Leeds travel to second placed Swansea City tomorrow for what is being billed as the latest of our six-pointers as the 2010-11 season draws closer to it’s conclusion.

Ahead of the game, Sanchez Watt has been selected to give the latest Leeds United pep talk in an effort to boost morale and get the fans believing again after two home games where four points were dropped to Norwich City and Barnsley;

“It is a big, big game at Swansea – one of the most important in our season.

“We came back from a goal down to beat them at Elland Road early in the season, and a win on their ground would give us a real boost for the rest of the season. “

Watt goes on to concede that Leeds have been drawing too many games lately, but insists automatic promotion is the aim and claims that was the clubs ambition from day one.

“We made a top-two place our target at the start of the season, and that is still the case.”

It’s nice to hear that the management and players share the same ambitions as the fans, but did anyone really believe automatic was an attainable goal at the beginning of the season? I seemed to be in the minority predicting that we’d end in a play-off spot, and I don’t recall too many people going one better.

The ironic thing is, that at the start of the season the primary concern was whether the new additions would be able to compensate for the amount of goals Jermaine Beckford provided. As it turned out, Ross McCormack and Billy Paynter couldn’t, but the remnants of our 2009-10 team have somehow produced more goals than any other team in the division.

The area no one was really concerned about was the defence. Whilst we probably expected a few tough encounters with the likes of Cardiff and QPR, no one predicted we’d be leaking eight goals against a relatively poor Barnsley side, and six in one game at home to Preston!

Maybe that’s the problem – maybe no one saw this coming? To be fair to the Leeds United management, there was no real evidence to suggest the defence would be an issue. We finished the 2009/10 campaign with the best defensive record in the league, conceding less than a goal per game.

Not for one minute did anyone stop and raise serious questions about the defence. Sure, we all wondered whether Naylor was knocking on the door of retirement and the long-term injury to Patrick Kisnorbo was another concern, but to concede 52 goals in 33 games was way beyond the musings of even the most pessimistic fans.

The reason I bring the defence into question is not to repeat the same thing you’ve read time and time again, but to explain the reasons as to why my play-off prediction remains unchanged. If, after 33 games, we still can’t resolve the glaringly obvious problems with our defensive game then how can we expect to advance from our current position?

Looking back throughout 2010/11, the same problems have persisted since the first few games. Of course, the benefit of hindsight is the greatest skill of every armchair manager, but for me to still be sat here talking about the same problems I was back in September-October, you have to wonder why nothing has changed?

Sanchez Watt is right to highlight tomorrow as a big game. Personally, I think it carries more pressure than he’s letting on. The four points dropped to Norwich and Barnsley means that if we lose this one, we’ll be 8 points off the second automatic position Swansea occupy with just 12 games remaining. More worrying is that if we do lose, the only thing keeping us in the play-off positions may be our goal difference.

On the other hand, if we win then the top six could really tighten up. We’d close the gap on Swansea to just two points meaning that if a couple of other results go in our favour, those two points could be all that separate Leeds United from the Premier League positions.

One defeat in the league in the last four months is not to be sniffed at, and Leeds do seem better on their travels than they do at Elland Road. We also beat Swansea in the reverse fixture, so a win is not beyond the realms of possibility by any means.

What really interests me here is how much the fans think the points dropped to Norwich and Barnsley alongside our continuing defensive frailties will affect our final position. To that end, a new poll has been opened below and you can also add your own thoughts in the comments section.

Fight of flight for Cellino?

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  • Colin

    It shouldn’t really be a possibility. But I think it is still possible, but not because of leeds, but because the others in the top 6 keep doing us a favour.

  • mark

    At the start of the season I said I would have taken a top 12 finish as a excellent first season and build on it from there.
    No major money was invested in the squad. We still had a lot of dead wood that we needed to get rid of and I felt we had too many players that could not perform at this level week in week out.
    In fact I admit I did fear the worst and thought we could have end up in the bottom 5 or 6 in the league.
    A few games in to the season and I thought I was going to be correct as we were leaking goals and could end up sinking. Preston at home is the low of the season to be 4-1 up and loose 4-6, I left the game and actually thought we were going down. If a sh*te team like Preston carve through our defence like that I didn’t see any hope. Since then we have had a great run of games. Snoddy is playing back to the standard we all know he can and Max is performing better than i ever thought he could. We are still leaking silly goals but I must admit this has been the most exciting season in a long time. The feeling that when you go 3-1 up and still are not safe or going a goal down and still pull a win out of the bag is exciting. Hard on the nerves but gets the adrenalin pumping.
    So do I think we can finish top two, to be realistic no, but since the team have exceeded my expectations already this season I will be still be over the moon with a playoff finish.
    We just need the fans to get behind team and not get on there backs like we did at the end of least season. The players didn’t perform well under the pressure and there shouldn’t be any. We should just enjoy the rest of the season now whatever happens and hope for a massive celebration as a bonus come May.

  • peter

    Well nothings impossible..other than Leeds securing new players without some kind of problem cropping up at the last minute.

    Then again we don’t comment on potential signings until they are signed..do we?

    The club have made the transfer situation a complete farce and this must be unsettling to fans and current fringe squad members alike. The last thing we needed now was mouthing of about needing players.

  • Nasty Jim

    Playoffs i think..wouldnt say no to auto promtion tho..whatever happens we have exeeded my expectations for this season.

    MOT :-)

  • Matt BB

    i also think we need to bear in mind that Barnsley went into the game on Tuesday with a lot less at stake than us. They were playing for local pride, know they probably wont go down, but have nothing else to play for. Just like last season the nerves are affecting our players. As I’ve also said a few times i think Kilkennys inclusion in the team has changed our shape too much.

    I think against Swansea it will be a different game, but we do need that organisation to be tightened up. If we dont get a loan player in midfield – the one we’ve been praying for all season.. then i suspect we will end up with Kilkenny and Howson sitting back a bit more, and maybe bringing in either Mccormack or even Nunez as the link player to Becchio.

  • Matt BB

    and lets be realistic, as we often said last season, if someone had offered us 6th place at this stage of the season, on the day we went up last season we would have taken it. To be where we are is a major achievement, I know we all love Leeds but we are a newly promoted club who have been in the third division for three years.

  • chris from wakey

    I don’t think we can go up automatically and I doubt that we’ll finish in the top six although it is a possibility. Sorry to be so gloomy but we’ve failed to get quality defenders and at least one defensive midfielder whilst the other teams in contention have taken a calculated risk by bringing in premiership fringe players even if they’ve cost a bit more.

    I genuinely believe that the Leeds management – with the exception of Simon Grayson – aren’t bothered about going up this time unless it’s just a lucky opportunity. Work out the maths. We, the fans, pay well over the odds for season tickets in this division and most of the premiership. The players probably cost about £10K a week each. With a squad of 25 players at minimum premiership wages of, say £40K per week that’s an awful lot of money coming off the bottom line even is you allow for an extra 8,000 to 10,000 fans at Elland Road every week.

    I’m not having a go at Mr Bates but he runs a business after all and the club is probably nothing (much) more to him than that. Selling football tickets is the same, more or less, as selling kippers.

  • henryv

    It is possible for any of the top seven with so many points to play for.
    For us a lot depends on who Simon brings in to strengthen the squad for the run in.
    He seems to blow hot and cold on this.
    One minute he has people lined up and is talking to managers. This situation had been the case for many weeks.
    The most recent was that he would not be surprised if we had somebody in for the Swansea game.
    Next he says we have players ready to come in from our squad to bolster the team.
    We have had this runaround since before the season began. Remember the ‘war chest’ ready to opened to bring players in?
    Rant over!
    We all know where we need to strengthen so enough said on that.
    It has been a most enjoyable season but now we are so close we (Simon and Ken) must not let this possibility fade away.
    Next year we may not be a close.

  • Armchair White

    Do you really think no one saw the defensive frailties coming. I think that may be a bit harsh on Simon Grayson. Perhaps my memory is playing tricks, but my recollection of pre-season was of fans in all the usual place complaining that every player we brought in was a defender, when they felt that what we needed was another Jermaine Beckford, presumably for £42.50 + VAT since obviously if he’d been on a free he’d have been crap… after all, you’d never find a striker like Jermaine Beckford on a free…. oh… wait….)

    Looks like Simon always knew we needed firming up at the back. And that probably starts in midfield. We’ve just not found the right piece…. although god knows we’ve tried.

    I think top six is still on. Auto isn’t impossible, but would have been much more possible if we’d taken advantage of some of the winning positions we’ve let slip just since Xmas. But even if, horror of horrors we end up finishing 7th or 8th, I think that would still be an outstanding performance for our first season back at this level. Disappointing having done so well up to now? Sure. Missing out on our best chance given how much harder it’ll be next year? True. But still a perfectly creditable showing.

    But, we’re Leeds fans, and we naturally want better. If we were 2nd there’d be fans complaining that we should be top. Me, I just want us to start winning games that don’t start at 3pm on a Saturday. That’s a bizarre hoodoo that we really need to solve if we’re to stand any chance of confounding expectation in what is left of this campaign.

    • Mike

      Are you Bates?
      [i]Looks like Simon always knew we needed firming up at the back. And that probably starts in midfield. We’ve just not found the right piece…. although god knows we’ve tried.[/i]
      We have only tried to get someone for nowt!

  • captaincrash

    For me we celebrate where we are vs the last few years, we keep pushing, keep the frustrations in context and God willing we’ll get to roll the dice in the play offs.

    I would play Watt behind Luc tomorrow and move Howson back.

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  • Tim Campbell

    I believe the major promotion or play-off positions will come roght down to the wire – probably the last game of the season. Can we go up automatically? Of course we can, however for this to happen we must start eradicating the silly mistakes that larry spoke of the other night. I have also read McCartneys interview with the YEP in which he countered that all of the mistakes and goals conceded lately were not soley responsible to the back four. I do take his point and it probably re-emphasises the greater need for a tough tackling, ball winning defensive midfielder (if indeed there is life after david batty)

  • Mike

    Simon wants to concentrate on doing his own job properly instead of commenting on others:
    http://www.thisissouthwales.co.uk/football/Swans-shot-Leeds-boss/article-3266658-detail/article.html

    I think Simon has taken us as far as he is capable but because he doesn’t spend he has a job for the life of the chairman.

    • Gryff

      “…because he doesn’t spend he has a job for the life of the chairman.”

      That’s lucky if you want rid, then!

      • Knlowedge wants to be free, just like these articles!

  • Mark

    Leeds cant keep a clean sheet and havent really looked like keeping one all season, if that doesnt change (and i see no reason at the moment why it would) I do not believe automatic promotion is possible. In fact I am worried our porous defence will cost us a play off spot never mind automatic promotion. Leicester will have a strong say and i have a feeling Hull and Burnley may yet make late runs on the promotion places. I am still optimistic as long as Grayson looks to improve his central midfield options as the squad is poorly balanced at the moment. Paynter and Mcormack cant buy a game yet we have Johnson banned for one match and our central midfield options are down to the bare bones. I genuinely believe you reap what you sow, on that front not sure Leeds have done enough at the moment. If you look at the players Leicester have brought in on loan from the Premier league, i do worry their “ambition” will be rewarded, it remains to be seen at whose expense.

  • EYLEEDS

    I voted for play offs, but can’t face another final defeat especially if it comes at the hands of Cardiff.
    We have exceeded expectations and I genuinely believe we will promoted next year if we miss out this time. Our best players are all fairly young and still improving and I don’t agree that they will all be poached if we don’t go up.
    Life in the championship ain’t all that bad and reminds me of proper football before that prawn sandwich catering company (sky) changed things.

  • Gryff

    It’s such a close league that anybody could sneak up, regardless of quality or stature.

    I said I’d take a mid-table finish, and that if we did very well we’d get into the playoffs.

    We’re not too far off the automatic places, but if we could concede less, we’d probably already be up there and ahead of Swansea by 4-6 points. As it is, we’re going to have to win the big matches:
    26/02/11 Swansea A
    02/04/11 Forest H
    30/04/11 Burnley H
    07/05/11 QPR A

    If we get 9 points from that, we should get an automatic place. We’ve a few less tough matches than most of the others.

    • mark

      Only trouble is we seem top struggle against the “lesser” teams.

  • Adrian Akers

    I have been hoping that the experience gained last season will help keep this Leeds team focused and strong on the final charge for the Premier League. I saw Forest beat Cardiff the other week and to be honest for me both these teams didn’t impress. Cardiff in particular were very poor. We need to win all our games at home until the end of the season. Picking up points away and we’ll be there or there abouts… Not time for doom and gloom just yet.

  • saltburnwhite

    I think the time is right to go with an unknown quantity and suprise a few teams ….ramon nunez!
    give him a run of a 3 or 4 games in the hole behind the striker and who knows he may be the catalyst for automatic promotion, also alex bruce to be shifted to dm and bromby at cb . kilkenney is the weak link , since hes come back look whats happened!

  • Mike

    I would go along with all that Salty but Larry does not have the balls to make that many changes.
    However, in spite of Larry IF we can beat Swansea then our chances will be good.

  • WillS

    I think Grayson’s inability to strengthen the midfield in the recent transfer window, coupled with his frustrating knack of side-lineing squad players by failing to rotate the starting XI is one hell of a major frustration for me.

    I still think Grayson and his coaching staff are missing some vital ingredient from their range of managerial/coaching skills.

    And finally for Grayson to blame the players in midweek was in my opinion cowardly – almost Blackwellesque in its “don’t blame me” message.

    Grayson – the buck stops with you – pull you fecking finger out.

    Swansea tomorrow will be a huge huge test against probably the best team, bar Forest, in the division. I don’t expect us to win or draw, but I do expect us to to not roll over and be thrashed. Sadly, I think that is what will happen.

  • twatter

    plays off possible that’s all we can ask for.after all what have we invested in the team to take us there.come on am not talking the risdale money . Christ bates is as tight as me granddad.but where we are now and at the thick end of the season.i hope the players step up to the dreams of wanting to play at the highest level.they got no need to worry he will make Larry keep the same squad unless he can get a freebie. that’s the cold reality of we have achieved on a shoe string. and proud of this achievement they have excelled beyond my wildest dreams after the Tuesday night calamity of preston. when i feared the worst for my beloved team

  • Top Banana

    Fact is we have thrown too many points away from good positions and this will come back to bite us on the arse, yes we are still in a decent position but could and should have been better. There are too many teams in with a shout and play offs even may slip away, however as Leeds we all live in hope, drop only 4 points now till the end and up we go

  • Aidey88

    What upsets me is I honestly think we can get automatic, we have players with the ability & quality. We can score goals from all over & everyone knows its our leaky defense that’s costing us dearly, but I just look at the Arsenal clashes where we defended like heroes, like champions, I’d take that performance at the back as a premiership club again! Just frustrating when it’s the same players & it’s scary that with one of the leagues best keepers too, How many shots must being getting thrown at him. Just need to find a run of consistency, 2 back 2 back wins & clean sheets & we’ll be flying, couple more draws and goals conceded think it’s possible we may drop out of top six! We don’t do play offs either! Our season is gonna start falling on that back four… Just horrible that every draw that we should have won, specially over Christmas, if we had won we wouldn’t be chasing second we’d be top. Today is more than a 6 pointer, we need cleansheet & couple of goals today & start a run, but it’s no easy ask but they can do it!

  • les irwin

    not any possibility we have just been thrashed alright 3-0 and we should of had a pen .But in all other departments we were USELESS not 1 bit of quality anywhere.
    anyone who is looking forward to loans will see that with 12 games remaining it is too late , we need a striker ,with pace , 4 defenders ,and 2 midfielders at least but they will need 4-5 games to gel we are only going 1 way in the championship now ,DOWNWARDS .alright they are 2-3 seasons in front of us when it comes to development . but we have missed a good chance and when it comes to us not getting into play offs watch the knives come out ,well i have to say I’ve shown my hand early on

  • Mike

    I think I was a tad ahead of you Les in showing my hand :-)
    The only way to rescue this season is to get a manager which we dont currently have, Billy Davies could turn things around as could a couple of other CCC managers.

  • Will

    Rovers=knows what he is doing with determined purpose

    Grayson=clueless cliche who’s at his limit

    His team=his responsibility

    It’s a long last 12 games

  • Will

    Rovers= Rogers

    – fupping iPod

  • Colin

    One of the most lack lustered, lily livered, ghost chasing performances I’ve seen in a long time.

    In Grayson’s last press conference ne blamed the players. In this one, he just blamed the ref and some bad decisions. Okay sure we should have had a penalty, but if you watch it real time, it’s a tough one to spot.

    What he really knows is that Leeds deserved every single yellow card we got and that Swansea also hit the post and should have scored that and Kasper made one brilliant save to stop a certain goal.

    It should have been 5-0.

    But a step in the right direction that SG isn’t blaming the players this time. No point having a go at 4 defenders that you’ve brought in this season, is it Simon?

    That defence was slow, stood off every single Swansea player, didn’t man mark a single one, and made some crazy defensive moves including idiot passes back to Kasper to bail them out.

    The defence’s performance cannot be defended.

    Howson worked hard (as always).
    Snodders quiet again (FFS).
    Gradel was good – he was really trying.
    Kasper – good.
    Somma & Becchio – not sure they could do too much but Somma gave it a go.

    The rest were Missing In Action.

  • richie harris

    they were fucking rubbish plain and simple

    • Colin

      Ritchie – That is also a fair assessment.

      • richie harris

        cheers colin,living in wales and working with swans and those bluebird tossers im gonna get some serious shit when i go to work tomorrow.at this rate we will be lucky to make the play-offs

  • The Reaper 08

    I only watched the first half and it was total dog shit. Couldn’t give a half mark to any of them.

    Colin I know you love Howson but recognition for trying now…

  • Mike

    He did blame the players Colin!
    Said the only one any good today was Gradel.
    Of course never mentioned the poor selection, formation or tactics as usual.
    I will try and find the link.

  • Paul C

    The gulf in quality today was huge. Swansea have conceded only SIX goals at home all season ….christ Leeds shipped SIX in one game!

    I cannot deny being a little jealous as I watched a solid , confident defence , well protected by a hard working midfield , retaining the ball for large periods. Swansea look every bit a premiership club in the making whereas Leeds look to be in the right league.

    As for the original question , it is surely obvious even to the most optimistic supporter that unless there is a MASSIVE improvement in all around play and tactics over the final few games Leeds United will not be promoted and do not deserve to be either.

  • Gryff

    “Howson worked hard (as always).
    Snodders quiet again (FFS).
    Gradel was good – he was really trying.
    Kasper – good.
    Somma & Becchio – not sure they could do too much but Somma gave it a go.

    The rest were Missing In Action.”

    I’d agree on the defence, but I think that O’Brien did a perfectly good performance today, considering the waves of Swansea players not stopped in midfield/the flanks. Bruce was good, too, I reckon. The only questionable bits from those two for me was the goal where Lichaj thought he was in the Bansko slalom & shoulder-barged O’Brien out of the way of the forward (so not really his fault), and the last goal which was a good play despite Bruce perhaps being caught out?

    Lichaj looked worse than our Academy could churn out tbh. Every time they built an attack from the centre or their right, he just stood on O’Brien’s shoulder, leaving their wide-man completely free 90% of the time. Is he used to half-width pitches?! McCartney is also continuing his questionable run (a pity because he was alright earlier in the season).

    But Howson & Kilkenny needed to boss the midfield and they failed. For me Kilkenny was worse than M.I.A, slowing play on counters and misplacing about 50% of passes!

    Apart from Lichaj, I think the stand-out loser was Snodgrass. He showed glimpses of his talent but he was constantly caught too far up the pitch from goal-kicks and constantly lost the wing-back (surely Leeds have studied tapes of how Swansea play?) and didn’t pick up the free man in the box when they hit the post early on. I’d go so far as to say he was worse defensively than Max, though maybe that’s because Lichaj is worse than McCartney so demanded more help?

    The petulant attitude from a number (mostly Kilkenny & Snodgrass, but also Howson at times, and a rather more manly temper from Bruce and Mad Max being feiry as usual!) is worrying me as it reflects the dressing room badly. If this is what they’re like on the pitch when things go wrong, it can’t be a nice atmosphere. For me, the worst is Kilkenny – Snodgrass can be reined in – and he’s got to go as he’s doing next to nothing for the team.

    So I’ve officially written us off from the playoffs this year, and I’m looking forward to 4-5 good new signings next season. We still looked a good team for 30 mins, but the wing-backs are a clear problem (lucky we have Connolly) as is the centre of midfield. We’re not far off, and it was five players for me who changed a probable draw into a rout: Snodgrass (but we can work on him), Howson (who shouldn’t have to play overly defensive), Kilkenny, Lichaj & McCartney.

    It’s better to have glimpses of a promotion side, than to have cemented ourselves boringly in 14th-15th place all season!

  • reiver

    Automatic Promotion – dream on! We’ll do very well to even make the play-offs, our defensive record is abysmal and Grayson seem incapable of resolving our “frailties.”

  • Colin

    reiver

    see my first post – you’re right, we shouldn’t have a chance, but everyone else is as bad as us. Another mess of results means we’re back in the hunt for auto. Unbelievable but true.

    This one’s going down to the wire. It always does with Leeds United!!