Well, what a difference a week makes in football. Last week Leeds United were on a crest of a wave. One defeat in our glorious start to the season. Fast flowing football, easy on the eye and a defence that since the opening game at Bolton had conceded three goals in eight games.
However as many Leeds fans wake up for the week ahead, a dark cloud has come over. Two away games and two performances that have come from nowhere. Being outplayed, out-thought, out-fought and goals going in our net all over the place.
So where has it gone wrong? How has it gone wrong? Did we start the season too well, setting expectations that were too high?
For me, I think our football surprised many teams, I guess because of being a new team and having a new coach, so there was nothing for the opposing teams to go on.
I guess to many we have been found out a little. I would not say we have been bullied or anything like that in the three defeats because that would be disrespectful to those teams that beat us. All the defeats seem to be very different. Millwall, well they always beat us. They raised their game and put pressure on right from the start. We struggled to handle that even though the word coming out of the club was...do not worry we know all about Millwall. Obviously they did not.
So on to Cardiff, high on confidence after their great start to the season, a manager – in Neil Warnock – who knows all about this league and his greatest strength is stopping the qualities of the opposition. He did just that and has a team going forward of pace and power. It was just too much for us to deal with on the night.
Ahead of the Sheffield Wednesday game, all the noise coming out was that we were expecting a war. Not me, as on their day they have some quality footballers.
However results had been poor for the Owls, their coach was under pressure so in many ways it was a good time to play them.
We started off well, and Samuel Saiz caused them problems but we needed to be ruthless, put them under pressure. But after 15 minutes or so, we allowed them into the game and their confidence oozed from that. We were lucky to lose only 3-0 in all honesty.
So what have I learned from all these defeats?
Firstly we lack leadership on the field. In this league we will go behind. That is inevitable. Do we have players to galvanise the team when this happens – as it seems to me we fold. Other coaches will notice this. ‘Get the first goal’ they will say and keep going for the second.
In the words of Corporal Jones: “they don’t like it up ’em”. They will say get at the defence as they mess around with wasted sideways passes and then back to the keeper. Go for the attacking players, they do not like it. Has the coach and his team noticed this? And more importantly can he change this? I do not say abandon the attacking play, as at times it is wonderful to watch but a more pragmatic approach is needed for away games in particular.
Add an extra player in midfield to make it a solid three and use say Kalvin Phillips as the one to break forward and tighten up the front three.
To get wide we have to use the full-backs more, knowing they will have the protection in front of them. At times our two centre-midfielders have been outnumbered and it’s no surprise teams are going right through us.
The international break has come at a good time for both the players and the fans. There was the usual over-reaction from some fans, maybe they believed in all their own hype, so at least this has bought them back to down to the real world. The coach can look at himself and the league and realise it’s a horses for courses league and sometimes you need to abandon your own philosophy. ‘Play it tough’ is more a mind thing than a physical attribute.
For now, forget league tables, focus on performances and attitude. Both players and coaches alike. Singling out individual players is not helpful. At the end of the international break I would expect the coach and players to have ironed out these problems. If not, then that is the time when serious questions will need to be asked.
Peter Clavane, via email
UNITED need to remain calm and see the positives. We have a board who want exciting football and are ambitious.
We have brought in a manager in Thomas Christiansen who aspires to that type of football and obviously has talent. We have 16 new players who are getting to know the Championship and a decent squad. We are not the finished article and strategically still a work in progress. We do need to strengthen some areas but it can’t all be put together in one swoop. We need to learn and grow as a team. The start has been fantastic this season so we have hit a ‘bump’, but we will get over it. Let’s give the manager and team the chance to sort things out. Let’s give the board the time needed to build the squad. Everything can’t be right first time. Let’s role with the punches and keep behind the team. We are still building!
David Lockwood, via website
I THOUGHT against Sheffield Wednesday, Kalvin Phillips was too often caught out up field when we lost the ball and he needed to sit in front of the back four with Eunan O’Kane. As for Felix Wiedwald, he must as a minimum, boss his six yard box and be comfortable coming off his line for crosses.
We could do with a win in the next game to pump the club up after the last couple of punctures.
It is a long season and we need to keep up with the leading pack.
Stephen Hemingway, via website