It’s been a while since my last match report and in that time Leeds’ results have been all over the map, but the problems creating our lacking of consistency and upward mobility are seemingly set in stone.

Birmingham today was the ultimate example. An absolute schooling for Leeds in everything we’re doing wrong and what it takes to be consistent in this division.

Leeds no doubt started the day with a game-plan that soon went out of the window. I’m fairly certain of this because Uwe Rösler perfectly predicted the opposition’s game-plan in his pre-match press conference on Thursday, and since I don’t think he’s an absolute idiot, he certainly didn’t instruct his team to play into the opposition’s hands and do exactly what they were hoping we would – specifically, continue to commit more and more men forward while they comfortably sat firm at the back, awaiting their chance to pounce.

Every team faces this problem, particularly at home. The reason Leeds are generally recording better results on the road is because all fans expect the home team to come out and boss the game on their own turf, attacking from the off and committing players forward, which can be great. When it works. But this invariably leaves the opposition chances to catch you on the break, which is something Leeds ourselves are reasonably good at.

What we’re not good at however, is dealing with teams doing the same thing to us and what we’re even worse at, is breaking those teams down.

The problem, in short, is naivety. It’s something that goes hand in hand with having a young side lacking in experience and – given that Uwe predicted Birmingham would play this way – perhaps a bit of discipline too.

There’s numerous examples of this I can cite from today alone, but the first goal is as good as any. The move begins when Leeds are turned over in possession. At this point, Leeds are camped in Birmingham’s half with at least 8 men their side of the halfway line. Charlie Taylor (playing left-back) is in a very advanced position, practically at their corner flag, while Berardi (at right-back) is also forward. Here, our central midfield have to recognise the potential danger and be ready to cover, but – and this isn’t the first or last time you’ll see it this season – none of them have taken defensive responsibility, they’re all caught flat-footed and poised to move in only one direction and when Birmingham break at the rapid pace Uwe had warned they’re capable of, we’re massively over-committed and no one is in a position to help out the two remaining defenders.

While there’s some debate about Cooper being fouled in the moments that followed (‘six of one, half a dozen of the other’ for me, no foul), he too shoulders some of the blame for messing around protesting instead of getting back up – he hits the floor and stops there to appeal a free-kick, which is just stupid in a situation where the opposition are still threatening. Whether he was fouled or not, it wasn’t bad enough to keep him on the floor.

But that might not have been relevant if our central midfield of Mowatt, Murphy and Cook shared a modicum of defensive instinct between them.

The second, and arguably more frustrating, problem is our failure to create. Dallas had a good game and tried to create some openings, but you have to be VERY special as a unit to break through a team sitting as deep as Birmingham did. They’re just far too disciplined and well-organised, meaning Leeds kept finding dead ends despite a majority share of possession and being camped in Birmingham’s half for much of the game. In many ways, it was a counter-attacking masterclass from Birmingham, but it’s one Leeds should have been prepared for.

Committing more and more men forward against an opposition side who can sit and frustrate all afternoon isn’t going to work unless you have something very special, which Leeds didn’t. We do have good players and Botaka may be the key to untying stubborn defensive lines, but when he’s not on the pitch and you’re constantly hitting a brick wall – and worse, being hit back with a vengeance by that brick wall – you have to try and draw the opposition out to stretch the game a bit and create some space.

Instead, Leeds just kept playing into Birmingham’s hands. The opposition sat back comfortably, pouncing on loose balls and shutting down anyone who got too close with numbers, inviting Leeds to commit more and more men forward, before unleashing like a coiled spring, mostly through their explosive number 7 who proved too much for Leeds’ naïve side to get a handle on.

The second goal came late and while Jordan Botaka (a second half sub) was making things interesting, it felt (and proved) meaningless to the result. Leeds could still be playing now (whatever time you’re reading this) and I doubt we’d have scored because we lack the experience and discipline to play patiently and use the lion’s share of possession we enjoyed to draw stubbornly defensive teams out. Until we figure that out, our 8-month win-less run at home is under no threat of ending.

On and on…

 

  • Chareose

    you missed one of the critical problems and its the main reason we have scored what must be the least amount of goals at the start of a campaign ever……… OUR FORMATION , 1 striker upfront just isn’t cutting it, whoever it is just gets outnumbered and isolated because our wingers are hugging the byeline looking to cross rather than operating as strikers…………. its something that the sluggish rossler should have spotted before now and we cant be that negative at home……. Wood and Antenucci are both capable of 15 to 20 each if they are playing together

    • chareose

      P.s , many teams have young players in, leeds had young players under DOL and didn’t play like this…….personally I think we are missing certain types of players……. dominating midfielder in the Joey barton mould, an arrogant centre back and a decent goal keeper

      • Irving08

        Yorkshire having won the CC1 for second year on the trot, my sporting head is now free to return to LUFC. I note Rosler’s comments, but I think he was wrong from the outset to impose a style of playing that relies for its success on players with pace that we patently did not and still do not possess. He then compounded the error by recruiting what sound like one paced wingers – playing off their wrong foot usually if my surmise is correct. I am a long term sceptic on wingers anyway –
        two pacy front men and progressive full backs can do the job; but if you have to have them, they have to be very good a la Snoddy. If he is going to modify his style, I suggest my abandoned son – Dawson – be given an extended run. I agitated for Taylor C. well before his selection, so I back my judgement on Dawson.

        • Chareose

          yes dawson is a tragedy waiting to happen, our most talented young player discarded, the wingers are ok but they also need strikers to play off, more movement up front. like you say given the quality at our disposal we should go back to basics = 442

  • Tyler75

    I think a switch to 3 at the back at home would make a difference with a DM in front (controversial I know but Bianchi would be perfect for this role when fit). Totally agree about Wood and Antenucci together up front ,with the width coming from wide midfield.

  • oldschoolbaby

    Splendid to see a match report.
    I too have reservations about Rosler imposing a football philosiophy and formation regardless of how many of the squad are suited to it. A particular natural athleticism and physiological make are required to play “heavy metal”. Cook and Mowatt are looking a bit jaded already. I fear they are being over trained in an attempt to make them athletes they can never be. A 442 default setting is a must as far as I am concerned
    Captaincy is another issue. Bamba is probably our most naurally gifted individual. But, to my mind he has the mentality he had when he was 12 wanting to play with a smile on his face pretending he`s Yaya Toure. I would like to see some hard nosed defending. I`m not sure how far Cooper can develop but he`d benefit from someone more resolute alongside him. The dressing room needs some leadership. Distasteful, and expensive as he is Barton is looking like an opportunity missed.
    Finally I`m not convinced Rosler`s clinically Teutonic approach is wholly conducive to building the camaraderie and team spirit necessary in any sport but especially important in a physical division such as the Championship.
    Not sure Dawson is robust enough to offer an immediate solution. However, 08 was right, in spades about Mr Taylor ( and how nice is it to see a grafter with humility progress as he has ) so I`m backing the suggestion

    • Irving45

      Yes, Rosler needs to lighten up a bit, as Dr Cellino noted.

  • Tom

    This is the best analysis I have read in ages. Its not pretty reading as a Leeds supporter but it puts into words a clear picture we have witnessed now for three seasons. We have not been able to break this defensive play since Max Gradel left. I do believe that the likes of Botaka and Dallas can unpick defenses. If this happens then we will see Wood score more goals and we will improve as a team.

  • Scally Lad

    It’s going to be extremely interesting to see what Neil Reffearn is able to achieve at Rotherham. Will he be given a free hand to help Rotherham rise from the relegation zone even as we descend perilously close to it?