Leeds United got what they deserved at Everton as failure to move forward bites - Graham Smyth's Verdict

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Leeds United got what they deserved at Everton, just like they did at Aston Villa and just like they will come the end of the season.

The Premier League table doesn't lie after 38 games and if Leeds are outside the bottom three then they will be there on merit. If the worst case scenario, a doomsday scenario if ever there was one, befalls them then they will have no one but themselves to blame.

Most of the judgement and the conclusions about Bielsa and Leeds in their second Premier League campaign should only be delivered when their fate is known. At present, because they're so inconsistent, opinion on the Argentine's decisions and his players is oscillating wildly from week to week, yet they didn't become a great team when they beat West Ham United or came from behind to draw at Aston Villa, just as they didn't become a terrible, relegation-worthy outfit when they lost 1-0 to Newcastle United or 3-0 Everton.

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What can be said, even at this relatively early stage with 45 points still to play for, is that Leeds have not moved forward since finishing in the top 10 last season.

Beating the 59-point tally accrued as Bielsa's side set about the Premier League so ferociously at the first attempt is now beyond even the man who made the promotion miracle come to pass - it would take 12 wins from the remaining 15 games just to match it.

Comparing points totals is of course a crude way to gauge a team's year-on-year progression because each season throws up a different set of 19 opponents, with difficulty levels that vary, but there's just no way to argue that Leeds are better now than they were, even with the most nuanced view.

Of course you have to take into consideration the injuries that have plagued Leeds and robbed Bielsa of some of his best players for such long periods and therein lies a big part of the problem - without players as good as Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford most clubs would struggle to maintain their level, never mind improve it.

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The sparsity of the summer recruitment and the complete absence of it in January failed to significantly move the squad forward and in the absence of both key personnel and significant reinforcements, those left carrying the can have struggled for consistency. There have been times this season when a glance at Bielsa's bench has shown the scale of the problem, with either a complete lack of experience or proven game-changing ability among his options. Bielsa's methods, including his preference for a small squad, brought Leeds to the top table and yet this season it has been hard to shake the feeling that just a bit more in terms of quality and depth would have proven so useful.

BLEAK DAY - Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United were well beaten by Everton at Goodison Park. Pic: Bruce RollinsonBLEAK DAY - Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United were well beaten by Everton at Goodison Park. Pic: Bruce Rollinson
BLEAK DAY - Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United were well beaten by Everton at Goodison Park. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

There has at least been first team exposure for a number of youngsters who will have developed as a result but as has been the case at various times this season, even amid real injury problems, Saturday's team sheet suggested they're not quite ready to surpass their senior counterparts.

At Goodison Park, Joe Gelhardt, Crysencio Summerville or Lewis Bate would not have been the answer to Leeds' major problem. Bielsa admitted himself that he got his selection wrong, putting the more attacking Mateusz Klich in front of the back line, instead of the more defensive Adam Forshaw who he left on the bench.

The midfield was an issue from the off. There didn't appear to be one as Everton poured forward and the sight of Leeds on their heels, against a side below them, a side having a worse season, was jarring. This wasn't what was expected by a packed away end, not after the rip-roaring response to going 3-1 down at Villa Park.

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Had it not been for Luke Ayling's last-ditch tackle, Anthony Gordon would have put the host ahead inside the first couple of minutes having sprinted in behind onto Dominic Calvert-Lewin's defence-splitting pass. The Toffees youngster did a better job of testing Illan Meslier from long range, as the visitors' torrid start showed no signs of abating.

When Stuart Dallas went off with an early knock it already had the feel of one of those days for Leeds. And then they conceded.

Jonjoe Kenny got the better of Raphinha all too easily and although his cross from the left just eluded Calvert-Lewin, Everton kept the attack alive, worked the ball into the area and Donny van de Beek passed it to the back post where Calvert-Lewin did enough to force the ball into the air for Seamus Coleman to head home.

With no discernible presence in the middle, Leeds continued to look fragile in the wake of the opener and in danger of conceding a quick-fire second, but at least fashioned a first chance of their own, of sorts.

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They weren't getting any joy on the flanks or making entries into the area, so Rodrigo set his sights from an acre of space 30 yards out and rattled Jordan Pickford's crossbar. That was a bolt from the blue, however, and a rare moment of respite as Everton ploughed a fruitful furrow through the space where Leeds' midfield should have been.

Their second goal came as no real surprise, Michael Keane rising to head home far too easily from the hosts' first corner.

Leeds could get nothing going in reply, defenders resorting to hopeful aerial balls, often first time, because Everton's press was so intense, and so the ball just kept coming back.

The simple pass just didn't seem possible for the man in possession and never was Leeds' problem more evident than when Klich tried a backwards header into the middle, where there were no white shirts and a combination of Allan and Donny van de Beek, a player offered to the Whites in January, took the hosts forward again. The evidence of one game is not enough to conclude that a serious effort to sign van de Beek should have been made, but on a day as bleak as this one the thought did occur that, at the most basic level, his addition would have prevented Everton from getting him.

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Van de Beek had a good game, so too did Richarlison for the first time against Leeds, but 20-year-old Anthony Gordon had a field day. When he blew past Diego Lllorente, Robin Koch could only stop the cross dead in the centre of the area for Richarlison, Leo Hjelde's block saving a certain third.

Rodrigo hit the bar again with another wonderful effort from distance as the woodwork kept the scoreline honest.

Bielsa's half-time intervention removed the ineffective Raphinha and the over-run Klich as Tyler Roberts and Forshaw entered the game.

With Forshaw on the pitch Leeds saw more of the ball but still couldn't manage to do what they wanted with it. There was some time spent in the final third in the first 20 minutes of the second half, fleeting moments that did not yield anything in the way of a chance. Roberts had little in the way of impact, which will simply turn up the volume on increasingly impatient calls for Gelhardt to get the chances the Welsh international is not taking. Roberts wasn't the solution but nor was he the problem - so many others failed to best their direct rival all afternoon. Although Forshaw's presence from the start might have made a difference, a big one even, Everton had the look of a team who were not going to be denied. Leeds have dished out enough days like that since Bielsa's arrival to know that sometimes sheer bloody-mindedness can be a trump card.

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Everton remained the more aggressive and the more dangerous in the later stages, even without the same amount of possession, and killed the game off when Richarlison's drive took a nick off Gordon and found the bottom corner. The scoreline was in no way flattering, it was deserved.

Bielsa and his players will decide what it is Leeds deserve between now and the end of the season. They might not be able to count on the kind of January bounce that Newcastle and Everton hope to profit from, but Leeds will win games and they are good enough to stay up - being inconsistent is better than being consistently bad and at least three other clubs will be guilty of that. This summer, however, the club must put serious thought and serious work into moving in the right direction once again.

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