`

Leeds United 1 Birmingham City 2: The Final Word - What next after United's first league loss?

POSITIVE IMPACT: Leeds United's Stuart Dallas goes close as the Whites look to draw level with Birmingham City.
POSITIVE IMPACT: Leeds United's Stuart Dallas goes close as the Whites look to draw level with Birmingham City.
0
Have your say

AFTER seeing Leeds United's unbeaten start to the Championship campaign finally ended with a 2-1 defeat at home to Birmingham City, the YEP's Lee Sobot has The Final Word on Saturday's clash at Elland Road and looks at what next for Marcelo Bielsa's Whites.

How did it come to a first defeat?

Even with the dust well and truly settled from Saturday's defeat, it's still difficult to pinpoint exactly what went wrong at the weekend with Leeds having 71 per cent of possession and 17 shots on goal compared to Birmingham's four.

But despite spurning some good chances and netting once through Gjanni Alioski - Leeds failed to do enough with that possession with Birmingham making 22 interceptions compared to United's four and crucially netting twice from their four attempts on goal.

The Blues arrived at Elland Road as one of only two teams in the division without a win but six of Birmingham's games had ended in draws with Garry Monk's side arriving on a four-game unbeaten run.

Having conceded just seven goals in eight league games approaching Saturday's clash at Leeds, the Blues were always going to be very hard to break down and the gut feeling that United were facing a huge uphill battle after going 1-0 down after just eight minutes proved correct, let alone when the visitors doubled their lead 21 minutes later.

Even a 1-0 cushion - never mind double that - was always going to prove the perfect foundation for a Blues success and it is somewhat ironic that United's former head coach would be the one to halt the unbeaten run.

Monk - and Birmingham - quite simply did a job on Leeds but we already know what United are capable of and with games coming thick and fast in the Championship it is time to swiftly move on.

The goalkeeping situation

There was plenty of chat about United's goalkeeping situation over the summer over whether or not Leeds needed a new no 1 for this season or whether inexperienced 21-year-old Bailey Peacock-Farrell was ready to keep his position of first choice given his excellent efforts at the back end of last season when handed an opportunity in for Felix Wiedwald and Andy Lonergan.

In the end, United brought in loanee Jamal Blackman from Chelsea who would have hoped to have started the season as first choice but Peacock-Farrell was made no 1 both in a squad number and positional sense with the Northern Ireland international starting all seven of United's league games and barely putting a foot wrong so far.

Yet there is no denying that Peacock-Farrell should have kept out Che Adams' opener for which he was badly wrong-footed and Adams' second should also probably have been prevented with the ball squeezing in at the far post from an unlikely looking angle though Peacock-Farrell should not be alone in taking the blame with Adams given too much space for both strikes.

Skipper Liam Cooper admitted afterwards that being a young keeper, odd mistakes would be par for the course for Peacock-Farrell but United's captain defended the custodian at the same time.

"Bailey is a young 'keeper, he is going to make mistakes and these things happen," said Cooper.

"He's got to expect that these things are going to creep in every now and again and it's the way he bounces back from them.

"He's a strong lad, he's a great goalkeeper and I have told him that. He just needs to not let it affect him."

Moving on, everyone should be forgiven the odd bad game or error and there is clearly plenty to Peacock-Farrell's game - even without the obvious potential for more given his age - and the 'keeper's footwork and passing in particular are key assets given Bielsa's style of playing out from the back.

But Saturday's defeat and the nature of the crucial goals conceded has nonetheless re-opened the debate over United's goalkeeping situation with Blackman waiting in the wings.

The impacts from the bench and possible changes for Hillsborough

Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa has so far been totally loyal to those players starting with the Whites head coach by and large only making changes to his side when injuries enforced them.

So will Bielsa again keep the faith with the same side for Friday night's Yorkshire derby at Sheffield Wednesday?

Of United's current injury absentees, Bielsa admitted last week that defender Gaetano Berardi was close to returning but he will have a job dislodging the centre-back axis of Cooper and Pontus Jansson who again both had solid games despite United conceding two goals. Unless, that is, Bielsa lines up with three at the back.

But either way, Stuart Dallas, Adam Forshaw and Ryan Edmondson all made positive impacts after coming on for Kalvin Phillips, Mateusz Klich and Barry Douglas respectively against Birmingham and Dallas and Forshaw in particular might have done enough to start at Hillsborough with Dallas probably United's best player at right wing back as Leeds changed to a back three of Jansson, Cooper and Luke Ayling with Douglas at left wing back.

The picture is complicated by the fact that a versatile Dallas can play in various positions with the 27-year-old clearly most naturally recognised as a winger and both Jack Harrison and Gjanni Alioski had difficult games out wide against Birmingham, though the same can be said for most of the Whites team with Cooper adamant his side deserved nothing from the game.

Forshaw, meanwhile, would seemingly come in for Kalvin Phillips if starting unless Mateusz Klich was to drop out with Phillips again finding himself substituted in the first half for the second time this season. Chelsea loanee Lewis Baker is another option in centre midfield.

That said, as far as Phillips is concerned, Bielsa was still complimentary about the 22-year-old in his post-match press conference - blaming the defeat on himself and saying Phillips was "not responsible" despite being taken off after just 34 minutes with Bielsa admitting he should have lined up with three at the back.

Teen forward Edmondson, meanwhile, was finally handed his second outing for Leeds on as a 71st-minute substitute for the sacrificed Douglas as Tyler Roberts was moved out wide.

It has been said before and will be said again that even at 17, the well-built Edmondson is blessed with an impressive frame - one perfect for a lone striker - and it will be fascinating to see if and when he is handed a first league start with the teen the clear other option to Roberts in the absence of injured duo Kemar Roofe and Patrick Bamford.

Bielsa will also have a decision to make regards United's formation with the Whites looking their most threatening under his fabled 3-3-1-3 following the tactical reshuffle.

That might well be the way United's head coach opts to line up at Hillsborough against an Owls side who will be full of confidence following Saturday's 2-1 triumph at Aston Villa.

Yet Bielsa has been extremely loyal to those starting and as such, whatever the system, even following a first defeat, an unchanged XI at Wednesday would not be a huge surprise.

Tight at the top

Leeds retained leadership of the division on goal difference despite Saturday's defeat, with Middlesbrough held to a goalless draw at home to Swansea City.

A first Whites loss of the season does not take away the fact that United have made a fine start to the season as a whole - the best in the division - but there are now only four points between first and sixth and only four points back to 12th-placed Blackburn Rovers who are level on points with an in-form and quickly rising Norwich City who have won three in a row.

Third-placed West Brom - who have won three of their last four - are particularly on the march and now only one point behind Leeds and it goes without saying that a quick return to winning ways at Hillsborough would be just the tonic for Bielsa's Whites who now face back to back away games with a trip to Hull City on the agenda next Tuesday followed by an Elland Road date with seventh-placed Brentford the following Saturday.

Three key games which will be pivotal to United's position going into the seasons's international break and clearly the sooner that Roofe and Hernandez are back the better with Saturday's defeat again highlighting just how much the creativity of Hernandez is missed with too much dependence on Samu Saiz.

He needs more help in providing the creative spark.