AFTER Thomas Christiansen parted ways with Leeds United on Sunday evening, the YEP looks at five crucial things that went wrong for the Danish head coach.
Samuel Saiz’s spitting and ban
Christiansen’s side were not playing brilliantly even as it was heading into the third round FA Cup tie at Newport County but Saiz’s stupidity and consequent six-game ban was always going to make matters even more difficult for the Whites.
Apart from during a crazy second half at home to Millwall - a game United still lost - Leeds have totally lacked a cutting edge in recent weeks with their most creative player banned, though it must be stressed that United also failed to score with Saiz in the team in the goalless draw at home to Nottingham Forest and also in the 1-0 loss at Birmingham City in which the Spaniard started on the bench after a recent injury.
Saiz will finally return to the fold for the clash at Derby County on February 21 but that has proved too late as far as Christiansen is concerned.
Team selection at Newport
Saiz is obviously entirely to blame for his silly actions at Nerwport and the Spanaird has since apologised.
But it looked a very odd decision to have the no 10 playmaker anywhere near Newport given that Christiansen was clearly intent on naming a much-changed side.
Christiansen ultimately named Saiz on the bench in case he needed to bring him on in a bid to win or even draw the game and that proved the case when the 27-year-old was introduced with 15 minutes left.
But if there was one player who should not have been risked it was Saiz and Christiansen ultimately paid a huge price for taking that gamble.
Christiansen almost always stuck to a rigid 4-2-3-1 system and the inability to switch things up has cost Leeds and their former head coach dear.
The Dane had spoken freely in press conferences about lining up with three at the back or two upfront perhaps but any changes to United’s system always came too late in the game.
There was a feeling that some of the Dane’s substitutions also came too late in the game and some of them also looked odd choices, none more so than the withdrawal of striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga after 74 minutes of Saturday’s 4-1 loss at home to Cardiff City.
That change was greeted with jeers and boos and chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing” and you knew then that the writing was on the wall.
Injuries - particularly Luke Ayling’s - and a lack of discipline
There is no denying that Christiansen has been unlucky with injuries and losing right back Luke Ayling to an ankle injury for the rest of the season on New Year’s Day was a particularly crushing blow.
As well as being a very good right back who can also play centre-back, Ayling is also an extremely popular member of the team whose leadership qualities are also vital.
Christiansen could also have done without the two spells on the sidelines for striker Caleb Ekuban and the club’s disciplinary problems and subsequent suspensions have also clearly been crucial, and not just for Saiz.
Losing club captain Liam Cooper to a four-game ban for his second red card of the season has been a particularly big blow.
Not enough backing and too high expectations
United’s clear aim this season has been to finish in the top six and managing director Angus Kinnear said in Saturday’s match day programme that “we still firmly believe (the squad) is strong enough to secure a play-off place”.
But there are plenty of people who disagree.
In particular, there is no denying that United could have done with another centre-back - another Kyle Bartley essentially - and moreover another Chris Wood upfront.
January additions Laurens De Bock, Adam Forshaw and Tyler Roberts all look like being good signings though obviously Roberts has yet to play.
But for Christiansen it was too little too late.
It is also no secret that the Dane did not have control over the club’s signings considering the role of director of football Victor Orta.
Christiansen quite often replied “you’ll have to ask Victor” when asked about transfer targets and basically there’s a feeling that the Dane needed more help.
There is, though, no denying that the XI players and squads selected over the last six league games should have been capable of accruing more than two points.