Jean-Kevin Augustin, Ian Poveda, two common themes and a three-point gap - Leeds United Talking Points
AFTER seeing history repeat itself with Leeds United again stung by a visiting Wigan Athletic side, Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points from Saturday's 1-0 Championship defeat at Elland Road.
The absence of Big Kev
Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa warned in Thursday's pre-match press conference that it would take time for new striker recruit Jean-Kevin Augustin to complete the necessary adaptation period following his Monday move from Red Bull Leipzig.
Bielsa warned that with previous signings that period usually took more than one month so nobody was expecting Augustin to suddenly come straight into the side to face Wigan.
But nevertheless it was definitely a surprise that the 22-year-old was not named amongst the substitutes with Leeds clearly struggling for goals of late aside from the second half display in the 3-2 win at home to Millwall.
Bielsa calls the shots but Augustin said himself on Thursday that he felt 100 per cent fit and ready to be called into action when Bielsa saw fit.
But the Whites head coach again highlighted the fact that Augustin had only just arrived and also the presence of Tyler Roberts on the bench when quizzed as to why Augustin was not involved in his post-match press conference.
With 73 per cent of possession and 18 shots on goal yielding nothing, it's pretty obvious that United could have done with him and surely the Frenchman has to be at least on the bench for Saturday's clash at Nottingham Forest.
Ian Poveda stays on the bench
The returning Tyler Roberts made a decent impact after coming on as a 64th-minute substitute for Gjanni Alioski, playing a very central role and almost as a no 10 with Pablo Hernandez drifting more out wide.
But Bielsa resisted any temptation to make any further changes with another January recruit in Ian Poveda looking the other obvious attacking option on the bench.
The same adaptation period that applies for Augustin also goes for Poveda who at least joined three days before the Frenchman and he too must surely come deep into the reckoning for the clash at Forest.
Every Whites player asked about Poveda so far has given the 19-year-old glowing reviews and for Leeds the sooner he is let off the leash the better.
More set piece woes
There are quite clearly two issues that are holding Leeds back at present - missing too many chances and a vulnerability at set pieces.
It is obviously hoped that Augustin and Poveda for that matter will help remedy the former issue but Wigan's winner proved another goal leaked from a set piece, a goal described as a "fluke" by United's Tyler Roberts as the ball took a big deflection off Hernandez to dip under Kiko Casilla.
That said, questions were asked about Casilla in the post-match press conference with Bielsa defending the Spaniard and admitting Leeds were short on natural "very good headers" of the ball at the back apart from Liam Cooper and that Casilla's task was more difficult as a result.
As ever, a very honest assessment from Bielsa who again took the blame for United's latest defeat.
Impressive young French under-20s keeper Illan Meslier is the clear alternative in between the sticks.
From eleven points to three
Leeds had an 11 point-cushion in the automatic promotion spots after the 2-0 win at home to Hull City on December 10 but a return of just nine points from a last possible 27 has seen that gap slashed to three points with Fulham now leading the chasing pack.
And the aftermath of Saturday's defeat to Wigan could have been worse with Nottingham Forest blowing the chance to move one point behind Leeds with defeat at Birmingham City.
Nevertheless, the Tricky Trees remain four points behind in fourth with Fulham and Forest far too close for comfort, a comment that also applies to fifth-placed Brentford and sixth-placed Bristol City who are both five adrift.
There are then another three points back to seventh-placed Preston North End with the top six threatening to now breakaway somewhat.
When is all said and done, Leeds still find themselves in the automatic promotion spots but the recent run has to be a concern with United fourth-bottom in the form table over the last nine games with nine points.
Brentford, Forest and Fulham have all taken 17 points in that period, hence why the gap has been slashed with West Brom managing just ten points in that spell but now back on top and one point ahead of Leeds after their win at home to Luton Town.
The only table that matters is the one at the end of the first weekend of May and Leeds clearly have the football, talent and head coach to ensure they are in the top two at the end of the campaign.
But it goes without saying that the Whites quickly need to build a good run of victories with two massive tests next on the horizon at Forest on Saturday and away at Brentford a week on Tuesday.
One way or the other, for better or for worse, the table could look very different in nine days' time.