Firstly, it’s not what you think.

Or that depends on how your mind works.

Ask any Leeds United fan and they will pick a team for you that is different to any other you could ask for and with a range of opinions and points put forward in support. Player A will be “too narrow in his vision”, Player B wont “have a wide enough range of passing in his repertoire” and Player Z “doesn’t track back, go forward or spin around in circles.” For any player in-between there will be some fault or other that renders a part of his game obsolete and edges him towards the footballing scrapheap.

But ask any Leeds United fan what the problem is with the current midfield and you’ll get a sharp intake of breath with lips drawn tightly over teeth; you know, a bit like when you can almost feel the money draining out of your back pocket when a mechanic does the same to you at the garage. Most Leeds fans would be in agreement that the current midfield, whilst being an upgrade over the 2013/14 variant lacks in two distinct areas: pace and width.

The first half of the Birmingham game would have told you that. The passing was neat, ordered and accurate but, like the stories of a rambling drunk in the pub, they never went anywhere. It reminds me of a clip from The Simpsons where the Springfield crowd get excited about a game of ‘soccer’ and the English-speaking commentator just comments, deadpan, on the action.

That just about sums up what was happening during the first half down St Andrew’s way. It was all tippy-tappy, all tika-taka-toe-pokery and it never went anywhere. I’m not a football Luddite, I do realise that opportunities do need to be ‘opened’ and that what we have now is vastly improved from what we had before but, well just but. Incision, cutting and opening up are not just the craft of the surgeon at St James’ in Leeds but they should have been on show at St Andrew’s in Birmingham.

It wasn’t. Well not in the first 45 minutes of ‘action’ anyway; definitely not from the gold-shirted Leeds players. I have written elsewhere in more detail about the woeful 45 minutes of ‘action’ and the failings of Leeds’ midfield quartet. In summary, though, it was like a stereotypical Hollywood actress, pretty to look at but nothing much up top. This was characterised by not one pass being played into the Birmingham box by a midfield player in the opening half from inside the Birmingham third of the field; the only one played into the box was by Tommaso Bianchi and that was a long ball played from just inside the Birmingham half.

Leeds have a very quick turnaround in order to put right some wrongs with their passing; they travel to Bournemouth on Tuesday night in a game being ‘beamed back’ to Leeds for paid viewing. Many fans are chomping at the bit for Brazilian ‘wonderkid’ Adryan to be unleashed on the South Coast team to see whether he can bring some Samba magic to the side. Others are hoping and praying that there’s an injection of width and pace to the passing. Me, I’m just hoping that there is more of the Birmingham 2nd half passing and performance about Leeds rather than the Birmingham 1st half.

Let’s hope that it all falls smoothly into place because nothing opens up defences like a combination of length and width.

 

  • DCY

    I think in time the play going forward will improve. This might be the first time in a while we have fielded a strong team two games running. When Mowatt, Cook and Bianchi get used to each other and we can integrate Adryan (or maybe another forward and play an inverted 4-3-3) then the basics will be enough to find some rhythm and hence some goals. I do not think we necessarily need width but we missed Byram and certainly think we should revert to the three forwards.

    • Graham

      I agree with almost everything you say. We have rhythm and the passing is neat but we need purpose; that will come in time and when players have a decent run with each other alongside. I want to see Adryan play; I really want to see how he measures up to the hype. Width not necessarily needed, but we do need that ‘something’ in the final third.

      I don’t think we have missed Byram, Berardi did as much as Byram did and the back four looked a lot more settled.

      • Archangel

        My last comment did not go through but I agree with you, defensively we were sound. I just feel we need, with a diamond, more thrust going forward on the right. I would try Adryan as part of a three upfront with a free role, let Sharp get in the box more and have Doukara or Antenucci in support.

        • Graham

          I agree – the getting in the box is paramount.

  • NottsWhite

    Despite Austin playing well in his cameo I hope that Redfearn does not get lulled into thinking he is the answer in the attacking midfield role ahead of Sloth or Adryan. We need guile not hustle and bustle which invariably runs out of steam after 45 mins

    • Graham

      He’s the answer to the M role though if we ever play a system involving that role. Not enough guile to be attacking mid though; I agree.

      • NottsWhite

        The first half represented a negative approach from the midfield which led to little support to the front two. I hope as we start to gel in the coming weeks our approach changes from the current defensive approach

        • Graham

          We were poor – not one pass from 4 midfield players into the box from inside Brum’s third of field in 45 minutes

  • henrymouni

    In the first half we were to stretched and should have pushed up more.
    The distance between our midfield and our attackers was too great.
    In the second half Cook and Mowett attacked their back line and Austin and Doukara also ran forward instead of sideways and we had the momentum.
    Rudi’s shooting has gone to pot!!
    There is a lot of expectation on Adryan!
    Lets hope he can play!!!

    • Graham

      Want him more Zico than Roque Junior for sure! He’s surely got to get some game time Tuesday against Bournemouth. I was hoping to see more of Benedicic too but alas, not to be. I like Cook; not set on Mowatt yet.

      • Rebel White

        Same as that Graham, I think Cook is the real deal, very steady and aware on the ball whereas Mowatt still looks raw and a bit skittish. Having said that his goal was really well taken! Henrymouni’s point is also spot on about the gap between midfield and strikers. You’d want to be Messi to hold the ball long enough for support to arrive in that first half. Also the tapping across the back only encourages the opposition onto you, which Birmingham duly did. More aggression and leave Sloth on for a full game soon, please.

  • Irving08

    Therefore we should play a midfield player who has the skill to work himself and others into dangerous areas, viz Chris Dawson.

    • Graham

      Possibly but I’d reckon that Cook, Bianchi, Sloth and Adryan will have the lock on midfield.

  • spellz

    I would play 5-3-2 I think at this stage we have 2 good full backs both left and right in Warnock and Byram, 3 central defenders with them up the flanks, mess around with the midfield a little to give it an attacking variant Austin central in a more defensive role dm/cm with Sloth/Adryan and Cook/Mowatt just in front of him then maybe……just maybe our strikers might see some action, whatever the case something has to change, attacking wise, we are not creating enough chances that is for sure.

  • oldschoolbaby

    I previously suggested our pre-season would finish at the end of this month. I was wrong. With the current prevailing wind suggesting a new coach, it will be sometime yet before we have a settled 1st XI. The lack of width / pace is a hugely obvious issue and only a settled 1st XI will give us an indication as to how Cellino hopes to combat the problem. Montenegro may offer some solution ???
    In Cellino`s defence pace inevitably means extra focus on ball control. For most with pace ( White is a very good example ) sprinting impacts negatively on their visuospatial awareness. So there`s less end product. Those that can move quickly and maintain their awareness are at a real premium and not available that often. Some commentators talk as if it`s quite an easy problem to rectify. It`s not, the motley collection of inexpensive wide men we`ve seen at ER illustrates this nicely.
    I have no idea where this will go but I suspect Adryan will get game time in the pocket and I do think we need a DM until the optimum defensive formation is bedded in. I`d like another look at Benedicdic in front of the defence

    • Tyler75

      Byram in front of Beradi would go along way to solving the ‘width’ issue. The neat passing notably had more of an impact when Doukara came on and was prepared to pick the ball up and run at the Brum defence, creating space and opportunities – he should definitely start on Tuesday alongside Sharp – haven’t seen anything from Antenucci yet to see why he should be an automatic starter.

      • oldschoolbaby

        Absolutely. Shit happens but Byram`s suspension at a time when we`re experimenting with the line up is particularly inopportune.
        Your general point is interesting too. Youngsters, say White, are keen to have a go but it`s easy to lose confidence when a barnstorming run comes to nothing in front of 20,000+. Byram`s always been keen to have a go and you`re right, especially at Championship level, it can unlock defences. Doukara too. He has a definite preference for the ball to his feet and has the power to make him difficult to dispossess.
        I`m not sure though to what extent you can set a team up like that. You may need a more comprehensive game plan. Whoever`s coaching will feel pressured into accommodating Adryan. Our Christmas 1st XI is anybody`s guess

  • Thommohawk

    Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt in midfield for me those two can find a player and do things, Mowatt scored at Birmingham but Cook’s been impressing me with his general play.

    Get Adryen in there somewhere for his magic and either Bianchi or Austin to shore up the midfield and screen the back four.

    Obviously this team and squad needs a lot of blending and it’s still not the finished article, and we sold off our source of goals from last season, but give it a couple of months and with the right man in place and the right team selection we will be a threat.

    • Graham

      We can’t guarantee that Adryan is ‘magic’ – that’s a suck it and see for me. If I was picking a midfield 4 it would be Adryan, Sloth, Bianchi and Cook.

  • henrymouni

    We need a wide man, and a midfielder who has pace but also can dribble, and go by people.
    Running up the wing is no good unless you can beat the fullback and cause a bit of panic (Mr Grey of Birmingham City).
    End product is what we need to work on.
    Cook looks to have skill, strength and can go past people, if pushed further up the pitch.
    Adryen is an unknown quantity just now.
    Mowett is getting stronger and fitter (he had hardly any pre-season) and must work on his first touch, which is often heavy.
    Mowett and Cook and Sloth look good together.
    I would consider playing Sam further up the pitch wide right.
    I don’t think he will get back in at right back.
    Berardi is getting fitter by the game and is a solid, brave defender.
    Sam’s defending has been poor this season.

  • henrymouni

    Just read that Massimo has decided not to give Redders the job.
    Says he is too valuable to the Academy.
    When he appoints a new coach however, he wants Redders more in involved with the first team.
    Sounds just about right to me!!
    He hinted it would be a foreign coach.

  • Mike

    If they’re as good at they’re supposed to be lets put Adryan/Montenegro/Doukara/Ajose/Antenucci on the wings outside of Sharp and drop Cook/Sloth/Mowatt/Bianchi/Austin(choose your favorite 3) and have some of the other options on the bench. This also allows for formation changes mid game if need be to break down defenses or sure up our own.

    • Graham

      Adryan, Antenucci and Doukara yes; Bianchi and Sloth are keepers for midfield in my eyes.

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