Leeds United 4 West Brom 0 - talking points: Tyler Roberts comes of age, Marcelo Bielsa fired up and sixteen is the magic number
Leeds United produced a stunning performance on Friday evening as the Whites toppled West Brom 4-0 at Elland Road - but what were the key talking points?
When did Leeds last look so complete?
There is always a risk of overstating a performance, especially when the pressure of the night is so high, but everyone at Elland Road knew what they were looking at. Leeds have not played better on Marcelo Bielsa’s watch, which poses the question of when they last did.
Trail back through the reams of Championship and League One games and very few go close. Very few felt so complete or made a mockery of a club with such a high wage bill and superior financial clout. Leeds’ pre-Christmas win over Queens Park Rangers in 2010 was superbly accomplished but still not on the same page.
A fair comparison would probably take Leeds back to the days of David O’Leary, when the club’s player knew how to entertain, but the tension caused by United’s midweek loss to QPR will have been familiar to those who watched Howard Wilkinson deliver promotion from the old second division in 1990.
Wilkinson stomached a sequence of one win in seven matches during the run-in, including a 2-1 loss to Barnsley in the club’s penultimate home fixture and a horrible day away at Oldham.
There were doubtless times in that spell where he felt like Bielsa felt at Loftus Road - not crushed or beaten but bothered by self-doubt - but he and Leeds saw the season through. Much as Bielsa didn’t want last night’s game to be seen as a riposte to questions about his side’s constitution, he must have felt that pang of satisfaction.
Tyler Roberts comes of age
It was hardly as if Roberts had been anonymous before West Brom turned up but his flurry of goals in September and October seems a long time ago and there was a sense at QPR of him being shoehorned into the number 10 position, in the absence of anyone more suitable or match-fit.
Bielsa, though, is sold on him there - as shown by the fact that he has not been tempted to take a serious chance on Izzy Brown - and Roberts was as impossible to handle in the pocket as Samuel Saiz at his best. That’s not to pretend that Roberts is at Saiz’s level but West Brom were unable to pick him up at any stage.
Both assists for Bamford’s goals came from him and his movement between the lines was a prime reason why Albion were unable to settle down and stop looking over their shoulder. Bamford’s second epitomised Roberts’ performance, with a run from deep which had West Brom chasing shadows.
Repeating that display will be a challenge but Roberts, with that sort of swaggering impact, can negate the loss of Kemar Roofe, who doesn’t look like featuring again until next month. It was telling on a night when everyone played out of their skin that the £2.5m forward was a fairly unanimous choice for man-of-the-match.
Sixteen seconds on the clock
The remarkable thing about the speed of Pablo Hernandez’s opening goal was not only the timing of it but the fact that Leeds did not even have the help of the kick-off. Liam Cooper’s sprint to meet a high ball with a header - an intervention the crowd loved - found West Brom in disarray immediately.
Sixteen seconds were on the clock, which ranks Hernandez near the very top of the list of the fastest goals Leeds have ever scored. Jermaine Wright struck after 10 seconds against Burnley in 2004 and Mark Viduka took 11 to draw first blood against Charlton in 2001, the third quickest strike in the history of the Premier League. Neither matched Hernandez’s on the Richter Scale.
Bielsa gets stuck in
Phil Parkinson was sent off at Elland Road last weekend and Bielsa - normally subdued and mild-mannered in the technical area - got himself a booking in the second half yesterday after complaining about a foul on Mateusz Klich. He won’t be proud of it but the caution was part of an occasion when everyone on Leeds’ side of the fence got stuck in.
West Brom pick up the travel costs
A nice touch, everyone said, when it transpired that West Brom’s players had chipped into fund travel for their supporters to Elland Road.
A prescient touch, everyone thought, as Albion were battered from the first whistle, dragged down by the hapless contribution of their full-backs, their total lack of midfield mobility and Dwight Gayle - someone who has never failed to score against Leeds previously - waiting for a search party on the left wing.
The downside for Albion’s travelling crowd was that the stack of official club coaches in Fullerton Park left them with no escape in the second half, when many of them would have been justified in throwing in the towel early.
The away end was still full at the end, despite the mauling. They’d probably appreciate a refund on tickets too.