Leeds United trio hold key to unlocking final promotion doubt - Graham Smyth's Swansea Verdict

Daniel Farke's only criticism of Leeds United on Wednesday night is the only real question mark still hanging over him and his side.
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For weeks now, it has been clear that Leeds possess players good enough to do something in the Championship this season. Their attacking unit, lauded by Swansea City boss Michael Duff and others among the managerial fraternity as having Premier League quality, are racking up goals and assists galore - 41 so far from the regular starting four.

Their defensive unit is the third meanest in the division. Throw in a £12m central midfield pairing that has been offering very decent support to both of those units, the options Farke has on the bench in all positions and the considerable as-yet-untapped resource of the returning Djed Spence and Leeds look, both on paper and on grass, like a very solid promotion contender.

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The manager was purring over their effort after a 3-1 win against the Swans at Elland Road, a game in which Leeds put their fans through the full range of human emotion even before 60 seconds had been played, and beyond some minor pressing details that they were able to fix at halft-time, he could find only one fault.

ALL KILLER: Dan James smashes home Leeds United's third goal to finally put away Swansea City in Wednesday night's Championship clash at a sub-zero Elland Road. 
Photo by Bruce Rollinson.ALL KILLER: Dan James smashes home Leeds United's third goal to finally put away Swansea City in Wednesday night's Championship clash at a sub-zero Elland Road. 
Photo by Bruce Rollinson.
ALL KILLER: Dan James smashes home Leeds United's third goal to finally put away Swansea City in Wednesday night's Championship clash at a sub-zero Elland Road. Photo by Bruce Rollinson.

"With the amount of chances we created the only thing I could criticise was perhaps efficiency, because I just looked at the expected goals, we had seven or eight times the amount of chances that Swansea had," he said. "Yes, in terms of finishing we can definitely use our chance better. So efficiency is the topic we always speak about."

Herein lies the one lingering doubt about Leeds - can they show the required killer instinct with the required consistency? There is no argument to pick with their creativity - no team in the division has fashioned more big chances and no player has made more of them than Georginio Rutter - but wastefulness has undoubtedly cost them points.

They could and should have won at Stoke, they definitely should have beaten Rotherham United last Friday and they deserved to beat both West Brom and Sheffield Wednesday. On all four occasions they created sufficient chances to take three points rather than the three draws and one defeat they actually took.

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Even in victories, though, Leeds have been profligate enough to exasperate their supporters. Huddersfield were 4-0 down at Elland Road at half-time, staring down the barrel of a truly embarrassing rout and Leeds let them off the hook. Plymouth too could have taken a more fearsome beating.

This win over Swansea, then, was a chance for Leeds to show they have what it takes to win games by a deserved margin and put opponents to bed more ruthlessly. Ultimately, they did that, leaving Duff to describe their attacking talent as 'devastating' difference makers, so it was a step in the right direction. It just wasn't an easy step to take.

A madcap start to the game saw Daniel James finish off a Sam Byram cross to score inside 40 seconds against his former side, until the flag went up to rule it out. And as Elland Road took its seats again, the Swans broke, played a ball over the top that Pascal Struijk simply nodded further into danger and Jamie Paterson ran through to lob Illan Meslier.

The lead lasted just three minutes. Crysencio Summerville spun away from a challenge, played a one-two with Glen Kamara and sent the ball into the run of Joel Piroe, who did score against his former side. On the coldest night of the year it was the sub-zero finish Farke has been calling for, from his number 10.

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From then until first half stoppage time, however, a theme developed. Leeds were almost good enough to stretch their lead. James and Gray took turns at almost setting the other completely free down the right. Counter attacks were almost on and passes were almost complete, inaccuracy, heavy touches or visiting players bringing a premature halt to promising moments.

It was there again in Ethan Ampadu's attempt to put Georginio Rutter in space and in Rutter's bid to play Kamara in on goal with the Swans' defence all at sea. What the game was crying out for was a bit of precision and what it got, in first half stoppage time, was perfection.

Rutter, who had made no attempt to conceal his chagrin at making unspotted runs, went to the well again and this time Ampadu spotted it, sending the ball long over the top. Rutter's first touch was perfect, effortlessly plucking the ball out of the air with his right boot but so too was his centre forward play, holding off Bashir Humphreys to run in on goal and finish. This was his first goal at Elland Road and he won't score many better.

A third goal felt hugely important and not just because Leicester City and Ipswich Town both managed it against the Swans. A one-goal game at Elland Road can be a nervy thing and there's a familiar dread that starts to settle around the stadium the longer Leeds let their prey dangle on the hook.

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After the break they were at it again, creating moments of real promise and chances to take the game away from Swansea completely. Summerville and James squandered the best of them. But before the anxiety levels could rise too high, Leeds emulated the top two and put proper distance between themselves and the visitors.

Once again, the finish was clinical but the attack from start to finish was ruthless. Sam Byram smashed into his man with the kind of challenge Elland Road adores, Rutter got on the ball and played it beautifully into the run of James and he roofed his shot, giving Carl Rushworth no chance. All killer, no filler.

What goals like that do is render what happens in the rest of the game largely superfluous because with a 3-1 lead and the level of control Leeds were enjoying, Swansea had no realistic prospect of scoring enough times to endanger the result.

That said, Farke will always ask for more from his side and they went on to create even more chances to put further gloss on the scoreline. Leeds' leading men up front, namely Rutter, Summerville, Piroe and James, had done their bit and the supporting cast of Patrick Bamford, Jaidon Anthony and Willy Gnonto, who all came on as substitutes, looked dangerous but could not find a fourth goal.

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Those three, perhaps more than anyone else, hold the key to making Leeds the most ruthless side in the league because if they can start chipping in with goals and assists then no one will match Farke's side for sheer offensive output.

It was often said, even during Marcelo Bielsa's absolute pomp, that if Leeds were as good at the last bit as they were from tee to green then they would have broken records in the Championship. Efficiency in front of goal was often the only complaint.

Farke did break records at Norwich so he knows what is required, but even if Leeds are not yet the finished article they are already a very serious second tier contender. How serious they want to be is down to what they do in the final third, but it is certainly within them. Farke just has to bring it out.