AFTER seeing Leeds United fall to a gut-wrenching 4-3 loss at home to Millwall that had to be seen to be believed, Lee Sobot looks at few key talking points from Saturday’s emotional rollercoaster at Elland Road.
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United’s mounting disciplinary problems
United picked up their sixth red card of the season through Liam Cooper’s first-half dismissal for his late challenge on George Saville and Cooper’s own second red card of the season will now earn him a four-game ban.
With Kalvin Phillips also booked against Millwall, Phillips also faces a two-match ban for earning ten cautions.
With Samu Saiz and Eunan O’Kane also still serving bans for their recent red cards, Leeds will have four first team players suspended for the trip to Hull City and the Elland Road clash with Cardiff.
Not acceptable and even stronger words than the ones already issued by head coach Thomas Christiansen will be needed during the squad’s one-week training camp in Spain next week.
Pontus Jansson’s latest yellow card also took the Swede to eight cautions, two away from earning him a two-game ban.
In Cooper’s defence, his offence was altogether different to the acts which led to Saiz and O’Kane being sent off as both of those players lost control in mental terms with Saiz spitting at Robbie Willmott and Eunan O’Kane leaning his head towards Jonas Knudsen.
Very much an obvious lack of a discipline for which there is quite simply no excuse.
United’s first half defensive showing was just as worrying if not more so than the team’s disciplinary issues.Lee Sobot
Cooper, on the other hand, was attempting something positive and had the best intentions when looking to win a loose ball to take United forward but a lack of control in another sense via poor judgement led to the centre-back catching Saville high and late.
Whether the tackle warranted a red is debatable and a four-game ban on the face of it looks very harsh.
Unfortunately for Cooper, his red card looks worse given the recent exploits of Saiz and O’Kane but there was nevertheless a split second decision-making process before attempting a risky tackle in a needless area so far up the pitch.
In its own sort of way, that red card too was therefore also down to a lack of discipline and such problems quite obviously need to be ironed out fast with Leeds now tenth and three points off the play-offs.
The first-half defence?
United’s first half defensive showing was just as worrying if not more so than the team’s disciplinary issues.
Leeds obviously deserve enormous credit for the way they rallied to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead with ten men after the break but it was the first half shambles that put the Whites in that predicament to start with.
Uncharacteristically, just about every delivery into the United box caused problems despite Leeds lining up with what is now their strongest back five aside from right back Luke Ayling who is obviously out for the rest of the season.
Bizarrely, United then defended brilliantly in the second half until the final few minutes when lining up with three at the back and Matthew Pennington produced a great shift when he was called for.
Pennington will now get a decent run in the team with Cooper banned for the next four games and with some very stern tests around the corner, the Leeds defence will need to be tighter than ever.
Getting the best out of Pierre-Michel Lasogga
Lasogga is proving another head-scratcher as he looked to have completely gone off the boil in recent weeks with his display in the 2-1 loss at Newport County particularly disappointing.
The German also should have scored twice in the opening 13 minutes against Millwall with bread and butter chances from a striker’s point of view.
But the Hamburg loanee was then an entirely different proposition in the second half when dropping deep and seeking the ball more.
Much has been said about Lasogga’s mobility and movement but the 26-year-old has always looked a good finisher when on song and at times he bizarrely seems better at scoring with the more difficult chances.
Both of his goals against Millwall were rockets and the striker’s substitution for Conor Shaughnessy in the 83rd minute took away United’s biggest threat and invited late Millwall pressure.
In Christiansen’s defence, the head coach wanted to leave Lasogga on but the Dane revealed that the striker was exhausted or “finished” as he put it.
That obviously again brings Lasogga’s fitness into question but there is most definitely a player there and you don’t get on to the verge of the German national side by fluke.
The overriding feeling is that Leeds definitely still need to bring in another striker before the closure of the January transfer window but equally there is a suspicion that there could and should be plenty more to come from Lasogga.
It is down to Lasogga himself and United’s coaching team to bring out the best.