Former Leeds United man on his Joe Gelhardt surprise, what Rodrigo needs and Tyler Roberts' task

Ten minutes into the second half against Newcastle United I didn’t see Leeds United losing that game but, from that moment forward, you started to wonder if we were in for a sucker punch.

By Tony Dorigo
Wednesday, 26th January 2022, 4:39 am

If you consider the West Ham game that came before, obviously the result was incredible but the performance was really good too. We looked decisive and incisive in the final third.

That was lost against Newcastle and especially frustrating for me was that with one win all season, they’re plainly not a very good side. They were open and, any time you don’t take your chances, you let teams like that off the hook and it can come back to bite you.

I remember up there at St James’ Park, we were 1-0 up, they were all over the place and yet we couldn’t score a second, so Allan Saint-Maximin equalises and the game changes.

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It was similar at Elland Road because, if we had scored, it would have been a totally different game.

At West Ham, though, every time they scored we just kept coming back. The difference in the performances was, for me, the most frustrating thing. In the Premier League, we talk about creating chances and taking them and how good the ratio of what you score from what you create needs to be.

The positions we got into against Newcastle were great. We easily bypassed their midfield and got to the final third because they were really open and all over the place yet, at the same time, you have to take advantage of those positions and situations. I still felt we could and should have gone on to win it, but we didn’t have control and then it became that ‘basketball game’ which is fun to watch as long as it comes out our way. This time it didn’t.

It was glaringly obvious that we were lacking Patrick Bamford or at least a natural centre forward. Daniel James does a fantastic job; he closes down, he does a lot of work but an out-and-out striker finds space in the box naturally and is in the right place to tuck it home. We didn’t have that so, at times when we put the ball in great areas, there was no runner there or we had two players making the same run and the final bit was lacking.

CAMEO SURPRISE - Tony Dorigo was surprised Joe Gelhardt played only the final 10 minutes of Leeds United's defeat by Newcastle United. Pic: Getty

It was a surprise to me that Joe Gelhardt got only 10 minutes. That type of player, someone who has at least shown at Under-23 level he can get into the right areas, was what we needed.

Rodrigo has got great ability and, when he links up play and gets his head up, he’s got that vision - he’s clearly not an out-and-out goalscorer; he wants to drop deeper and get involved in the play. Where Rodrigo plays is critical for the balance of that midfield area. The other players around him need to balance out the things he can’t do that well but that’s the same with any player.

The balance of the midfield on Saturday was a little bit out of kilter. When you have players who keep the ball, like Adam Forshaw and Kalvin Phillips, that gives you a sense of control and Rodrigo can flourish ahead of them. We’ve seen bright spots in his game but he needs help with the balance in midfield to put it all together.

Tyler Roberts is also an interesting one because he has got ability and we’ve seen it in parts. He hasn’t had long runs in the side but, when he has got in, slowly but surely his confidence has grown. Before his latest injury, the two or three performances he put together were arguably his best and you thought we’d see what he could do and see what Bielsa sees in training. Playing in that sort of position, though, you have to have an effect on the game. Whether that’s goals or assists, that’s what you need to produce and he hasn’t done that consistently enough. He’s still a young player, still learning and to get the kind of reaction he’s had on social media must be very difficult - it certainly won’t be helping. Making a mistake in the last third of the pitch shouldn’t mean the ball ends up in the back of your net. He needs a bit more confidence and has to prove that he belongs at this level.

The transfer window closes in the next week and we’re yet to see a senior signing. It’s obviously not a scenario where the money is so plentiful that you can go and spend what you want and getting the right player for the right price is difficult, but we also know new signings are not going to go straight in. By the time they’re integrated, fit and ready, understanding all the tactics, it’ll be March. It’s not a huge surprise, therefore, that we haven’t done a lot of business this month.

We have, however, been lacking in certain areas and, if the right player came up, I’ve no doubt the owners would put their hand in their pocket and get it done. It’s a gamble, looking at the position we’re in.

There are teams below us who are easily worse than us and we’ve got players to come back in so we’ll start to pick up results that will make us that little bit more safe.

For momentum, sometimes a new player coming in gives everyone a little extra lift and it helps but it’s not as simple as just going and getting one.