HillsboroughIt almost feels as if McDermott tempted fate when he described the 2-0 FA Cup defeat to Rochdale last week as his “worst day in football” following today’s utterly humiliating collapse at Hillsborough.

So hefty a defeat that Wednesday’s goal tally needs to be followed by the number spelt out in block capitals, just so you know the person inputting data into the vidiprinter didn’t make a typo.

Sheffield Wednesday 6 (SIX), Leeds United 0 was the final score, The Whites worst league defeat in 55 years.

That we suffered it at the hands of a local rival makes it all the more painful, but with how badly Leeds United played, the opposition didn’t really matter. Leeds were awful from back to front, the defence was as bad as I’ve ever seen, the midfield might as well have been sat on the sidelines and the wing-backs McDermott opted to stick with despite signing new wide players to address that problem still have no idea how to play the position they’re in.

I don’t wish for this to sound like sour grapes and take away from what was an excellent display from the home team. but it’s hard to praise centre-forward play when the defence they were running at was so truly abject, or to single out Wednesday’s midfield play as a telling factor because the men they were up against posed absolutely no threat.

There was a determination and cohesion to Wednesday that Leeds simply didn’t have. They attacked in numbers, moved the ball around well, defended as a team and always kept pressure on the ball when Leeds were in possession. Everything that Leeds didn’t do, basically.

Leeds got so many things wrong today that to try and isolate a root cause would be futile, it’s a mixture of things that starts with the team selection and formation and ends at individual mistakes, stupidity and a total lack of effort on the part of almost every player wearing the Leeds shirt today. I’m going to outline a few of the issues below, but what follows is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • The formation –  Leeds attempted to play some kind of 5-4-1/3-4-3 formation, only we don’t have players technically gifted enough to make it work. Or at least, they weren’t on the pitch. Instead, this left Leeds with six totally ineffective midfielders failing to shield 3 central defenders who seemed to have no idea themselves who or what area they were supposed to be covering.
  • Wing-backs – The reason the formation didn’t work is because Lee Peltier and Danny Pugh aren’t wing-backs, nor do they come close to being technically-gifted enough to compensate for their lack of natural ability in the position. Their positioning was dreadful throughout, Peltier was often far too central while Pugh rarely left midfield, thus leaving gaping holes that the already confused and clearly uncomfortable centre-backs were failing to fill.
  • Selection – The only player Leeds United have who I personally believe can play wing-back effectively is Sam Byram, yet for whatever reason (and it may be that he isn’t 100% so McDermott is being careful with him), he started on the bench. As for the opposite side, Warnock is the obvious choice because he played an attacking full-back role for most of his career, but instead we went with a midfielder and a central defender. It made no sense, and while I couldn’t have predicted the result would have been quite as bad as it was, the selection we went with was bound to be problematic.
  • Total lack of effort – McDermott got the selection and formation very, very wrong today, but that doesn’t excuse the players total lack of effort. What really set the two sides apart wasn’t what we did in possession (though we were woefully bad at that too), but what we did when out of possession. While Wednesday pressured us and pushed us into dead ends, Leeds kinda wondered around like confused and disorientated amateurs thrown in at the deep end, each and every one of them seemingly clueless as to what their role and responsibilities were in this fixture.

There are a few key moments that highlight just how bad we are at the minute, the first of which was Peltier’s lazy exit from the box for the first goal which played 5 (FIVE) Wednesday players onside. When you clear the ball from the box, every defender should be rushing forward to push the opposition back. This is the absolute basics of defending and it works because the opposition either follow you up the pitch or are in an offside position if the ball does come back. All the defence except Peltier push forward, the Wednesday players hold the line of the last man (like good attacking players should) and when Wednesday regain possession and fire the ball back over the top of our retreating back-line, Peltier is playing five of them onside.

And from there, it got worse. Much worse. Zaliukas had a nightmare game of Rachubka-esque proportions, Tom Lees was the proverbial headless chicken and Pearce (while not as bad as the other two) could have stayed home in bed for all the difference he made.

The second goal followed a similar theme, namely players not where they should be. Because we have wing-backs who can’t play the position at all, Wednesday found an acre of space from which they almost looked embarrassed to effortlessly waltz through and double their advantage.

All of this defensive misery was compounded by an abject central midfield pairing of Rodolph Austin and Alex Mowatt, both of whom were passed around like statues throughout the fixture. I can’t recall either of them putting any degree of sustained pressure on the opposition or sticking in a tackle that didn’t result in a foul.

When Leeds have been good this season, Rodolph Austin has charged around the pitch like a man possessed. It’s not pretty and it can make the play very untidy, but he’s capable of unsettling the opposition so much that Leeds gain an edge in the centre of the park. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen that kind of performance from Rudy in weeks.

Finally we come to Matt Smith’s 47 seconds on the pitch. His sending off was a bit harsh in my opinion, but at the same time, he threw himself into the side of a Wednesday defenders head 10 seconds after the ball had been cleared. I’m sure his instructions were to get on the pitch and let the Wednesday defence know he’s there, but I think him and McDermott were on a very different page with how that should be achieved. There’s no room for such stupid mistakes at this level.

I could go on and on listing examples of individual and team error to try and explain just how bad we were today, but the result speaks for itself. To a man, the entire team were awful and should start tomorrow’s training session with a whip-round to refund the cost of tickets for those unfortunate enough to have paid for the experience of witnessing it. The rest of their wages they should then donate to charity, because not one of them deserves to be earning them this week.