FRESH from the long trip to London to see Leeds United’s disappointing 3-0 loss at Queens Park Rangers, Lee Sobot picks out a few key talking points concerning the Whites.
Is the squad good enough to challenge?
Start with the obvious, and most important. United were comprehensively outplayed at Loftus Road and the hosts would have scored more than three but for the woodwork and some smart second-half goalkeeping from Rob Green – who went some way to atoning for his mishap for the home side’s opener. Leeds should have scored through Marcus Antonsson but there is no arguing that the best side, by some considerable margin, won.
In mitigation, United were without new signing Pablo Hernandez who has yet to receive international clearance for his move from Al-Arabi and the former Spanish international is clearly going to be a key player, plus Liam Cooper was evidently not fit enough to start.
The Whites also lost Gaetano Berardi to injury after 22 minutes, and. arguably, Rangers’ Ben Gladwin was lucky not to pick up two yellow cards and be sent off. So there are mitigating factors here. But it was still very worrying to see United so readily brushed aside by a team who are only ninth favourites to win the division at 40-1.
The burning question for everybody concerned with the Whites was what went wrong? Was it fitness? Was it tactics? Or was it just talent? Because it certainly wasn’t bad luck. Kyle Bartley - one of United’s new signings - said the defeat would act as a “kick up the backside” for his men and Leeds’ players now have the ultimate incentive to produce a strong reaction - to prove that this new-look squad IS good enough to get United in with a chance of reaching at least the top six.
What formation should Garry Monk play?
This point was clearly highlighted following the introduction of Swedish striker Marcus Antonsson as a 61st-minute substitute, after which Leeds switched from a 4-5-1 formation of sorts to a 4-4-2.
Throughout the game, United looked most likely to score following the change for the last 29 minutes.
Prior to the change, Chris Wood was in effect a lone striker as while Stuart Dallas and Kemar Roofe were on either side to support the target man, they were more or less playing as wingers, with Matt Grimes a surprise choice in the no 10 role and just ahead of Toumani Diagouraga and Ronaldo Vieira as defensive midfielders. But the switch to a 4-4-2 – with Vieira and Diagourga in centre midfield, with Dallas and eventually another substitute Hadi Sacko out wide, seemed to suit the Whites much better. Antonsson missed a sitter to put Leeds back in the game at 2-1 but at least he was getting in the right areas and creating chances, which were in very short supply prior to the change. The obvious call is to start Wood and Antonsson upfront in a 4-4-2 but the imminent availability of Hernandez changes the picture again.
It’s fair to say that Hernandez will be a different proposition to Grimes in the no 10 role - for which Alex Mowatt is also an option. It will be interesting to see what Garry Monk decides to do for both Wednesday night’s EFL Cup trip to Fleetwood Town and Saturday’s home league clash with Birmingham City where a decent result is very much required.
Who was sat with Massimo Cellino?
Some unfamiliar faces sat beside Whites chairman Massimo Cellino in the Loftus Road stands, with the fact that at least two of the gentleman pictured looked Chinese or Japanese causing a frenzy on social media. United were linked with a Chinese takeover late last month, with Leeds United fan Steve Tappin, who is the chief executive officer and founder of consultancy firm Xinfu, revealing that a consortium of entrepreneurs and a private equity group could be about to launch a bid to buy the club.
News on that front has gone rather quiet but the presence of some mystery ‘guests’ at Loftus Road on Sunday naturally had many drawing the obvious conclusions. There was then conflicting reports on whether the gentleman were guests of QPR’s or of Cellino’s.
It appears a case of the latter but one of the individuals has been revealed as Toshiya Fujita - who is on the coaching staff at Dutch club VVV Venlo – and simply seems to be attending a chain of matches. Either way, as ever at Leeds, it’s got people talking.