Leeds United show yet more evidence of big change - Graham Smyth's Verdict on Carabao Cup win

A cup run has not been the done thing at Leeds United for quite some time but in the words of CEO Angus Kinnear: "This season is different."
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This isn't just boardroom speak, things do feel very different around Elland Road, not least in the wake of that thrashing of Chelsea and a comfortable 3-1 Carabao Cup win over Barnsley.

There's a danger that any discussion of change falls down the trapdoor of comparison, but it is possible to see the positives in the ways Jesse Marsch has altered Thorp Arch life without denigrating what came before him.

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Leeds enjoyed pre-season and Marsch was a central figure in fostering a feel-good factor around the squad, his arm-around-the-shoulder management style currying favour with players new and established.

Together they rolled right into a tremendous start to the Premier League campaign, with a playing style that is quickly winning over the American's doubters. It can be helter skelter but when the ball is won, Leeds look capable of doing good things with it. Carrying a set-piece threat is nice, too.

One of the most obvious differences of all is the bulking up of the squad, meaning that players who were previously almost guaranteed starts now find themselves on the bench.It meant that the seniors Marsch started in the Carabao Cup against League One Barnsley were not merely topping up their fitness, but trying to play their way into a Premier League side.

Liam Cooper returned from his Achilles injury and Marsch must now leave out one from his captain, Diego Llorente and Robin Koch.

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Mateusz Klich and Adam Forshaw came into the side having started the season behind new boys Tyler Adams, Marc Roca and Brenden Aaronson.

HEALTHY COMPETITION - Sam Greenwood and Mateusz Klich are among the midfield options Jesse Marsch has had on his Leeds United bench for the Premier League games but he gave them minutes against Barnsley. Pic: Bruce RollinsonHEALTHY COMPETITION - Sam Greenwood and Mateusz Klich are among the midfield options Jesse Marsch has had on his Leeds United bench for the Premier League games but he gave them minutes against Barnsley. Pic: Bruce Rollinson
HEALTHY COMPETITION - Sam Greenwood and Mateusz Klich are among the midfield options Jesse Marsch has had on his Leeds United bench for the Premier League games but he gave them minutes against Barnsley. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

Joe Gelhardt got the nod up front, with top goalscorer Rodrigo on the bench and Patrick Bamford, the pre-season favourite to hold down the number nine role, still to come back from a groin strain.

Competition is, all of a sudden, rife, and even youngsters like Cody Drameh, for whom there must have been temptation to go out on loan again, knew that a good showing could bring them closer to senior league involvement.

"We have the tactical foundations and squad depth to mount campaigns on three fronts," said Kinnear in his programme notes.

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The CEO spoke of a 'golden chance' for players to stake a claim for a starting place and throughout the side Marsch picked were players with something to prove.

One of those, Sam Greenwood, was almost too eager to grab his chance with an early foul that presented Barnsley with their first set-piece opportunity. He showed a few nerves with a shaky pass that Devante Cole picked off before testing Illan Meslier. He settled though and so too did Leeds after several minutes of building their way into the game.

Once they figured out how to get their full-backs, wingers and central attackers on the ball in enough space to progress, Leeds took control and Barnsley's early press faded.

A dearth of chances left the tie without its opener until the 21st minute but it was worth the wait. Luis Sinisterra has been building his way towards fitness and contending with niggles along the way. Full flight had eluded him until he picked up the ball 30 yards from goal, looked left to see no support and so turned back inside to find the net with a superb strike. As hellos go, it was memorable.

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And with the appetite whetted, he delivered another taste of Carabao magic by racing past Conor McCarthy and tempting the wing-back into a foolish challenge.

John Brooks pointed to the spot, Klich picked his spot and rolled the ball sweetly into the very corner of the net, Jack Walton totally deceived.

Leeds had more than enough experience on the pitch to grip a game against League One opposition like a vice and somehow let slip their control to make a real cup tie of it - not everything is different this season.

A free-kick to the back post was headed past Illan Meslier by an unmarked Mads Andersen and Barnsley suddenly had hope.

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When Forshaw leaned too heavily with an outstretched arm on Callum Styles, Brooks again pointed to the spot and Styles let the hosts off the hook by striking the post.

Marsch withdrew both Cooper and Llorente at the break in a pre-planned swap, Koch and Pascal Struijk coming on, the latter to play left-back with Leo Hjelde moving inside.

Once again it took Leeds a few minutes to establish themselves but they soon had Barnsley on the back foot and retook a two-goal lead.

Sinisterra was involved again, getting the ball from Gelhardt who smashed a defender to win it back, and crossing low into the area where Klich, who played with a smile on his face, arrived to caress a loose ball well beyond the reach of Walton.

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There wasn't a huge amount of noteworthy action after that. Leeds kept the game in the right area of the pitch for the vast majority to take the sting out of Barnsley's challenge.

Drameh had a fine game and lived up to his name by getting involved in some rough stuff with Liam Kitching, a shove from the Reds man drawing an angry crowd and yellows for the original agitators along with Hjelde.

Marsch used his bench to protect legs, throwing on Marc Roca who competed with Struijk for the most impressive cameo performance. The makeshift left-back was a genuine attacking threat and a physical presence, the midfielder was classy on the ball. Crysencio Summerville, a livewire throughout, cramped up late on having run himself into the ground.

Rodrigo, one man for whom everything has changed, came on to an ovation and curled an effort just over the top from Roca's clever free-kick, while Slobodan Tedic headed the Tykes' best and final chance wide.

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Leeds eased into an unfashionable third round trip to Wolves in a most unlike-Leeds fashion, with fans giving each pass the Olé treatment. Maybe, just maybe this season will be different.Leeds United: Meslier, Drameh, Hjelde, Llorente( Koch 46), Cooper (Struijk 46), Forshaw, Greenwood (James 75), Summerville, Klich, Sinisterra (Roca 62), Gelhardt (Rodrigo 75) Unused: Robles, Aaronson, Harrison, Kristensen.Barnsley: Walton, McCarthy, Oduor (Wolfe 63), Kitching, Andersen, Helliwell (Williams 63) Benson (Connell 80), Styles, Thomas (Hondermarck 80), Norwood ( Tedic 63), Cole. Unused: Collins, Marsch, Cundy, Aitchison.