Stoke City 2 Leeds United 1: Sympathy for Pontus Jansson, Kliching in the final third and time for clarity with spygate - Talking Points
AFTER seeing Leeds United slip to a 2-1 loss at Stoke City, the YEP's Lee Sobot looks at few key talking points following the weekend loss at the bet365 Stadium.
Adding creativity and Daniel James
Leeds seemed to be firmly back on track following their recent back-to-back league losses when impressively thumping Frank Lampard's Derby County at Elland Road last weekend but Saturday's display was a shadow of the performance that the Whites offered up against the Rams.
With the same starting XI, the question asked was why - and has spygate had an effect - though midfielder Mateusz Klich felt Stoke deserved credit for their strong organisation and defensive display which basically gave United no room to manoeuvre in the final third as 71 per cent of possession counted for nothing.
More telling was the fact that Stoke mustered five efforts on target compared to United's four and Saturday's setback again raised concerns about Leeds' creativity following the departure of Samu Saiz to Getafe.
Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa called for Tyler Roberts and then 18-year-old debutante Jordan Stevens from the bench and both have big futures but Leeds essentially appear to need more options, hence the club's pursuit of Swansea City winger Daniel James.
Additionally, the sooner Patrick Bamford and Izzy Brown return the better though Brown has now been declared fit by Bielsa who admitted last week that the Chelsea loanee might need to play up to six games for United's under-23s before returning from a one-year lay off with an ACL injury to the first team.
These things cannot be rushed but on Saturday's evidence United could do with Brown back quicker than that and Leeds would also benefit if midfielder Klich could rediscover his brilliant early season form, especially without Saiz around.
The likable Klich is to be commended for his honesty in his post-match interview on Saturday, readily admitting that his poor headed clearance led to Stoke's opener. Every player is forgiven the odd mistake.
Regarding his own form and 'Klich scoring goals', the 28-year-old also declared that what mattered most was United winning games.
But Klich's attacking best gives United the best chance of doing that and the Pole has now gone three games without a shot on goal compared to having six in one game in the 2-0 loss at home to Hull City.
That's frustrating as Klich's quality is not in doubt and the popular Pole would send the away end into raptures if he could net in next weekend's clash at Rotherham.
Pontus Jansson's very questionable red card but the return of Kalvin Phillips and Gaetano Berardi
Leeds are used to let's say questionable refereeing decisions but Saturday's dismissal of Jansson for a second yellow card was the biggest head scratcher for some time, a decision all the more galling considering the lack of even a free-kick for a blatant foul on Pablo Hernandez on the edge of the area in the same half.
It's fair to say that Jansson put himself in a difficult position when getting himself booked for a late challenge in the first half.
But it was very hard not to feel for the Swede who looked to be trying his very best NOT to tangle with Benik Afobe as he raced through on goal in the 76th minute.
Afobe basically beat Jansson to the ball as Jansson fell to the floor but Afobe was then thwarted by Peacock-Farrell only for referee Gavin Ward to then revisit Jansson to show a second yellow card.
The angle of the TV replay is unclear but Jansson appeared to avoid any real contact with Afobe though there have been some suggestions that the Swede may have handled the ball upon going to ground.
Either way, the 27-year-old did not deserve that dismissal which will now leave him banned for next Saturday's Championship clash at Rotherham United for which Kalvin Phillips is handily back from his own three-match ban.
With Gaetano Berardi set to play for United's under-23s on Monday, it might even be that Bielsa has two added defensive options for the Millers clash - and that's assuming that Barry Douglas and Stuart Dallas are not ready when the duo must be close having returned to training last week.
And there is also the quandary of whether to hand new goalkeeping recruit Kiko Casilla his first start in goal.
Peacock-Farrell by and large did okay against the Potters but three-times Champions League winner Casilla will not have come to Leeds to sit on the bench and it is to be said that the Spaniard even looked impressive in the warm up at Stoke.
Time to get spygate signed off and sorted
Not a day is passing at the moment without some sort of new hullabaloo about the spygate issue with news emerging in the run up to kick-off on Saturday that 11 sides in the division had written to the EFL on Friday to demand a detailed investigation into Marcelo Bielsa's spying tactics and essentially the fact that he had admitted to spying on training sessions of every Championship club.
That has clearly divided opinion in the football world but the matter is now with the EFL and FA who are investigating and it's time for the governing bodies to get a grip and decide what will happen with United waiting to learn if they or Bielsa will be hit with any disciplinary charges.
The uncertainty is not benefiting anyone at present - not least Leeds - and the sooner the issue is sorted the better.
Must win at Rotherham
Leeds got lucky somewhat on Saturday in the sense that Swansea City did the Whites a favour by beating tea-time visitors Sheffield United, leaving United with a four-point cushion in the automatic promotion spots.
But United will be going nowhere with form such as three points from a possible 12 and next weekend's clash at Rotherham has a similar feeling to the Derby match in the sense of a real must-win game, even more so with second-placed Norwich hosting the third-placed Blades the same afternoon.
Furthermore, next week's visit to the Millers is then followed by a clash that one way or the other will be first against at worst joint-second when Norwich travel to Elland Road looking to atone for the 3-0 defeat to the Whites at Carrow Road in August.
Daniel Farke's side's improvement since then has been staggering though the Canaries stopped the rot somewhat with Friday night's 3-1 victory against Garry Monk's Birmingham City, Norwich's first league win in five games.
But West Brom now also have an opportunity to sneak upon the rails and the fourth-placed Baggies would move third and also just four points behind Leeds if winning at second-bottom Bolton Wanderers on Monday night. There are still plenty who feel that West Brom and not the Blades will be the main threat to Leeds and Norwich finishing in the top two.
United somewhat earned their breathing space at the top of the division with an impressive seven-straight wins throughout November and December but it's threatening to once again get tight at the top and the importance of winning at The New York Stadium next weekend is huge.