Taunts of “Can we play you every week?” and “Premiership, you’re having a laugh!” echoed around Elland Road as an attack-minded Leeds United side romped to a convincing 3-1 victory over Premier League side, Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Wolves started brightly, and it looked as though Leeds were going to struggle with a sluggish and slow defence that was being easily exploited by the pacey Matthew Jarvis. When Leeds did get on the attack however, they were quite simply too much for Wolves to handle.

I’d questioned the logic of starting Max Gradel when the line-up was announced as he’s set to miss the first four games of the season for his sending off against Bristol, but his impressive performance showed a winger raring to go. His marker, Van Damme was run ragged trying to keep up with Mad Max as the youngster twisted and turned to create chances in the final third.

It was Max Gradel that opened the scoring on 33 minutes with an absolute screamer of a goal from outside the box hit sweetly into the top corner of the Wolves goal. It was the kind of goal you expect to see in the goal of the season poll, and had it not been a friendly, I have no doubts he’d have been a contender.

Leeds’ attack-minded side were deservedly leading as the Wolves defence struggled to contain Max Gradel. Neil Kilkenny was controlling things as always in midfield and Bradley Johnson was putting himself about well too. The only real concern was the Leeds United defence and on the stroke of half-time, a Matthew Jarvis free-kick found it’s way through to level the scoring.

There was some debate between Neill Collins and Kasper Schmeichel as the players headed off the pitch, no doubt regarding Kasper not coming for the ball. The understanding between Kasper and the Leeds defence doesn’t seem to be there just yet, which is a shame as the young Dane made some impressive saves throughout.

The second half got under way with no changes from the starting line-up for Leeds. Wolves attacked quickly and could have been in front, before Leeds countered with Max Gradel making a mazy run down the wing and through the Wolves defence to tee up Lloyd Sam who gratefully tapped home for his second pre-season goal.

The changes started to come with Alex Bruce making his debut in place of an injured Richard Naylor and the game quickly lost it’s flow. Higgs also came on in place of Kasper Schmeichel and it was instantly obvious that Shane Higgs has a much better command of the area than Kasper has managed to develop so far. Still, with Kasper getting an hour and Higgs only 30 minutes, it seems set in stone that Kasper will be starting against Derby.

In the dying minutes, a Bradley Johnson header killed the game off for Wolves and sealed an impressive attacking win for Leeds United.

The ups

The formation – The versatile 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation Simon Grayson has been playing with works well. It adds a lot of width to a side that sometimes lacked it last season. It also provides cover in defence when on the back-foot whilst still leaving plenty of options going forward. I’m a bit of a traditionalist and hate formation changes, but this seems to be working for Leeds so no complaints from me.

Attack – Leeds were simply irresistible going forward. Gradel was on fire, Johnson was always threatening and Kilkenny looks a much better player against these better teams. Lloyd Sam had a good game too and will only get better as he gels with the team. Becchio seems much quieter playing as a lone striker but does seem to be positioning himself well and getting in the right places.

Better opposition, better Leeds United – I found it hard to buy into the theory that Leeds would be better against better opposition, but the defeat to Bury followed by successive wins against better clubs seems to add weight to that argument. Maybe League One was a little too scrappy for the likes of Neil Kilkenny et al. Only time will tell, but several players look more comfortable against these teams.

The downs

The defence – The lack of pace in our defence is a major concern. Matthew Jarvis turned on the pace time and time again, leaving the Leeds United defence chasing his tail. Alex Bruce did get 30 minutes, but had little chance to show us what he can do. I doubt I’ll be too happy until Patrick Kisnorbo returns.

Max Gradel – Man of the match performance from Max Gradel makes his suspension all the more annoying. Four games until we get to see him in action this season and with Robert Snodgrass also out, he’s going to be missed on opening day.

  • TheReaper08

    Don’t be so sure about Higgs, if he plays him just because of the name then it’s wrong.

    I was a partially succesful keeper in the latter stages of my footballing career, Higgs inspires confidence in his defence that allows them to focus on just doing there own jobs. Can’t put a name or a price on that.

  • richard

    I didnt go to the game but a wins a win and it breeds confidence in a team. Without Snodders and Max for the start of the season it is unnerving but we`ll have to rely on the squad, thats what they`re paid for.

    Any win for Leeds on a saturday always makes me beer taste better. ;)

  • patrick o toole

    Didn’t see the game TSS but it sounds like an impressive performance. The fluidity of the system should make us more difficult to beat, a high priority if we’re looking to consolidate. How did the midfield do? Can Bradley do a job as a holding midfielder as it’s a position that needs addressing?

    • TSS

      @dubwhite Nah, Bradley isn’t a holding midfielder. He’s too attack minded for the role.

      The midfield as a whole was impressive though. Howson was a little quiet, but when he did get forward he showed what he can do. Killa dictated everything and Gradel was in a different league.

      The biggest question for me is Naylor v Bruce. Didn’t get much chance to assess Alex Bruce but he’s definitely quicker and that defence desperately needs some pace on today’s evidence.

      • patrick o toole

        Yep that’s kinda what I thought regarding Bradley even when he played left back for us he was a lot more convincing going forward. I’m sure SG see’s the area’s that need work, it’s just a matter of getting the right people in.

  • TheReaper08

    @TSS My sofa is quicker that Naylor, that’s not much of a measure of a man’s pace.

    Not surprised Kilkenny is showing good form. Always fancied he was more of a flare player so he probably appreciates a bit more time on the ball, he will get that in the Championship.

  • TSS

    @TheReaper08 Can’t really say much more regarding Bruce’s pace, because he wasn’t on for long and didn’t do much chasing.

  • les irwin

    enjoyed today it has to be said it was played at the top end of friendly pace which isnt’t league pace although we looked lively sam and gradel were fantastic left and right backs did ok collins ok too, the mistake that was made was by naylor in ist half, lack of pace was evident in back 4 and wolves should have scored in 1st half
    howson did an alright job thought kilkenny was the stand out of the pair he had planty to say and looked calm on the ball bradders is bradders one minuit fanatstic the next a wayward ball .bruce did ok when he came on nothing special but he had nothing special to do.
    becchio did a good job but at times looked a little exposed on his own and doesnt have the pace we are missing he was chasing balls he wasnt gonna catch but sam and gradel added that to a degree
    the scoreline didn’t flatter us we were worth it, maybe a couple more bradders should of had another and how many hand balls was there ????? i personally think higgs looked more the part in goal
    it was friendly and will not match the league for pace or intensity but we were worthy winners a striker with pace who can score us 20 goals will be massive

  • Tim Hodge

    Sounds like it was good.
    A 4-5-1/4-3-3 could be good for us. It certainly seems the way football is going, looking at the top teams.
    5 in midfield could give us an extra edge over some of the other teams in the Championship and allow Kilkenny to dictate play and our wingers to get forward.
    Maybe that’s why we haven’t seen another striker added. I still think we need one and a player who can really hold the midfield.

  • Dje

    So which was the more defensive minded midfielder out of Johnson, Kilkenny and Howson? Or with three in there are we not going to play a holding midfielder and just swamp the central zone and close the opposition down asap? Interesting.

    Shame there’s no Gradel, Somma or Snodgrass for those opening games though.

  • TSS

    @djedjedje – I think you’d have to say Howson was probably the more defensive midfielder of the three. Shame really, because the role doesn’t suit him and when he does go forward, he looks a lot better player.

    • Side Before Self

      I’d have to disagree although in this game howson was a little more defensive in the brann game it was Johnson. He’s got a bit of pace but more importantly the bulk to shoulder players off the ball and isn’t afraid to throw a tackle. He’s decent running at defenders from deep my only problem with him playing more defensive is he’s a real threat in the air and maybe playing deeper will curtail his instincts to make late breaks into the area, but might be a plus regarding defensive headers

  • Dje

    @TSS

    That’s what I would have thought. Not sure why we didn’t hang on to Doyle then and play two from Johnson, Kilkenny and Howson sat in front of him. More transfers, perhaps?

    • TSS

      @djedjedje

      Yeah, although the midfield was superb today, we could use a defensive midfielder to add to it. Alex Bruce can play there, so that’s one option?

      I think the thing is that when we’re free-flowing and attacking constantly, we don’t particularly need one, but against teams that counter quickly we most certainly will. That said, a pacier defender could be just as useful.

  • timm

    I thought the 4-5-1 looked great in the first half. Becchio was very impressive & we’ll definately see more goals from the midfield when we play this system. Gradel was outstanding & he’ll bag a dozen providing he behaves himself. Nothing between the keepers really, Schmeichel very impressive with his quick strong throws but Higgs definately looks the better at commanding his box. It was interesting to see which players look like they’re comfortable with making the step up & i was pleasently surprised. Kilkenny looked excellent with time on the ball. On the negative side i’d have to say that Naylor was the weak link & Somma looked a long way off. Bearing in mind we were without Paynter & Snodgrass i took a lot of encouragement from today & im confident that Johnson, Gradel, Sam & Howson can weigh in with 25-30 goals between them this season.

    • TheReaper08

      @timm We really need the midfield to step up this year, last years goal return from them all was woeful.

  • How did you rate Bessone? I was a bit unsure..,

  • Tim Wilsom

    11 goals , 2 against in three games. Oh woe is me. I always enjoyed playing better opposition

  • EYLeeds

    I was keen to have a look at Somma and I thought he looked quite dangerous with the limited time he had on the ball. Was probably trying too hard to impress but I saw enough in him to encourage me he could be a real handfull. Gradel stole the show with his goal and assist but Kilkenny looked very comfortable against a premiership midfield.
    I actually reckon Johnson could do the holding role very well if he is disciplined enough. Good in the tackle and in the air and covers the pitch very well. Better player than Doyle in my eyes. Good performance by everyone I thought apart from the ref – stonewall penalty for handball.

    • timm

      You’re probably right when you say he was maybe trying too hard to impress? He was definately getting into some good positions, but too many unnecessary fouls & appealing for free kicks. I actually thought Bessone looked good today.

  • trueyorxman

    Bessone looked dodgy. Johnson will be found out once season starts, we just need a decent midfielder along side Howson & let Kilkenny playing the holding role.I can’t see us playing as well v Derby next week. No Gradel, Snodders, or Somma on the bench leaves us stretched going forward

  • les irwin

    for all those chatting about defensive midfielder doyle ,douglas all played No4 i think bruce will play there i think thats why he brought him for that role we are top heavy with defenders and in central defence especially when paddy is back if he is like he was last season he is nailed there just like i also think parker will be at left back, its gonna be hard to play ,gradel ,sam and snodders ,howson i will guess unless injured will play every meaningful game .

  • tim the white

    I thought we looked a good outfit with some nice overlapping play. However, we still need a real quality goalscorer to play off Becchio and /or Somma. Gradel will be a miss for the first three league games.
    I think to get the quality up front it will have to be a promising loanee from one of the top six clubs.
    Generally I feel confident for the season ahead.

  • Benjamin Newsome

    Sounds like a good game, makes me alot happier knowing it was premiership opposition. Then again Norwhich won Newcastle last week too so were not the only club doing it.
    So whos he gonna play on the wings then with Snoddy being out and Gradel?

  • trueyorxman

    I predict this XI to start v Derby: Schmiechel, Connolly, Bessone, Bruce, Naylor, Collins, Howson, Kilkenny, Becchio, Sam, Johnson. (The last 2 as the wide men)Subs: Higgs, Bromby, Grella, White, Hughes plus ??)

  • Mike

    Great report TSS as usual.
    my manic depressive mood has lifted greatly,
    I now feel quite confident we can give a good account of ourselves and make football notice we are on the way back :0(
    MOT