Leeds United: Positive signs but we still need some width – Lorimer

Chris Wood.
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The positive thing about Friday’s friendly against Harrogate Town was that Leeds United’s players looked fit and in shape.

The match was planned as a fitness exercise and in that respect it ticked the box. Okay, most of the squad were limited to 45 minutes but they came through the run-out comfortably.

Needless to say, a 1-1 draw wasn’t anything to write home about but it’s important not to draw too many conclusions at this stage of the summer.

I’d have liked to have seen a better performance, especially in the first half, but pre-season can be a bit unpredictable.

From listening to Uwe Rosler’s reaction, you could tell that he was looking for a bit more too.

He’ll be very happy that the players came through the match unscathed but the first half was clearly a slight disappointment for him.

In some ways that’s a good thing. It’s a useful reminder that work needs to be done. Leeds looked more comfortable in a 4-3-3 formation that they did playing 3-5-2 and it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of the work on the training pitch this week has been spent working 3-5-2 out.

To a large extent, that’s what friendlies are for – to experiment and look for things which need to be ironed out.

Two players who caught the eye on Friday were our new strikers, Lee Erwin and Chris Wood.

They impressed me in little patches and I’m in no doubt that they’re going to be big players for us when the season starts.

But what’s equally true is that strikers like that need good service.

They need to be in the box, looking for chances, rather than having to work out wide like they did for periods at Harrogate.

Now that Tom Adeyemi’s on board – another young, hungry player – the priority for Rosler is surely going to be the addition of pace and natural width.

It’s something we’ve been missing for quite a while at Leeds and Rosler would no doubt admit himself that it’s essential for him going forward.

As a team, we actually play the ball quite nicely through midfield.

We’ve got lads who are happy in possession, willing to carry it and good at pulling the strings. But when it comes to attacking sides out wide you’re really looking for specialists.

Take Alex Mowatt as an example. Alex is an excellent player with a great left foot but he’s not especially quick.

You can play him out wide, as Leeds did a few times next season, but that won’t get the best out of him and it won’t get the best out of that area of the field. Natural wingers are a rare commodity these days and, for that reason, they’re usually expensive.

No club is going to be happy to lose that creativity.

But Leeds definitely need it and if they can find the right players, guys like Wood and Erwin will really come into their own.

The one thing defenders hate playing against is pace. Wingers who want to run at a full-back time after time are a nightmare.

They draw fouls, they tempt mistakes and they force a backline to keep turning back.

Defenders are at their most comfortable with the opposition in front of them.

Our own defence was the other thing that caused me a bit of concern at Harrogate. Harrogate created quite a lot of chances and we looked vulnerable from set pieces and crosses into the box.

That was a mark of last season and it was a weakness that cost us time and again.

It’s not a massive problem because with coaching and drilling it’s something you can eradicate but as much as there isn’t much work left to be done to the squad, I wouldn’t mind seeing more strength in that area. Across the country, supporters of every club will be having the same conversations about pre-season games: seeing good things and bad, trying to reach conclusions and second-guessing the coach.

As ever, we’ll only get our answers when the season starts on August 8.

I’m looking forward to that date already.

SIDELINED: Leeds United's 
Mateusz Klich. Picture: Tony Johnson.

Video: Klich and Cibicki stuck on the sidelines at Leeds United