Leeds United fell to a 1-0 loss against Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, offering little and suffering the consequences.
Here are five things we learned from that defeat:
Cellino is at a crucial juncture in his tenure
Massimo Cellino decided that he should make his return from his self-imposed absence at Loftus Road on Saturday, and will have witnessed the sort of display that would have made him tear out his hair. When Cellino gave an infamous interview shortly before taking over the club, he used two words to describe the team he was about to inherit. Those two words were echoed by the fans on Saturday, sang over and over again. It was a poisonous atmosphere, the sort that has become more commonplace over the last few seasons at Leeds than ever before. It began to develop before Charlie Austin put QPR into the lead. The Italian owner now seems to have two options available to him; invest and draw back, making his presence less clear, or sell the club. The club risks losing everything that makes it special if they spend much longer in their current state.
Byram’s absence cannot be explained in footballing terms
One issue that needed to be decided before Saturday’s game was whether Sam Byram would be included. He was not, Scott Wootton starting again at right-back. It was not the best decision, Wootton questionable both in terms of positioning and his distribution from deep. We now seem to have reached the point that Byram is the third choice right-back at Leeds, which is preposterous given his innate quality. Yes Byram was not in great form at the start of the campaign, but he is not going to recapture it by not playing at all. It’s clear that his contract is the issue, which is unfortunate and means football is less important at Elland Road than behind the scenes problems.
Steve Evans is not exempt from criticism
Evans is only seven games into his time at Leeds, but he has already become a target for criticism. His decision to take Mirco Antenucci off for Lee Erwin was met with fans chanting “You don’t know what you’re doing”. It felt as though any substitution barring putting Byram on at that point would have caused the same reaction. Leeds’ style of play on Saturday was not particularly good, and there were clear issues with the manner in which the team was set up. It was rectified in the second-half, but Evans has now lost three of the games he’s taken charge of, winning twice. The nature of Cellino’s ownership means fans are all too aware of the potential mortality of any coach’s tenure. It now feels as though the honeymoon is over.
Liam Bridcutt looks like he could add bite to midfield
Arriving from Sunderland on loan on Thursday, it would not have been a surprise to see Bridcutt lacking in match fitness. He performed well, singled out for praise by Evans after the match. Admittedly, Bridcutt was booked with less than 10 minutes on the clock and therefore had to spend the entire game walking a tightrope, but he looked as though he could be a worthwhile addition to an already packed selection in the centre of the park. He tackled well, tracked the opposition, and did not look overwhelmed when asked to anchor a two-man central midfield. Given the next opposition are Hull, his defensive work might be key again this coming weekend.
Chris Wood might need to be taken out of the firing line
First, a caveat. Chris Wood actually had one of his better games in terms of winning the ball in the air and linking up play. There was also little service for him in the area. However, we’ve seen it over and over again at Elland Road - it does not take much for the crowd to get on the backs of an underperforming player. Wood looked slightly short of confidence on Saturday, and will not have been helped by the reaction of the fans. He also struggled to get on to the few opportunities that were provided for him by Stuart Dallas and Mirco Antenucci, and really should have scored when he rounded Rob Green, instead taking far too long and firing over the net. There is no ready made replacement for Wood in the Leeds squad, but it might be time to try something else against Hull, even if just to keep the Kiwi striker away from more criticism and build up his confidence.