AFTER seeing Leeds United fall to a third defeat from their last four games, Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points from Saturday’s 1-0 loss at Ipswich Town in which Eunan O’Kane was sent off.
Was it a red card?
Whites head coach Thomas Christiansen did not think so with the Dane accusing Ipswich defender Jonas Knudsen of fooling referee Robert Jones following his clash with United’s Eunan O’Kane in the 37th minute.
Christiansen felt that the Ipswich defender had “provoked” the situation by squaring up to O’Kane after an initial challenge and felt that Jones “fell into” an attempt to have O’Kane dismissed for a headbutt.
The initial replays shown were from a poor angle with O’Kane obscured but video footage taken close to the incident from behind the goal clearly shows O’Kane leaning with his head into Knudsen who then makes a complete meal of the situation in throwing himself to the floor.
Knudsen certainly made the most of it but equally O’Kane should not have even given Knudsen the opportunity to go down in the first place, even if contact was minimal.
With Leeds totally in control at the time, O’Kane’s dismissal almost certainly cost United a valuable three points and the uncharacteristic first red card of the Irishman’s career will now land him a three-game ban when the Whites are short on options as it is.
Problems in midfield
O’Kane will now be banned for Saturday’s Championship hosting of Millwall, as well as the subsequent trips to Hull City and Sheffield United.
Ronaldo Vieira also missed Saturday’s loss at Ipswich as he continues his recovery with a knee problem and while hopes are high that the teenager will be back for Millwall, there must be an element of doubt.
With O’Kane sent off, Christiansen again opted for Conor Shaughnessy over Polish international Mateusz Klich as a half-time substitute into centre midfield, with Gjanni Alioski withdrawn as a result.
That change hardly boded well for Klich and ‘if’ Vieira is not fit enough to start then Shaughnessy would likely partner Phillips against Millwall though Vurnon Anita remains another centre midfield option.
However, the 28-year-old continues to be used as a left back and actually had a pretty good game.
That said, new recruit Laurens De Bock will surely return from Belgium to start against the Lions and the other three positions perhaps up for grabs are the lone striker role and the two spots out wide.
Kemar Roofe was lively throughout at Portman Road but endured another frustrating time of things in front of goal and Pierre-Michel Lasogga went closest to scoring after being brought on in the 78th minute.
Pawel Cibicki and Alioski were given the nods out wide but Cibicki was having a poor game before taking a knock and going off injured and Hadi Sacko offered more promise when coming on instead.
Moreover, Stuart Dallas is also now back in the fray after his ankle injury leaving Christiansen with a choice of two from four for the Millwall game.
But as far as the centre midfield conundrum is concerned, Phillips is also now just one yellow card away from picking up a two-game ban for ten cautions and it’s not inconceivable that he and O’Kane and even Vieira could be out at the same time.
All this after Leeds have signed Japanese international centre midfielder Yosuke Ideguchi but loaned him out to Spanish Segunda Division side Cultural Leonesa to help the 21-year-old adapt to the European game and gain match fitness in readiness for Japan’s appearance in the World Cup in the summer.
Leeds, though, could do with another centre midfielder right now.
Will the defeat trigger imminent new recruits?
The calls for United to sign in particular a new striker are getting louder and louder and the volume on that score has gone up another notch after the club’s latest defeat at Ipswich.
Leeds should have been at least 1-0 up well before O’Kane was sent off but Roofe and Cibicki in particular both squandered fine chances.
Even with ten men, further opportunities then went begging in the second half as Pablo Hernandez produced a very good shift ‘deputising’ for United’s star no 10 Samu Saiz as Saiz began his six-game ban for spitting at Newport’s Robbie Willmott.
Leeds have now failed to score in their last three league games with the Whites netting just four in their last seven and the need for a new striker is completely obvious.
There also continues to be a strong feeling that the Whites need some extra steel, grit and experience in centre midfield.
Even after picking up just one point from their last three games, the seventh-placed Whites are still only outside of the play-offs on goal difference but new recruits look essential if Leeds are to kick on, especially given the very tough run of fixtures coming up in February and March.