Alex Mowatt has set high standards since breaking into the first team 2 years ago, adding goals to a slick passing and creative game as he hit double figures last season. That form was all the more impressive considering it was his first full season in the first team, and in a struggling team that lurched from disaster to disaster until Redfearn finally steadied the ship in the second half of the season.

But this season has been mixed, and where it has been the most mixed is almost certainly the centre of midfield. Leeds’ strongest position has almost become their weakest, with Adeyemi, Mowatt, Phillips and Murphy fighting it out for a midfield place (Lewis Cook is a nailed on starter at this point) and impressing in short bursts. But Alex Mowatt is a key component, he is the set piece taker, corners and free kicks from all areas will be delivered by his trusty left foot, meaning that if he has an off game, it reduces the amount of chances created.

At times this season we’ve struggled to create chances, to break down teams when they sit deep and have played more effectively on the counter attack, but set pieces are so useful in any system, whether you’re an attacking team, or defensive, or counter attacking, or even a possession based team. We haven’t used them effectively since about 2003. When Sol Bamba scored from a corner against Fulham last season, it was Leeds first for nearly 2 years from a corner, that is absolutely staggering. On average one in every 10-14 corners results in a goal in football, yet our figure lies at about one in every season, it’s hard to emphasise just how bad that is – we may as well just have a throw in, we’re equally as wasteful. Admittedly Stuart Dallas did set up a goal for Tom Adeyemi at Derby via a short corner, but that’s the exception that proves the rule.

Alex Mowatt has drawn criticism from some people for his contribution (even last season), which is not something I particularly agree with, I feel that his skill and guile far outweigh his weaknesses (lack of pace and defensive awareness being the two major ones). The problem is that he is the designated set piece taker, which is almost the quarterback role, or the designated goal kicker in Rugby and his performance is judged on dual criteria. When Alex Mowatt is on song, he’s one of the best players in the league, his long range finishing is some of the best you’ll see – his goals at Wigan, Wolves and his direct free kicks are good examples. But he needs to rediscover that form, I believe, for Leeds to rediscover their form.

The current formation Rosler is sticking with allows for one central midfield player to play slightly further forward, thanks to either Murphy or Adeyemi sitting deeper, and Lewis Cook’s box to box enthusiasm, meaning that Mowatt could play just behind the striker. That’s the role that took Jonny Howson to the next level, after he struggled to make the next step after his dramatic double against Carlisle in the Play-offs. I think that’s what he needs, he doesn’t have the pace to be box to box, and he’s naturally more comfortable in the opposition 3rd than anywhere else, while we struggle for creativity and miss him firing on all cylinders.

One thing that does tend to let him down is his weaker foot, but the strength of his left allows him to be a top Championship player, and of the academy 4, I feel Alex Mowatt’s future is the most open ended. Sam Byram is likely to depart in January, and almost certain to be gone by next summer, Lewis Cook is a player destined to play at the top level, with or without Leeds United, while Charlie Taylor has developed into a strong, quick, top quality left back. Alex Mowatt had a great season last season, but his position is in question, particularly if we operate with a 4-4-2 formation, due to other players offering a more solid midfield 2. But, in an attacking sense, Mowatt offers something no other player in the squad offers, his attacking drive and willingness to run with the ball through midfield creates space and utilises the wide players much better than simply playing flat passes to them.

If Alex Mowatt finds space in an attacking position, he will create goalscoring opportunities, and gain the confidence a flair player thrives on. With confidence, it’s more likely that he will play more adventurous passes, more dangerous corners and produce more opportunities. That’s why Alex Mowatt needs to be firing for Leeds to be firing again.

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  • liam austin

    Just put Antenucci just behind wood that would work well, as Mirco does well in a free role.

  • Ropey Wyla

    I think the nail has been hit on the head here with regard to the link between Mowatt’s form and that of the team. However in my opinion on current form Antenucci has to start at home in a free role as part of a 441-1 with Mowatt coming on to replace him and he should start there when we play away.