No wins now in the last four for Leeds after another below par performance at Elland Road. Three home games at Elland Road were ahead of us last Tuesday, from which we should have realistically been looking to take all nine points, but after disappointing results against Walsall and Brighton, we’re now looking at a maximum of four as the gap to the play-off places disappears.

This was another below par performance from Leeds and the result is no more than they deserved. Although there was an improvement on Tuesday’s performance, there’s still several issues that need to be addressed;

“What the **** is going on?”

Formation

We’ll start with the ever changing line-up, which yesterday was as below at kick-off.

Ankergren

Hughes, Naylor, Kisnorbo, Lowry

Howson, Doyle, Kilkenny, Johnson, McSheffrey

Beckford

The midfield is in no particular order as it was hard to make sense of who was playing where to be totally honest, such was the lack of order it seemed to possess. The key thing to note here however is that Beckford is upfront on his own, whilst our bench harboured the likes of Becchio, Gradel and Snoddy.

More to the point, on the pitch was McSheffrey, who I was led to believe was a forward. Clearly not a natural midfielder, would probably benefit from playing alongside Beckford as he’d be a much better targetman for the long-ball Leeds are insisting on playing at the minute and can also hold the ball up and create chances, which is what Beckford needs to be of any benefit to the team.

Much like when Luciano Becchio was playing alone upfront, Beckford was massively ineffective as a lone striker with poor support from the midfield. Leeds’ final ball was so poor that the Brighton keeper could have probably taken the day off and the scoreline wouldn’t have changed too much. Beckford and Becchio need each other to produce the goods. They both bring something to the party and neither can play alone.

I’m starting to think we’re dropping a striker in order to accomodate McSheffrey who must have been promised first team football. I don’t mind that as McSheffrey is a good player, but he needs to be playing alongside Beckford to keep the balance of the team and give us any real threat going forward.

The penalty

It was never a penalty in a million years, but these things happen. The referee was totally useless throughout and both teams had to cope with him so no sour grapes from me in that respect. Leeds had all the possession and really should have walked it against a pathetically weak Brighton side who we battered 3-0 in the reverse fixture.

The long ball

It’s becoming really annoying seeing balls pumped long to players who can’t bring them down. The supporters were once again whinging at Beckford for failure to move and fight for the ball, but he’s so useless in the air there was probably little point. The team plays better when we have some sort of flow and pass about a bit, but they just don’t seem to have the confidence to try and play football at the minute.

The celebration

The players goading Gus Poyet after we scored was totally unacceptable in my mind. Whether it was deliberate or has been taken out of context, I aren’t entirely sure. Maybe they were intending to celebrate with their own bench? I know Grayson wasn’t pleased anyway and nor was Gus by the sounds of things and it’s hardly surprising really.

The positives

The substitutions

Once we’d made our three changes we were back to our normal shape with Luci and Becks upfront and four in midfield. Snoddy, who started on the bench for some reason, came on and had an instant impact and it was no surprise he got the goal. After falling one down, it was the only time we looked threatening, but since this coincided with going back to basics in terms of line-up and formation, I’d suggest this played more of a part than anything else.

The defence

A million times better than on Tuesday. Doyle and Howson in midfield were nullifying attacks before they became a threat, leaving Brighton with nothing but the long ball option and Paddy was there everytime to head clear. We look so much better with them three in the team from a defensive aspect that if the formation remains the same, I think the clean sheets will return soon.

Max Gradel

Max was the victim of an absolute horror challenge that saw Brighton reduced to ten men late on. I honestly couldn’t believe he got up and played on afterwards as he must have been in some pain, so credit to the youngster for his determination.

The fans

Unlike midweek, it was a good turn-out with 24,000 there to cheer the Whites on. Good to see such a sizable crowd despite things not going our way at the minute. That said, the patience is growing thin and the growing sighs around the ground reflects the times. Most notable chant of the day was a chorus of “What the …. is going on?” when Brighton scored. No booing at the end though thankfully.

Overall

Better but still with flaws. It didn’t surprise me at all to see us improve massively when we went back to 4-4-2 and got the regulars back on the field. I hope we start the next match with the line-up that’s served us well all season and if we are going to play McSheffrey, then hopefully it’ll be alongside Beckford rather than out of place in midfield.

Defensively we looked a different team from Tuesday night, but upfront we’re lacking in ideas, despite the vast array of attacking players at our disposal. Back to basics for me. The worrying thing is that the gap to the play-offs has closed massively so whatever the reasons behind the current slump, they need sorting sharpish.

Can’t deny I’m worried at the minute, but not entirely surprised. Years of supporting Leeds tells me that we never do things the easy way and this season looks to be no exception. I have full faith in Grayson’s ability to turn things round, but the longer this goes on, the more the fans will lose confidence and the more the morale of the support drops, the harder it will become.

  • Duncan

    Simon knows (something)

  • Leeds4eva

    It was painful to watch, i didnt go Tuesday so cant say if it was worse. I really cant see us improving that much and i fear the play offs beckon. It was all hoof it up and headball tennis again, poor passes, over hit freekicks and no space apart from the midfield due to our players not being there. We were 2nd to every header and lose ball. Ive been a Leeds fan too long and i fear the team are bottling it again.

  • bazza

    no promotion this year yet another season in the stiffs league

  • Simon in Leeds

    Thanks for your analysis which seems like common sense and is devoid of the ranting that seems to crop up and get in the way of sensible discussion.

    I can only think that there is a blend of tactical change (though why risk wrecking things just to humour a player that another team was happy to offload), along with simple psychology. The players cannot have all lost the ability they had a few weeks ago so it’s all in their heads.

    Get a grip, calm them down and get back to what worked so well right up to the final whistle at Old Trafford. I still think it will come right. Norwich and Charlton have also wobbled so it ain’t over yet.

    • RTF

      Colchester worry me more than Charlton, they`re on a really good run at the mo.

      • Yes – I hear they made a shrewd signing in January. David Prutton I think his name was.

      • clive connor

        You hit the nail on the head with back to basics and aline up thats played together reguarly ,im not sure if Simon does know something,he seems to have lost the plot!Mcsheffrey can play but to keep leaving Snoddy out??Colchester are the threat now.

  • Chareose

    I think the fans have played their part recently. We need to stop picking the team and manager apart. By showing some support we take a bit of preassure off them. I also think Beckford is hyper sensitive to the fans, so if we are booing him and slagging him off everywhere its going to effect him big time. Every other blog has been ranting about Beckford today so its nice to see a post on here that is a bit fairer.

  • Mikelufc

    It is crystal clear that the problem is Larry.
    His starting lineup simply smacked of sheer desperation and we have to face that fact.
    I am sure that Bates has already spoken to a possible replacement.
    It is obviousl that we are still in a great position to make automatic promotion but I do not believe Simon knows how to get the team playing again. He is not just working to get promotion he is also working to keep his job.
    Getting rid of Prutton to one of our main competitors for nothing is quite simply STUPID.

    • Craig

      Saw a post from Mike and knew what it was going to say before I read it… ‘Bates has spoken to a possible replacement’! Dream on…!

    • ramblinjohn

      So do you want Grayson out then Mike? I thought I’d taken your remarks out of context before? Am I doing that again?

      It IS Grayson’s biggest challenge but he turned it round after that Hereford debacle last time and needs to use his loaf to do it again.

      I thought the Brighton line-up should have been good – apart from dropping Snod – and certainly good enough. it’s mainly the players: A for effort F for intelligence. That’s what SG needs to sort out.

      • Craig

        I’m not sure Mike knows what he wants John. If he wants a manager who can engineer a win in every game even the greatest managers in history wouldn’t be good enough. My guess is that Mike has played too many Football Managers games on his X-box or PC – at least there you have the luxury of not saving the game and replaying each match with different combinations of players and tactics until you win 46 out of 46 – and probably a few cups as well.

        • ramblinjohn

          Too true, until the last few games Grayson had nearly a 70% win rate in the league which is not just good it effin brilliant by anyone’s standards. He has a bad patch and people are on his back. If we beat Oldham by a couple tonight they can turn things round…

  • James Morris

    Hit the nail on the head there….

    The pitch is terrible at moment which is probably why we are resorting to long ball tactics. We seem to be lacking ideas going forward.
    We were playing long ball to Beckford who can’t win a ball in the air and their defence was just lapping it up all afternoon. Why Becchio was subbed on Tuesday and didn’t start yesterday is beyond me. I am dreading playing Huddersfield and the killer month of March.. :@(

    • ctbjs

      Dead on here James, I felt the same about the long balls, we’ve been doing it for several games now and it is clearly not paying off and is no tactic for a team that aspires to Championship football next season. On Becchio, he is a good player but I would like to see him rotated more with Grella, the american has a good finish and should be given the opportunity to show this I think.

      Again I agree with you about the Terriers game and March is definitely the make or break month for me and has been for some time. The pure fact that we are doing so poorly at the moment concerns me for these matches ahead.

      Let’s hope (I get fed up saying that as well!) we can pull it out of the bag.

  • Tony Curie’s Curler

    Back to basics is exactly what we need and I believe Larry knows this as much as anyone. I think the problem in the last few weeks has been a couple of key injuries and all the regulars being jaded, hence the changes in personal recently – which everyone was crying out for.

    Granted there has been the old problem of ‘we’re Leeds, all we have to do is turn up’ syndrome going on which needs shaking out of them it’s been a major problem for this club for thirty odd years so they can hardly be blamed for that. But having said that anyone would miss Kiss, Killa and Becks because of injury. With Snodgrass, Howson, Doyle and a few others looking knackered which Larry has recognised and given them a rest, one at a time.

    This was the first game where we had them all back, a bit out of match fitness and confidence. But now larry has them all back the next game is key. I believe that we are going to ‘click’ and hammer someone very soon. Mark my words. And we’ll be all wondering what the fuss was about!

    The players don’t become poor over night nor does the manager. As fans we must keep the faith.

    It’s where we are at the end of the season that really counts. We were never going to win every game and I think the fans expectations have been distorted by the cup run just as much as the players expectations have.

    Lets all calm down and – I promised my self I wouldn’t use this cliche but… LETS MARCH ON TOGETHER!

  • Kernow

    Five in midfield at home, to Brighton…

  • Will

    For me the problem is the manager and not the players.

    A loss of form usually impacts players at different times during a season, and they can be rested and replaced with other squad players.

    But to see a complete loss of form across all the squad at the same time can only lead to the conclusion that Larry is going through a period himself of making several coterminous managerial mistakes.

    For example, IMHO, not resting first team players for the absurd JPT was a chief mistake.

    Who actually gave a monkey – apart from “Clarke One-Nil!” – about going to Wembley for THAT(?) – a trophy that, if won, would’ve be a stain on our history, not something to celebrate.

    What worries me most is that there has not been a reaction from the players to Larry’s promptings over the past six weeks.

    Larry is sadly proving himself unable to find a cure to the problems the team is facing.

    His transfer dealings in January are also proving questionable in not solving the loss of form and not strenghtening in areas where needed.

    In his slim defence, the disruption to the back four with injuries has been a factor out of his control. But managers are paid to manage such situations to ensure confidence is not broken.

    Sad to say, fans are now, once again, having to resort to hopeful pronouncements of “keep the faith” when the *current* evidence of reality is that there is no basis for a reasoned optimism.

    It is difficult to see that this current form as a blip (1 or 2 games without a win), but rather that something fundamental has gone wrong and continues to do so. The eivdence is compelling – the team is not perforing well and has actually earned more points in 2010 than deserved.

    The responsibility rests solely with the manager.

    • Tony Curie’s Curler

      “The players don’t become poor over night nor does the manager. As fans we must keep the faith.”

      Isn’t a hopeful pronouncement, it’s a matter of fact. This is the same squad near enough and the same management staff that took us to the top of the league and beat Man U not so very long ago (a few weeks).

      Regarding the transfer window. McSheffery is a very good player and will show his worth (he needs games to get fit) – Lowry I’m less certain about but he seems to be a stable defender, Hughes looked a lot more vulnerable than the youngster does that’s for sure. And making Max Gradel full time. I think was a good move too! Any signing in January will take time to bed in regardless of who they are.

      Regarding blip! Although we haven’t won many we haven’t lost many either! We have the quality and the desire to get out of the run we’re in. Why all the doom and gloom?

      What are you suggesting? That we sack Grayson for not winning every game? For allowing key players to get injured or lose form?

      The JPT was a distraction, but only that. It was a couple of games and we only played a full team when there was a sniff of Wembley.

      It does bother me how quick fans are at jumping on to the first signs of a problem which can only make it worse. It will come good and I believe we have a stronger team and a stronger squad than Norwich who had a great run but look as though their purple patch is over. Colchester will be OK if they can keep their first eleven fit and not suspended. And Charlton have blown hot and cold all season.

      It’s really not as bad as all that!

      • ctbjs

        “It’s really not as bad as all that!”

        7 points from a possible 24 I think is very bad to be frank.

        If we lose or even draw on Tuesday and the Us win we are down to 3rd. No amount of positive “dream talking” can convince me otherwise.

        The hard facts are that we are not pulling it together and the heart seems to have gone out of some players although I am sure this is not the case.

        Some good points in here and particularly the back to basics idea is top of the agenda and also passing the ball amongst ourselves as opposed to the big punt up field to no-one in particular. Saturday was not Beckford’s fault at all and I felt sorry for him as we are playing to his weakness and not his strengths at the moment. Basics – passing – commitment let’s get the train back on the tracks and moving forwards at a good rate until the end. toot toot!!

    • Chareose

      Will….. Yes lets get rid of YET ANOTHER manager, that will really help our chances of getting promoted (dripping sarcasm). Its this impatiance from the fans that has made the job of promotion that much harder for the club.

      It took Alex Ferguson years to get Manchester United on the right track and also to learn how to manage as effectively as he does now. I beleive Grayson will become a very gifted manager too given the right support.

  • suoperhoops

    Despite the unspeakable tripe that we’ve been producing yesterday, we have shown immense spirit in carrying on right to the bitter end to save a point – both vs. Orient and Brighton.

    That said, however, look at our matchday squad. Just look at it. We should be playing teams like Brighton OFF THE PARK. Not leaving it to last gasp own goals etc. to salvage our points.

    Larry now needs to sort big time, as even I (huge Grayson fan) am losing patience quickly. Let’s get behind them.

  • TheReaper08

    The problem stems from trying to fight on too many fronts.The team are just plain tired and with that unimaginative. The distractions of the FA cup took too much out ofthe team and probably gave them a belief that they are better than they actually are.

    Who’s to blame? Well I think we can lay that fairly and squarely at the feet of all involved with the club.

    The manager for not rotating the squad earlier in the season in meaningless cup competitions, for allowing the distractions of the cup victories to go to the players heads and for letting useful players like Prutts leave.

    The Chairman for undoubtedly causing the manager to focus too much on the big draws and victories in the cup. Also for going overboard when we got results.

    And us fans for some of the nonesense that’s been written and said, for allowing that to translate to a very very nervous atmosphere at games.

    The results haven’t been good enough lately but we have a blip same time every year. A few have been rested and a few are coming back from injury, let’s get behind the lads and pretend like the last few weeks has just been a bad bad dream.

  • Chris Dye

    I think we are just going through a bad patch. At the end of the day we have the class to get us up but at the moment I’m drinking heavily and chewing my nails

  • Colin

    Agree with the analysis but have to disagree with the penalty. Kisnorbo was 1 against 1 with the attacker and forcing the player to run sideways to the goal and was going nowhere. Then Captain Fanspastic comes bundling in flapping his arms around like a chicken and ran into the attacker, who was cute and fell over. Any ref would have given it. There was no need for Naylor to get involved. So add that penalty onto Naylor’s recent list of misdemeanours.

    Also worthy of note was the lunge at Gradel. Just watched the LUTV highlights and that was a BAD BAD tackle. Really nasty.

    • TSS

      Hi Colin, would agree after seeing the replay of the penalty. Usually watch the highlights to refresh my mind before writing the review, but LUTV was playing up so was going off only what I could see in the ground. Since I sit in the Kop and the penalty decision was infront of the South Stand, I didn’t have the greatest view, but at the time it looked soft. Also, given the quality of the refereeing decisions we’d witnessed prior to this, it wasn’t hard to point the finger.

      Anyway, it’s all irrelevant as the penalty offers no excuse for our contiued bad form. The team only have themselves to blame for what can only be seen as another bad result.

  • tim the white

    The team selection was baffling to say the least and I can only put it down to SG and his team flapping and panicking a bit. However the last 15 minutes or so got us back playing again and I am confident we will steam roll Oldham and take that into a win against Hudders and on from there. By the way the pitch looked uneven and the ball was bobbling a lot which is unusual at ER. I still think we will finish as Champions and please Tres where are you? and come on SG give White and Grella a chance please!!

  • Mikelufc

    As Kernow says very simly
    “Five in midfield at home, to Brighton…”

    Says it all really, and everybody knows it.

    • ramblinjohn

      says what Mike – spell it out.

      I thought McSheffrey played up front that day? Wasn’t there so am I wrong?

  • Matt

    It is quite simple why he changed the team. We have had 6 games in 18 days; snoddy for some reason has an issue with playing back to back games at the moment and Mcsheffrey will have been promised football as part of his contract (Thats why becchio is out). But to put two players who can’t head the ball for shit up front and then play the long ball all game was absolutely ridiculous. Surely Grayson can’t be that stupid.
    Mcsheffrey isn’t match fit yet; Beckford was just plain useless; Johnson played like a farm labourer; Kilkenny was one of the most innafectual players on the pitch; Naylor isn’t the player he was last season; Hughes tries hard and is definately better than crowe or bromby at right back, but he still has the turning circle of the Austrian navy and gets beaten almost every time; Kisnorbo, despite improving the defence, still had an off day with many of the headers he challenged for ending up on the chest of glenn murray; Lowry seems to have the ability but only shows it in glimpses. I thought Doyle and Howson were our best players today. Doyle has impressed me over the past few weeks with his largely consistent performances. If we don’t get promoted this season, it will be the first time i do not re purchase a season ticket in a long time. I feel Bates is partly to blame for taking the money we make and doing fuck all with it. People are saying we didn’t buy enough players in the transfer window, but don’t forget Bates still hasn’t forked out for Thorp Arch yet. He makes things as difficult as they possibly can be, and i really hope (i say this in the nicest possible way) he pops his clogs soon.
    Sorry TSS for taking over your blog ;)

    • Craig

      How do you put a death wish on someone ‘in the nicest possible way’? Hoping he dies in his sleep rather than from an infectious disease? The mind boggles.

  • Keep This Shed White

    I disagree with Colin. I had a great view of that “penalty” and the bloke fell over his own feet. To blame Naylor, who had a very good game, and who was simply running alongside him is perverse and pandering to TSS’s bizarre preference for Lubo.

    Grayson selected the wrong team but for an honest reason, Luciano and Snodgrass are knackered having run themselves into the ground all season.

    One other point. McSheffrey is a massive disappointment and will never make a good strike partner for Becks. He’s too short and clearly hates the physical stuff whereas our hero needs a big guy to play off such as Tres or Luciano.

    Back to 4 2 2 on Tuesday and three points.

    • TheReaper08

      It isn’t a bizarre preference for Lubo, if you had read some of TSS and my own comments recently you would know this. What we have objected to is Lubo being singled out in games when Naylor has also been quite poor but isn’t subject to the same scrutiny as he is a good old Leeds boy. The fact remains that the defence as a whole has been very porous recently.

      • Chareose

        I think Lubo is very much a confidence player and thats down to the manager to inject into him. Against Spurs at elland road he had a torrid time against some fabulous movement but got a stubborn head on towards the end and for me ended up being our best performer.
        He has the ability to be Championship level or even higher lvl defender thats whats so frustrating about him….

    • Colin

      Shedwhite – I agree it was not a penalty, but it would have taken a very brave ref not to have given it. He doesn’t have the benefit of being able to see it from the stand behind Casper or on the TV. To him, it would have just looked like 2 Leeds defenders bullying and fouling a lone attacker, especially with Naylor’s hands being in the air.
      Especially with the refs in this league, I think it’s just one of those where the player was waiting for an opportunity to go down. And you know for definite that if that was Beckford or Becchio, they’d have gone down too and also got a penalty.

      Not morally right I guess, but that’s the modern game!