Leeds United men set Elland Road challenge as squad issues leave Allardyce without ideal solution

Leeds United title winner Tony Dorigo says it’s time to forget about how the Whites perform because it’s all about points, however they come, as Newcastle United prepare to enter an electric Elland Road.
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Forget how Leeds United play under Sam Allardyce from here on in because we just have to win.

His team selection for the first game, against Manchester City at the Etihad on Saturday, was largely what I expected because we had to sort that midfield somehow, someway. Getting three in there felt absolutely vital because it's been a problem for us. And when you're facing someone like Manchester City you need to pack the middle and try to stop them the best you can. With the two wide men the idea was to try and catch them on the counter attack, because we knew we wouldn't see much of the ball.

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The question was whether or not Illan Meslier would be in the firing line again and it was probably the right decision to take him out, because Joel Robles did more than okay between the sticks. All in all it felt like the right side for the occasion, in the circumstances we are facing with injuries and the make-up of the squad.

We can cope with injuries in certain areas better than others. We have four very good wide players, so when one is injured we don't notice it as much. But in the midfield, with Tyler Adams missing, we haven't got that kind of player to replace him. Whoever comes in gives us a slightly different midfield. That's one of those places where we need to get hold of games and we haven't been able to do that. Adam Forshaw coming in at Manchester City was an obvious one because we can keep the ball, he's got experience, but we're asking a lot of him with his lack of gametime in recent years. He gives absolutely everything and if that is the way Sam Allardyce is going to go then Forshaw will be vital. He's got other options, I thought he might possibly take a look at Max Wober in a midfield role but whichever route Allardyce takes, Leeds don't have an ideal-world scenario here so Forshaw is probably the best fit.

The performance Allardyce got from the players was certainly enough to let everyone say 'okay let's bring on Newcastle.' That's how I felt after the final whistle went. At last we showed spirit and backbone. It could have been three or four at half-time but mentally we stuck in there and in the second half we changed things and even gave them a little bit of a fright. That was a huge improvement on the last few games. It still produced nothing, no points, yet when the opposition is considered we weren't expected to get anything. At the very least we needed a better performance and that's what we got. There are plenty of things to look at positively. The difference from here on in is that a performance is not enough, we need points. So forget how we play, we just have to win.

Monday night's results just make it that much more difficult for us. Results haven't been good to us but we have to do it ourselves. Some people have been saying we might be able to stay up with one more point but that was never going to happen. At some point teams are going to win games and we've got to be one of those who pulls off a surprise result. Newcastle are flying so what we've got to think and hope is that this is where our first surprise comes. That's what we need now.

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For this one, Allardyce's first taste of Elland Road as Leeds manager, he has had a little bit more time than he did to play against the best side in Europe. Having got an improvement in terms of performance, this time, with more time spent working on things on the training ground, it will still be a psychological job, giving the players belief that they can now go on and get a result. The first step was showing something at Manchester City - the second is beating Newcastle. He needs to get into their heads and cajole them, working them hard in an enjoyable way. Big Sam will be ahead of all that, getting players up and ready to go.

PSYCHOLOGICAL JOB - Leeds United boss Sam Allardyce needs more than a performance against Newcastle United at an electric Elland Road on Saturday. Pic: GettyPSYCHOLOGICAL JOB - Leeds United boss Sam Allardyce needs more than a performance against Newcastle United at an electric Elland Road on Saturday. Pic: Getty
PSYCHOLOGICAL JOB - Leeds United boss Sam Allardyce needs more than a performance against Newcastle United at an electric Elland Road on Saturday. Pic: Getty

He won't need to get the crowd going. Elland Road has been outperforming the side because the support has always been wonderful, they've been there through thick and thin, singing and helping the boys with consistency. All you can say is - same again please. The fans will be so important, they'll be needed throughout, they'll need to stick with the team as they have done. It's really about the players now, they are the ones who need to step up because the crowd will be electric, the noise will be incredible and that has to be matched on the pitch. That’s the challenge for the players. We all know what this means, how important it is. We've got to make it as loud and raucous and intimidating as it can be for Newcastle and hope that it helps spur the boys on.