side then it’ll be made regardless of circumstance or who you are.

There was a lot made about him replacing Kalvin Phillips in the build-up and it will be a learning curve for the young lad. When you get taken off as a player you’re always downbeat but

I think it’s good to see that in players. There were some that I played with over the years who didn’t mind but I’d hate it!

Bielsa has this knack, and it’s probably down to the standing he has as a head coach, that his players just accept his decisions and move on.

I have no doubt that Pascal will be back and better for the situation.

I’ve not actually seen a lot of Jamie but when he came on you didn’t even notice the change because the balance of the team remained the same just with different personnel. He has to take a lot of credit for that - his energy was a joy to watch.

We could talk about any of the players after such an impressive performance but Luke Ayling has just been phenomenal so far this season. It’s almost the tone he sets and the attitude he brings.

He gets stuck in but he is very balanced in what he does. I think the player that he was a couple of seasons ago, maybe he would’ve been making a few more rash tackles and going to ground a lot more, but his decision making has improved so much.

When we talk about playing at the highest level that is one of the most important aspects. With the injuries ahead of the game he had to really guide Leeds through and his clearance off the line just summed him up.

The highest praise you can give at the moment is that wherever he plays he doesn’t look out of place.

It reminds me of that sort of old-school aspect of football, whenever you’d get asked whether you could play here or there you’d just say ‘yes’ and get on with it.

We can’t not mention Patrick Bamford after his brilliant hat-trick and I am so happy for him. It seems like he is putting in the form of his life at the moment.

You can see how much he is doing for the team and he’s getting those rewards right now. I’ve spoken to him quite a bit and I know he has worked on the physical side of his game.

Patrick seems to have found that bit of a ‘nasty streak’ too, which is great to see. I feel like people used to look at him and think he is a bit ‘nice’ and that they could get in and around him, but you see him now taking on the likes of Tyrone Mings head to head and it’s exactly what you need.

His goals were of real quality and he has just had this willingness to learn and improve since he came to the club, like a lot of those who have made it under Marcelo so far.

I can only speak from my own point of view, but confidence is everything. Patrick has bounced around a few clubs in his career but he’s landed with a manager and team who truly believe in him.

Leeds are in a weird situation at the moment where there hasn’t been a lot of pressure on them as they find their feet in the Premier League.

I think if they continue putting in the results they have been, it’s only a matter of time before talk of Europe and things like that begin. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’ve been at both ends of the table and, trust me, being at the top is far, far better.

Obviously it’s Leicester City up next and we all know the danger that Jamie Vardy poses. I was thinking about how I’d try and deal with him on the pitch as a defender.

He’s super quick and a bit of a bully-type striker and when I took on the likes of Thierry Henry we always made the cardinal mistake of playing a high line.

I feel, when you play those types of players, it’s a real test of your positional sense because, in a flash, they’re gone and the ball is in the back of the net.

It’ll be a great examination for Leeds and, hopefully, they can keep the momentum they have harnessed going.

Dominic Matteo's column, in association with Data Facilities