AFTER seeing Leeds United move to within one point of the Championship’s play-offs, the YEP’s Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points arising from Saturday’s 1-0 win against Norwich City at Elland Road.
Can Pawel Cibicki become a permanent fixture in the side?
Summer recruit Cibicki had seen his Whites opportunities limited before the previous weekend’s 3-1 win at QPR in which he performed impressively after being brought on as a first-half substitute for the injured Caleb Ekuban.
But with Pablo Hernandez now back to fitness after his hamstring problem, it was nonetheless still a bit of a surprise to see winger Cibicki keep his place in the team ahead of the 32-year-old Spaniard who had to make do with a place on the bench.
Yet Cibicki again produced a very taking performance and his deliveries in particular caused Norwich all sorts of problems with one such cross leading to the only goal of the game for Pontus Jansson.
Cibicki has now excelled in two games in a row and there is no reason why he should not keep his place in the side, even if that means Hernandez staying on the bench.
It should be remembered that Cibicki was making his Championship league debut on Saturday and as he is still only 23 years old, there ought to be plenty more to come.
A very welcome headache for head coach Thomas Christiansen to have, with Stuart Dallas yet another option out wide when he finally returns from his ankle injury.
Will Leeds chase a new striker in January?
An otherwise near perfect afternoon for Leeds was slightly soured by the news that striker Caleb Ekuban was looking at six weeks out with the injury he picked up in the previous weekend’s win at QPR.
The 23-year-old has suffered a minor fracture to a bone in his foot and while he will not need surgery, the forward will be out until the end of January.
With young forward Jay-Roy Grot still looking some way short of what is required, that leaves United with only two first-team striking options in Kemar Roofe and Pierre-Michel Lasogga who himself missed the Norwich clash as he continues his recovery from his calf problem.
Lasogga has not played since November 4 but even when the German returns the need for another option upfront is abundantly clear and there are, it seems, no plans to recall Marcus Antonsson from his loan spell at Blackburn Rovers where the Swede is banging in the goals.
What would be best for Jay-Roy Grot?
Nineteen-year-old Dutch striker Grot was brought on as an 81st-minute substitute for Samu Saiz at a time when Leeds were desperately looking to cling on to their slender 1-0 lead.
Grot is a man-mountain at six-foot-four but the teenager struggled to keep the ball and the striker still looks extremely green.
Christiansen then made a point in his post-match press conference of expressing his disappointment at the fans that jeered Grot’s efforts, saying it was a “problem” and that he wants people to stick together.
Christiansen is not exactly blessed with endless options upfront but Grot is struggling to have the desired impact at present though he clearly has time on his side at just 19 years of age and he is blessed with an imposing frame.
But assuming Leeds can bring in other new striker options in January then perhaps a spell out on loan might benefit the Dutchman to bring him some confidence.
If not, then a start in January’s FA Cup tie against Newport County might be another option.
Can Leeds enjoy the perfect Christmas?
United’s recent record over the Festive period has improved in recent years and the Whites are now approaching their four games over Christmas and New Year following three wins and a draw from their last four games.
With Leeds now just one point off the top six, the Whites know that victory at home to 19th-placed Hull City next Saturday would definitely put them in the play-offs over Christmas with fifth playing sixth on Saturday evening when Aston Villa welcome a sliding Sheffield United side.
United, meanwhile, then visit third-bottom Burton Albion on Boxing Day before going to bottom of the pile Birmingham City four days later and then welcoming 11th-placed Nottingham Forest on New Year’s Day.
Hull, Burton and Birmingham are all scrapping for their lives and Forest are only seven points off the play-offs but there is no denying that Leeds should be looking at a very good return of points from those four games and centre-back Pontus Jansson admitted that himself after the game.
Twelve points might be pushing it but a confident and in-form Leeds side are capable of picking up 12 to provide the perfect platform to push on in January when the extent and quality of the club’s recruitment will be key.
Felix Wiedwald saves the day
Wiedwald again received plenty of hammer following his latest goalkeeping gaffe at QPR last weekend which threatened to allow the hosts a dramatic route back into the game.
But in his defence, Wiedwald responded with a brilliant save just seconds later in the 3-1 win at Loftus Road and Christiansen then jumped to the German’s defence in his Norwich pre-match press conference, declaring that the statistics in terms of clean sheets and saves showed that Wiedwald was one of the best in the division.
There was, as such, little doubt that Wiedwald would keep his place against the Canaries and fair play to the 27-year-old who produced some great stops to keep out Norwich who created numerous opportunities in the second half.
Wiedwald is clearly prone to an error and Ryan Maddison should have burried his opportunity presented to him when Wiedwald’s parry to a Nelson Oliveira shot fell worryingly into his path.
But when all is said and done, that is now eight clean sheets in 15 league games for Wiedwald who would have every reason to be hoping for another against Hull.