AFTER seeing Leeds United crash to a seventh loss from their last nine league leagues, Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points from Saturday’s 3-1 defeat at Brentford.
How long can this go on?
Despite United’s troubles and worryingly poor form, there was a strong sense that Thomas Christiansen’s position as Leeds United head coach was not dependent on the outcome of Saturday’s clash at Griffin Park - not unless United were completely mullered.
Chairman Andrea Radrizzani’s show of support for the Dane on social media plus Christiansen’s words at his pre-match press conference indicated that he would be given more time at the helm whatever the outcome in west London.
Despite Saturday’s 3-1 defeat, all the indications are that Christiansen will still be in charge of Leeds when United return to action after the international break at home to former boss Garry Monk’s Middlesbrough.
But the current form quite simply cannot continue and while United might sit tenth, the Whites would be fourth-bottom based on their last seven games which have yielded six defeats and just one win.
It is all very well calling for a ‘big name’ and someone like Sam Allardyce but would a deal to bring somebody like the former England manager to Elland Road really be realistic?Lee Sobot
Worse still, Leeds sit second bottom in the Championship form table over the last six games, a point worse off than Birmingham City.
Christiansen said in his pre-match press conference that Radrizzani would be left with no choice but to change the club’s management if Leeds were to lose something like “eight more games in a row.” That would seem unthinkable.
But it’s already four defeats in succession and the importance of a victory immediately after the international break is crystal clear.
Leaders Wolves host Leeds three days after the home clash with Boro and a Yorkshire derby at Barnsley is then next, followed by an Elland Road showdown with Aston Villa.
How much good would replacing Thomas Christiansen do?
While there are naturally calls from plenty of fans for a change of management even now, it is worth debating whether replacing Christiansen would actually be the answer and if so with who?
It is all very well calling for a ‘big name’ and someone like Sam Allardyce but would a deal to bring somebody like the former England manager to Elland Road really be realistic?
And would a second coming for Simon Grayson really be the answer?
Whoever is at the Leeds helm is stuck with the same crop of players until the January transfer window opens and the question is whether another head coach would get more out of the current squad then Christiansen does?
That, though, is for Radrizzani to decide, as too is the scale of investment that the Italian makes in the squad in January.
On recent evidence, plenty of it is needed.
Has Andy Lonergan opened the door for Felix Wiedwald?
Wiedwald looked unlikely to be returning to the United side any time soon following his nervy displays in the 3-0 league loss at Sheffield Wednesday and the 3-1 Carabao Cup defeat at Leicester City.
With Andy Lonergan looking solid and reliable after replacing him as the club’s new no 1, Wiedwald’s prospects looked bleak.
But there is no denying that Brentford’s first two goals should have been kept out by Lonergan who inexplicably dropped a Romaine Sawyers cross for Neil Maupay’s header and then dived over Yoann Barbet’s free-kick which curled into the net underneath him.
Would Wiedwald have done any better? Maybe, though the German might have encountered problems in other areas.
All in all, United’s decision to replace Rob Green is looking all the more baffling and at this rate young Bailey Peacock-Farrell who is on a one-month’s loan at York City could have very realistic chances of getting a shot at the team.
Peacock-Farrell is very highly thought of and at some stage is going to be worth a go.
Saiz and Vieira the two Whites bright lights
The starting merits of just about every Whites player could be discussed in depth at present and really only Samuel Saiz stood out with a strong display at Brentford though Ronaldo Vieira rose to the challenge after the interval and Pablo Hernandez made a massive difference when brought on as a half-time substitute.
Hernandez must be on the cusp of starting against Middlesbrough with Stuart Dallas surely another option with the Northern Ireland international rather surprisingly an unused substitute at Griffin Park.
Young Dutch forward Jay-Roy Grot was instead brought on as an 80th-minute substitute for Gjanni Alioski at a crucial time with the scores level at 1-1 and Grot’s introduction failed to produce the desired effect.
As far as United’s striking options are concerned, Pierre-Michel Lasogga proved very disappointing at Griffin Park, especially when skying a potentially crucial one-on-one and the German forward was not surprisingly taken off for Kemar Roofe at half-time with the disappointing Eunan O’Kane also withdrawn for Hernandez.
But while United improved after the interval, Lasogga’s replacement Kemar Roofe did not really seem at home in the lone striker role and there are now fresh calls for Christiansen to switch formation and play a 4-4-2, especially with Caleb Ekuban about to return from injury. Time is running out to give things a try.
At the back, United quickly need a return to form for key cog Pontus Jansson who looks a shadow of what he is capable of at present.
The Swede could have no arguments about the penalty he conceded and United were still beaten by two clear goals despite Ollie Watkins smashing that effort over - plus the Bees twice hit the crossbar in the second half.
With Jansson partnering captain Liam Cooper at the heart of the defence, it was interesting also to see Conor Shaughnessy preferred as the centre-back option to Everton loanee Matthew Pennington on the bench and just about every position looks up for grabs at present, bar Saiz and possibly Vieira too.