You definitely need a certain amount of self-belief and confidence to play for Leeds United.
That doesn’t only apply to games at Elland Road but Elland Road is where Leeds players need to show the most swagger. Call it arrogance or whatever you like. It has to shine through.
At the moment, one member of the current squad typifies what I’m talking about – Lewis Cook.
His body language tells me that being at this club and coping with the crowd at Elland Road is not a problem for him in the slightest. He’s got bottle, he looks happy and he looks like he’s enjoying himself, even when some pretty mediocre performances are going on around him.
Going into your shell spells defeat in any sport and as far as I’m concerned the first step towards repairing our record at Elland Road is to break out of the mould of allowing the opposition to think that games are going to go their way.
No matter what anyone says and no matter our results, away teams coming to Elland Road will feel a bit of trepidation before kick-off. It’s only natural because, on its day, it’s a very hard stadium to visit. We’ve all seen before how much the crowd can influence results and the main priority for any side coming here is to keep them quiet.
At this stage that seems to be what’s happening. To take the last two games against Birmingham and Ipswich, those matches followed an identical pattern. They both sat deep, defended tightly and gave nothing away while leaving a couple of players up front in the hope of picking Leeds off.
If our team had got into them from the very start, fired up the crowd and created good chances, then the scenario would have been very different. It’s not that Birmingham or Ipswich would have changed their tactics but they’d have found themselves feeling far more vulnerable. And when you’re vulnerable, you tend to be tentative. Fewer things come off and more mistakes are made.
Errors are costing us and there’s no question at all that Uwe Rosler’s defence needs to cut them out. But going right back to the first month of the season, I always feared that goalscoring might be a problem for us. As much as we try to play on the front foot, we don’t look like a prolific side.
Two goals from open play in the last five matches highlight a very obvious issue. I said last week that the combination of Mirco Antenucci and Chris Wood is crying out to be played more often.
We look most dangerous when they’re both on the pitch but the partnership is being used more to salvage difficult situations than it is to win games from the start.
You can’t win every match and there will always be days when things go wrong but sending on Antenucci to rescue a point has been a bit of habit this season.
He’s a better player than that in my opinion and I really hope we see the two of them start against Brighton on Saturday.
Whenever I speak to the supporters, they all say much the same thing – that we’re not creating enough and we’re not causing enough chaos in the goalmouth. That’s certainly true and improving in that area is the clearest route to turning the home form around.
Don’t get me wrong, there is obviously pressure on the players but I don’t think the pressure is caused by the ground they’re playing in. I think it comes down to the fact that they aren’t playing well, their approach hasn’t really been working and all of a sudden the belief is starting to drop.
Certainly you can’t blame the crowd. Our supporters are excellent. The fact that the atmosphere has dropped a bit at Elland Road is a result of the performances. For half-an-hour we chip away without doing much damage. Then we concede and start to look very shaky. Okay, we’ve seen some fightbacks late on but that’s not the sort of situation that’s going to fire the fans up. As I’ve said many times, it’s the players’ responsibility to lift the crowd, not the other way round.
Brighton on Saturday is a big test. They’re top of the table and unbeaten so they’re obviously in great shape. But if I was a player at Leeds, I’d be thinking about how poor they were last season – and how quickly they’ve turned it around. Change the approach, lift the confidence and we can put this spell behind us.