AFTER seeing probable champions-elect Newcastle United triumph 2-0 at Leeds United on Sunday, Lee Sobot looks at a few talking points from the weekend’s clash at a packed-out Elland Road
Is it time to give Marco Silvestri an outing in goal?
Newcastle United’s opening goal was a galling one to concede for Leeds who looked to have survived an early barrage of pressure from the Magpies. In the interest of balance, it must be said that Rob Green initially played a vital part in keeping the score goalless. But his error in being caught napping by Jack Colback’s long-range lob was there for all to see and the gift-wrapped opportunity dropped to Dwight Gayle made an already uphill task a mountainous one. Fair play to Green for issuing an apology on social media afterwards, saying: “Apologies for first goal, I didn’t want to carry it over the line. Great to see Elland Road full. Dust ourselves down for a big game next week.”
Also, as team-mate Kyle Bartley alluded to, there have plenty of times this season when the 36-year-old has earned Leeds points with vital saves.
But his costly error must at least raise the question over whether Marco Silvestri should be given even just one league outing, especially having excelled when called upon so far this term in the EFL Cup.
The gut feeling is that Monk will keep the faith with Green - probably rightly so - but the matter is definitely open to debate.
Do Leeds need a rethink on set pieces and corners?
Kalvin Phillips has had a real rollercoaster couple of days with Leeds. By his own admission, his performance against Newcastle was “disappointing” but then the following day he was named the EFL’s young player of the month for October. There’s no denying the 20-year-old’s talent. But Leeds could ill afford to waste so many potentially dangerous free-kicks and corners on Sunday, from which the Whites relied a lot on Phillips whose delivery often let him down - as he will know and has alluded to. With Pablo Hernandez having injured his hamstring and unlikely to be returning any time immediately, perhaps Leeds need to experiment with who is taking their set pieces, if nothing else to give Phillips a break.
Will Garry Monk make more than one change for the Rotherham game?
The natural temptation when a side has been beaten must be to change things for the next game. But make no mistake about it, Leeds were beaten by a very good outfit on Sunday and a team who will surely win the Championship by quite some distance given the squad at their disposal. Odds of 1-4 about Newcastle winning the league look like buying money.
But there is nonetheless plenty for Whites head coach Garry Monk to ponder when it comes to picking his team for Saturday’s clash at bottom of the table Rotherham - a game Leeds need to be winning. For starters, Pontus Jansson is now suspended and it’s a no-brainer that Liam Cooper will come in at centre-back. Then there’s the Rob Green v Marco Silvestri quandary. But Stuart Dallas and Hadi Sacko are also strongly pushing to start out wide in place of Souleymane Doukara and Kemar Roofe who did okay without setting the world alight. The versatility that Kalvin Phillips shows to play at no 10 is also admirable but he definitely looks like a better defensive centre midfielder at the moment and there are plenty of players who might be a worth a go behind Chris Wood - be it Sacko, Roofe, Doukara or Alex Mowatt who failed to even make the bench on Saturday, with Monk preferring Matt Grimes who must evidently also be in his thoughts. And then there’s Marcus Antonsson, perhaps top of the pile now in terms of pushing for a start after netting a hat-trick for Leeds’ under-23s against Huddersfield Town on Monday.
Even if Antonsson does start there is more to the issue than that - is it in a no 10 role behind Wood or as a regular striker in a 4-4-2?
Quite clearly, Liam Bridcutt and Pablo Hernandez will almost certainly walk straight back into the Leeds team at defensive midfield and no 10 respectively when they return to full fitness but that looks unlikely before Saturday’s trip to Rotherham.
Elsewhere in the United XI the team picks itself still with Bartley and Ayling continuing to impress at centre-half and right back respectively. Charlie Taylor also had a very good game at left back on Sunday which was pleasing to see while O’Kane again looked the business in defensive midfield. Eleven-goal Wood, clearly, is a no brainer to lead the line upfront while it’s basically a take your pick still between Ronaldo Vieira or Phillips to partner O’Kane at defensive centre midfield.