AFTER seeing Leeds United slump to a disappointing 3-1 loss at Nottingham Forest on Saturday, Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points from the weekend’s display at the City Ground and ahead of Wednesday’s 11pm transfer deadline.
What can Garry Monk do to improve United’s defence?
By far the biggest talking point on Saturday, with all three goals conceded very avoidable and largely down to defensive errors. Very worryingly, another two concessions from corners means Leeds have now conceded five goals from corners already this term. United’s problem at corners is essentially all down to man-marking. Luke Ayling lost Pajtim Kasami for the first goal with Liam Cooper beaten to the ball by Damien Perquis for the second. Ayling and Cooper were then brushed aside with ease by Oliver Burke on the left wing for Forest’s third.
As far as conceding from corners goes, Monk said that man marking was all down to concentration - and that the Whites had been working on improving that area of their game heavily during training. But more work is evidently needed, if not a change in personnel.
In fairness to Saturday’s centre-back pairing Kyle Bartley and Cooper, the duo looked strong and by and large impressed during the club’s 2-0 win at Sheffield Wednesday the previous weekend. But one week later things went to pieces again. It will be interesting to see if Monk gives the duo another chance after more intensive training come United’s next league game - at home to Huddersfield Town on Saturday, September 10. But there must be a huge temptation to now start six-foot-five centre-back Pontus Jansson who Leeds recently signed on loan from Torino. The 25-year-old has a decent reputation and must be pretty good to have won eight caps for Sweden. Jansson played 74 minutes of United’s EFL Cup win at Luton Town, in which Leeds kept a clean sheet, albeit with the help of some wayward Luton finishing. With Sol Bamba seemingly not the answer to United’s problems at centre-back and failing to even make the 18-man squad on Saturday, the other option for Monk and chairman Massimo Cellino is to bring in yet another centre-back before Wednesday night’s transfer deadline. But rather like with midfielders, United are starting to get quite heavy on numbers in that department and it remains to be seen if the club could carry a fifth centre-back without one of the present members leaving. Whatever the decision, United’s Achilles heel of conceding at corners needs solving fast. There is also plenty of discussion ongoing on whether or not Rob Green should keep his place in goal, especially with Marco Silvestri having impressed in his recent outing against Luton.
Is Pablo Hernandez really best utilised as a winger?
As expected, Monk made widescale changes to the team that started at Luton and reverted to almost the same line up that started at Sheffield Wednesday. The one exception was the introduction of Hernandez for Mowatt on the left wing - a position the former Spanish international occupied in the game at Luton. But there remains a clear nagging suspicion that Hernandez is definitely better suited to playing in the floating no 10 role, either behind a lone striker or a front two. In any case, Kemar Roofe was definitely unlucky not to start out wide after the impression he made when coming as a substitute for Alex Mowatt at Hillsborough, with Roofe also very lively in the game at Luton. Hernandez had a mixed afternoon at Forest and on the negative side of things the 31-year-old was far too easily brushed off the ball. But the former Valencia player also produced some lovely passes which United’s front men were unable to capitalise on. It’s a tricky one as if Hernandez is moved to the no 10 role then Leeds would have to sacrifice either one of their two centre midfielders - currently Ronaldo Vieira and Liam Bridcutt - or switch to a 4-2-3-1 and sacrifice one of the strikers in either Chris Wood or Marcus Antonsson. There is no doubt that so far this season, it is the latter who has been more effective.
Should Kalvin Phillips start in place of Ronaldo Vieira?
There is no denying the potential of 18-year-old Vieira and even the talent of the midfielder as it is. But the youngster is getting a real tough education in being thrust into the cut and thrust of the Championship each weekend and the teenager was very lucky not to get sent off on Saturday when making a rash challenge having already been booked. Referee Geoff Eltringham allowed Forest the advantage as the hosts retained possession and the fact that the move went on for another 90 seconds or so might have saved Vieira from an early bath. Monk wisely subbed the midfielder soon after for Phillips who made quite an impression in scoring a superb free-kick and then only narrowly being denied a second when volleying over the bar. At the moment, as far as defensive midfielders go, Phillips seems to add the greater attacking prowess from that position and it must be a close call as to who will start against Huddersfield - even if United do not bring in any new recruits before Wednesday night’s transfer deadline. A new midfielder and a new striking option are reportedly top of Monk and Cellino’s list.
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