Paul Heckingbottom admitted he was holding off from a switch to his preferred defensive style of man-marking despite Leeds United shipping two goals from set-pieces during last night’s defeat to Wolverhampton Wanderers.
Heckingbottom revealed that he had stuck with a zonal system put in place by his predecessor, Thomas Christiansen, and Gianni Vio, the set-piece coach who joined United’s backroom staff midway through the season.
Vio made his reputation as an attacking specialist but he has contributed to United’s defensive structure since Leeds brought him on board in October.
The club, though, have struggled at the back, with their concessions already higher than they were over 46 games last season, and they were picked off twice in the first half against Wolves by headers stemming from corners into the box. Leo Bonatini also saw a second-half effort from another Barry Douglas delivery cleared off the goalline.
Leeds were previously undone in dead-ball situations against both Cardiff City and Bristol City, conceding two goals to Bristol City from long throws into their box.
Heckingbottom said: “It’s something we’ve got to look at. There’s a different set-up to what I’ve done (in the past). You’ve got to give things time and I’ve got to learn about what’s been going off. I’ve also got to learn about the players.
“How I’ve done it in the past has always been man-to-man marking and really black and white. ‘If your man scores it’s your fault’. But you need to have good man-markers for that. You need to be strong in the box.
“As the set-up is at the minute, we’re zonal with a couple of markers but we know we’re leaving free men and relying on the zonal men to head the ball. There are pluses and minuses to both but it’s something we have to improve on.
“Corners have been not bad since October, November when Gianni came in. We’ve had errors in other areas and it’s like anything - the players are familiar with it. Whether it’s the right way going forward we’ll have to wait and see.”
Vio was one of a handful of staff, including goalkeeping coach Marcos Abad and analyst Benat Labaien, who stayed on at Leeds after Christiansen was sacked at the beginning of last month.
The Italian worked with several clubs in his homeland, including Fiorentina and AC Milan, and had gained prior experience of English football during a spell with Brentford. Leeds, however, have the third lowest tally of goals scored from set-pieces in the Championship this season.
Heckingbottom said: “It’s all new. It’s something we want to look at and see if we can make the best of it. Your always looking for improvements all the time.
“You want to change it but you’ve got to have people who can mark and dominate the box. We’re not riddled with those players and that’s what I say about the balance of the squad.
“You have to be strong with the ball, strong without the ball, strong in transition and strong at set-plays for and against. When you are, you’ll be able to compete.”