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How utterly predictable.

To be honest, it was hard not to feel like the Whites were any more than actors in a more media-friendly play than simply an FA Cup match in the run-up to this one – and in the end we were to oblige the Henry love-in, despite a resilient defensive showing.

The recent alarming slump in league form, only partially abated by the Burnley get-out-of-jail meant that few would have considered this anything other than a distraction before the more important London business is addressed at the weekend, but ironically, in distraction we saw much sharpened focus than recent games.

As a defensive show alone, few faults could be found. One of the youngest defences in recent times put in a fine night’s work.

The full-backs were very impressive, particularly White. Sadly, if there’s any truth in the rumours reported here on the Scratching Shed that Arsenal have made a contract offer to the lad, they’ll be upping their tapping up game from here on in.

He utterly stifled the highly-rated Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was eventually substituted. Although not tested a great deal against the frankly awful Andrei Arshavin, Zac Thompson also looks like he’s got the potential to give Bates an excuse not to lunge a finger into his pocket in pursuit of a long-term right-back option better than Connolly.

Tom Lees had a hugely impressive return from injury – the kid’s definitely ‘got it’: composure, leadership, positional sense, and it’s a testament to him that we’re no longer surprised by the maturity of his game. The ‘veteran’ of the bunch O’Dea looked by far the most limited, yet even he had a pretty solid game (but suggestion to Darren: can you consider other ‘out-balls’ to the straight pitch-bisecting hoof at all? Just give it a go and report back…)

‘Why don’t we defend like this in the league?’ I wondered aloud. ‘Because we at least try to attack in the league,’ retorted the fella in front of me. Fair point. Off-form we’ve undoubtedly been of late, so it was no real surprise to see solidity preferred to thrust by Grayson, even against a weakened Arsenal outfit.

Despite the distractive nature of the match, though, there was a sense that there could have been joy to be had against the Gunners defence had we actually bothered to trouble them.

Leeds’ attacking players are due significantly less laudatory reviews. I think the majority have now concluded that Ramon Nunez is simply a non-footballer with a half-decent shot. Unable to get any shots off at all, he was exposed as being devoid of ideas, touch, pace or final ball, typified by him getting in a position to repeat Max Gradel’s jinking penalty-win from last time out at the Emirates, and instead pathetically giving the ball away.

Fans’ hero Becchio is looking less and less heroic with every game. In this one he only managed to win and direct one header on my count and the positive change on the introduction of McCormack and Forssell was marked. Townsend shouldn’t really be judged on this game – his isolation acute, he was largely faced with bombing into dead ends time and time again.

Given the largely ‘attack against defence’ nature of the piece, the longer it went on goalless the more the stage was set for the inevitable dénouement. With depressing inevitability, Thierry got his goal (extremely stylishly taken I must concede), the Home fans made their only real noise of the game (bar that for the same man beginning his warm-up), and we left hopeful of future clean sheets against teams with no Thierry Henrys in their ranks, but also hoping for a quick Snoddy return, preferably on Saturday.

About Saturday; if the players have been any way distracted by their night out in the capital, it is heartening to note that Palace will be stretching their limbs and depleted squad even further to breaking point in pursuit of a genuine cup opportunity against Cardiff tonight, so we’ve no excuses.

What else to say? Well, er, Robbie Savage got riled at the baiting he and his colleagues received at the ill-advised punditry pop-up stand in front of the Leeds faithful, and stamped with rage – on Twitter, naturally. Savage getting hot and bothered, Henry scoring against Leeds. Some things never change.

 

 

  • number1inyorkshire

    fine piece of blogging old chap summed it up perfectly !!….

  • TSS

    Nicely put Gary.

    Was a pointless distraction, I’m just glad we didn’t get humiliated and that our strongest central defensive pairing is fit again – and performing well.

    Excellent goal from Henry. Zac Thompson will be considered at fault there, but it’s no easy task marking the best striker I’ve ever seen. Rio Ferdinand, Jonathan Woodgate and Lucas Radebe struggled enough.

    Nunez is so incredibly hit and miss it’s painful. Doesn’t seem to be a 90 minute player, that’s for sure. I think Adam Clayton had his moments, which was nice to see and that with some kind of support Andros Townsend may have caused them some problems.

    McCormack v Becchio is a no brainer for Palace. Becchio again, was totally ineffective. There comes a point when even his biggest fans have to accept heading balls randomly onwards isn’t actually a skill.

    • number1inyorkshire

      @TSS do you mean NUN I EZ as he was called all night by that pratt on ESPN .he didnt touch the ball more than twice in the 1st half hour sorry to all who think he is the new Gradel yaz wrong .

      i would take some money for becchio if its offered

      • TSS

        @number1inyorkshire Some fans stick a Y in there too. I think the little thing over the second N (ñ) may actually call for an extra syllable? Christ knows.

        I forgot to mention how terrorist-like Henry looks with that beard by the way and that Mika Varynen was pretty solid in front of the defence. He ran out of steam second half, but that’s no surprise considering the limited game time he’s had.

        • number1inyorkshire

          @TSS i agree Varynen i thought he was excellent worth a run in the league or at least a chance

        • number1inyorkshire

          @TSS i wouldnt like to comment on the terrorist beard thing as i wouldnt want to upset one cos ,well they are terrorists ,and secondly i have a beard lol..

        • dess

          @TSS@number1inyorkshire I was there at the game last night and like many I have spoken to I thought Varynen had a shocker. He simply cant pass the ball and gets knock off the ball so easily. After witnessing one of the worst midfield performances ever against Barnsley I seriously never thought he would ever put on a Leeds shirt again.

      • jed_shed

        @number1inyorkshire@TSS

        Indeed. The “little thing” above and n in spanish means it is pronounced like the (first) n in onion. Two l’s are a y and for the officionados of barthalona a c before a vowel is done with a lisp.

        It’s nearly as mad as english. “Through” indeed

        • number1inyorkshire

          @jed_shed@TSS so is it nunez or nun i ez lol

        • henrymouni

          @number1inyorkshire@jed_shed@TSS

          Or NO! Nez?

  • Irving08

    Pity Forsell appears to have lost his legs – he looks and plays like a footballer and again got a difficult shot away. But SG may well play him if he now sticks with a flexible 4-5-1. Becchio’s inherent limitations are now glaringly apparent – while Macca just isn’t a 1. SG spoke convincingly about his tactics on YR after the game but again demonstrated a certain lack of the bloody-mindedness necessary to football management when he said he would get slaughtered (by us?) if he set out his team to play like that every week. He should consult the records: Revie’s 1963-64 team had virtually no attack (Albert and Peacock, as I recall). Anyhow if the defence gains in confidence from last night, the outing will have served a valuable purpose.

  • Fat Freddy

    I got to watch the game a with a couple of spurs fans in hurghada. thought we defended well. not convinced by varynen, he seems a little lightweight and seemed to get knocked off the ball far too easily at times. those who see us play all the time – what’s happened to luci? is he still just lacking match fitness? he looks a shadow of his former self. have read a lot of posts about how we don’t need any other strikers, but if mccormack gets injured, i just can’t see forsell, luci and nunez scoring that many at the mo. anyway, as ever thanks scratching shed for the excellent posts and for making a white in exile feel like he’s actually in the pub in armley. MOT

  • pnxb1019

    The most worrying thing for me last night was the form of White. What an excellent player the lad is , he is wasted in the championship. That lad will be packing his bags pretty damn soon , whether for Arsenal or another premiership club. Who can blame him?

    I have no doubt our fat oaf of a chairman will tell a tale of greed from White or his agent but I know who I will believe and blame for losing yet another talent for nothing or next to nothing.

  • smogwhite

    well at least we didn’t get hammered but why did it take so long for becchio to be replaced.he only broke sweat applauding the fans and jogging of at the same time.

  • Tyler75

    Snods and Howson would have had a field day against that defence last night. No brainer for me that McCormack should start against Palace – the (brief) partnership with Forsell looked really promising and I’d definitely give those 2 some game time together. Becchio is one dimensional and that dimension is barely functioning. I’d bite off anybody’s hand that offered £1m for him. Bit harsh on O’Dea – I thought that was his best performance in a white/dayglo black shirt – got some great blocks in and showed real leadership. Lees was immense and Thompson had an excellent game as a stand-in full back. No idea how Nunez stayed on the field as long as he did, was continually knocked off the ball by a featherweight Arsenal side.

    • Mark R

      Pretty much my assesment as well Tyler. I was at the match last night and came away really encouraged by the performance.MOT

    • Dje

      @Tyler75 To be honest, Nunez fell off the ball on his own accord, with no need of assistance from the Arsenal defense. Awful. At least Becchio had the excuse for a poor game from being almost entirely distanced from any other Leeds player when it got hoofed up on him (some great defensive headers from Becchio though!).

      After crying out to play Nunez over the last five weeks or so, I now eat my words entirely and owe Grayson an apology. That said, I’ll quickly spit back – why on earth have we signed him up for a three year contract if he can’t play football?

      Oooh, such a fickle fan!

      • TSS

        @Dje@Tyler75 He’s an excellent impact sub who can come on with 10 minutes remaining and deliver. For the full 90 however, he doesn’t seem quite up to it. (I told you so!)

        But, I hasten to add, Gradel was a very similar kind of player when he first arrived on loan. A lot questioned his use over 90 minutes in the early days but players develop and become more suited to the team. Gradel was prone to as many poor first touches and misplaced passes in the early days too, but like Nunez, he also produced that little something special every so often which changed games. Over time, Gradel developed into a 90 minute player and there’s nothing to say Ramon won’t do the same.

        Like always, we expect instant success – like we did with McCormack for example! – but it takes time for some players.

  • henrymouni

    Funny game really.

    Arsenal started like a house on fire and could have been 3 up at half time.

    We sat in our half with a 1/2 fit Becchio up front, marked by 3 defenders.

    Balls hit out of defence, to no one in particular. Certainly few reached Becchio.

    Why Simon picked Nu Nez instead of McCormack is a mystery to me.

    I assumed they must have fallen out?

    McCormack puts himself about, but Nu Nez……..

    We all hoped he would be our surprise package, but , the more he plays the worse he gets!!

    Our midfield did fine but, they did not have to worry about creating anything.

    Towards the end, when we went behind, we tried to attack and had a couple of decent chances.

    I do not believe that anyone (even Rooney) could play well up front, on their own,

    with the lack of service & support our midfield and wingers provide!!

    Our defence were excellent, but they will not get that cover from our midfielders against Palace.

    When you decide just to defend it is a different mind-set to having to attack and defend.

    TSS mentioned that Becchio’s heaqd-ons etc did not go anywhere.

    Where could they go?

    There was no one to head on to, and the balls out of defence (Mr O’dea plaese note)

    were poor.

    Tom Lees is a star man, and in defence he is no1!

    He always tries to pick a pass when he can, and he is the cornerstone of our defence!!

    Let us see how we go in the next, vital, game!!

    Onward and upward.

    Simon is hoping to have 2 new players in, sooner rather than later!!

    I know! We have heard it all before!!

    • TSS

      @henrymouni Can’t for the life of me understand why people always assume there must have been a fall out when Grayson doesn’t pick someone. There are 11 places available for twenty odd players – the fact he doesn’t pick the rest does not mean they’ve fallen out (AOB aside, obviously).

      I said before the game (previous article) that the chances were Becchio would get the nod over McCormack because Leeds would see little of the ball which meant long ball was our best chance of getting on the scoresheet – does that mean I’ve fallen out with Ross too? As a winger, or even in the AM roie, Ross is nowhere near as affective. Moreover, those roles were going to require players to do a lot of defending v Arse – something McCormack seldom does. It was an easy call.

      When Ross came on we had nothing to lose, we therefore committed more players forwards and he had Forssell alongside him. In that formation, it’s Ross every time, but as we started, Luci was the only choice. Easy to dispute that in hindsight though I suppose.

      • henrymouni

        @TSS@henrymouni

        I am happy Lucciano started.

        I was surprised that Nu nez started as he is a poor striker and an abysmal midfied player.

        Ross is better in any position than Nu Nez.

        TSS “Can’t for the life of me understand why people always assume there must have been a fall out when Grayson doesn’t pick someone.”

        “always”???? Nah!!

        Managers do fall out with players and Ross has been a bit techy of late, to my mind.

        Who knows what goes on behind closed doors?

        • TSS

          @henrymouni Every thread lately has featured such a comment though, it’s getting ridiculous. In the last seven days, Grayson has fallen out with no less than 13 players according to our fans! I just can’t understand why people would even come to that conclusion, especially when there’s an obvious tactical explanation.

          Nunez, at this moment in time is an impact player so I agree, he shouldn’t be starting. But we’re a little stretched for numbers at the minute and if anyone was going to take a snap shot that knocked Arse out of the cup, it would probably have been him.

        • henrymouni

          @TSS

          It’s maybe that fans feel that Simon has been losing his way with the players (Andy O’b as an example) in recent weeks.

          Our shoddy performances make you wonder why they don’t seem to have the heart for the battle ahead.

          Promotion this year?

          Seems a million miles away just now.

        • Dje

          @henrymouni@TSS It’s a very open league and nearly half the season to go. Snodgrass and Howson to return and young players looking better than the old hands we’ve used for too long. There is hope still for promotion. The great shame is that historically we are so bad at finals that the playoffs really don’t encourage me. We need luck.

        • henrymouni

          @Dje@TSS

          Without 3 more top players I cannot see us doing anything.

          We have played badly for most of the season, and have more points than we probably deserve.

          Johnny Howson is a good way off being fit.

          I am always hopeful, but we cannot keep lying to ourselves, can we??

          We were better last year!!

        • Dje

          @henrymouni@TSS We were more entertaining, for sure! But our defense, albeit still leaky, is much better. What we have lost is that slight spark (its name is Gradel). All Championship team are prone to lose their stars to more lucrative offers. That we have only really lost Gradel to date is a success story in my eyes. Keeping Snodgrass and Howson, touch wood, is a boon.

          All we need do now is offer White the kind of money we’d be splashing out on a replacement quality left-back/midfielder and get him tied to the club. To me that is a no-brainer. If he gets too good the come the end of the season he’ll be off, regardless of what division we are in, and at least it’ll be quids-in for the lad.

          But yes, at least two top players. A midfielder is key, and a central defender too. I know people are talking about a right back, but Lichaj has just come back form injury so I can see us making a loan move for him towards the end of January.

        • henrymouni

          @Dje@TSS

          Let’s keep everything crossed!!!!!!

          It is ‘do or die’ for Simon!!!

        • Irving08

          @Dje@henrymouni@TSS

          I am in general agreement, but I might be tempted to keep my fingers crossed on the fitness of Lees and O’Dea, and instead go hell for leather for Beckford on loan, while trying to sell Becchio to M’boro (who are after a big man up front), enabling us to buy Keogh, who gives us better striking options. For instance: while I am not a big fan of ‘Baby Face’ McCormack, I recognise that he has scored goals for us, principally in partnership with Keogh; I assume SG will want to retain the option of playing 4-4-2, at least till Howson returns. But if a central defender is mandatory, then I would put that before buying a central midfielder . …

  • Dje

    Question, anyone know how much we got for Kebbie joining Athletico Madrid on the quiet [so much for Barca]?

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/sport/football/4030214/Leeds-news-Elliot-Kebbie-lands-move-to-Atletico-Madrid.html

    • number1inyorkshire

      @Dje to be fair to kebbie he had no choice really to leave his family all moved to spain ..question is how much did leeds get ???

      • Dje

        @number1inyorkshire To be fair, I wasn’t being unfair to Kebbie. So Barcelona didn’t quite come off, but impressing Athletico Madrid enough for a contract is still an amazing achievement for a lad from Leeds. I wonder if Forlan is still there? I did enjoy him, the old-legs-gone-master, and Suarez, the amoral hamster genius, in the World Cup.

        I noticed on Twitter that Kebbie’s agent was very quick to thank Leeds United for being so professional and understanding over Kebbie’s move to Athletico and the compensation to LUFC. I’m reading that as we didn’t stick to the full amount we’d be entitled too (nine years of schooling and coaching would add up to quite a bit I reckon), and took a cut rather than jeopardize Kebbie’s chances of getting a contract. I’d love to know if that was the case. There can’t have been many times that the Bates Machine has been charitably altruistic, especially with so little public self-fanned praise.

  • oldschoolbaby

    I was very interested in the defensive performance. My primary gripe with SG has been his inability, ( taking into account his limited resources ) to mould, motivate, inspire or coach a defensive unit to be greater than the sum of its parts. Fair point made in the post that it`s easier to defend when you`re not looking to attack but nevertheless the kids did alright. O`Dea has been about a bit. He`s uncompromisng, which is an extremely important virtue when you`re looking for solutions to shambolic defensive problems, but I don`t see him as the answer to our prayers as a leader and organiser. The kids seemed to be doing it for themselves. Is the academy going to save SG from the sack ?

  • mojoluafc

    Technically we defended well considering we were playing for the draw. Playing 7 or 8 men at the back ain’t gonna get us 3pts in the league. We get caught out when there’s space between the back and midfield, just hope it tightens up for Palace.

    • Dje

      @mojoluafc To be fair, our midfield yesterday was our defense – or part of it: the three guys about five feet in front of our back four. Having watched the Henry goal again, yes there is a gap between Thompson and Lees to exploit by Henry, but Song could only pick out the through ball because the two Leeds guys (Pugh and Clayton?) were just that bit too slow to step up and close Song down. They nearly got there, and yes they were knackered, but just saying.

      Two things resulted form the match. One, all that Hooray Henry. That’s fine for Arsenal and football romantics. The second point is the general praise awarded our defending. OK, not quite enough to carry us to a replay, but it surely should re-set the confidence of our back five for the next half dozen matches or so. For weeks now they have been chopped and changed and told by the fans, Grayson and Bates that they are either individually or collectively shit. Well, they can hold their heads high once more and hopefully that’ll see a better connection between the defense and the rest of the team. Less panicky booting it field and less nowt-to-do-with-me-once-its-cleared mentality.

  • Captaincrash

    @Colin I am in!

  • TSS

    Haha, brilliant!

  • Ben Rosamond

    Agree with that, although Becchio leading the line in a 4-5-1 with Howson and Snoddy in support is a different proposition from Becchio in a 4-5-1 with Nunez (especially) and Townsend in support. I also thought Mika Väyrynen had a very decent game in front of the back four.

  • The Scratching Shed

    Yeah, he wasn’t that bad actually (Mika), though he did run out of steam second half which was understandable given his lack of match time.

  • Ben Rosamond

    Sure, though he lasted a lot longer than Henry, who was out of puff after his goal celebration.

  • David Kendall

    well judged report. i counted 55000 deluded supporters inside the emirates last night.

  • Steve Oates

    from the Guardian: On ESPN: TV’s Rebecca Lowe is standing behind the pitchside desk asking Robbie Savage and Martin Keown the hard questions. While some nearby Leeds fans give a rousing rendition of song detailing what they see as Robbie’s penchant for – to borrow a phrase from Seinfeld – treating his body as an amusement park, some Leeds players warming up on the pitch in the background are trying to hit the trio with footballs. It’s a farce.

  • Loiner

    Harsh review of Becchio’s performance. he won everything in the air and got no support from Nunez.

    • Dje

      @Loiner True, but his first half shot should at least have been on target.

  • Dje

    Not sure if this has already been posted up or not: the not so accidental positioning of the Arsenal ballboy in front of the Leeds fans at the Emirates…

    http://www.offthepost.info/blog/2012/01/arsenal-ballboy-creates-offensive-advertising-hoarding-message-to-leeds-fans/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+offthepost%2FTLAa+%28Off+The+Post%29

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