Panic on the Streets of London Liam Tunney February 27, 2019 Leeds United 4 Comments By Liam Tunney Bielsa was pensive, staring studiously at the ground after the match as he tried to figure out where it had all gone wrong. The players’ faces bore the expression of men who had been hit with the proverbial kick in the teeth in West London. The supporters? Well, their faces wore the panic that simmers inches below the surface of every long-suffering and battle-worn Leeds United follower. Gjianni Alioski’s squirmed effort on Saturday meant that the waif-like façade of a confident smile could still be maintained, but with a nonchalant flick of Luke Freeman’s right heel, it shattered like last weekend’s leftover prawn crackers. With seven straight defeats, it was with an air of inevitability that Leeds generously ended the Londoners’ winless streak. The first half had been promising. After an early wobble the Whites were attacking at will, winning the ball back in advanced areas, spreading it wide and getting behind a QPR defence that looked to be crumbling under the relentless pressure. The second half however played on our insecurities and pressed firmly on the big red button that lies just below that paper-thin safeguard. As the mistakes on the pitch built up, Freeman’s goal lit the torch paper and the panic among the supporters spread like wildfire. By the time Joe Lumley had denied a combination of Patrick Bamford and Stuart Dallas three times, the meltdown was well underway. No one does a Twitter meltdown quite like Leeds United. As well as the standard profanity and venting of frustration that goes with the territory of your team losing a football match, there is a necessity to get ahead of the competition. With the entire Football League and beyond queuing up to gloat at our slightest misfortune, we resort to self-deprecation in order to soften the blow. Yet behind the self-preservation, there are genuine reasons for the fans’ crippling concern. Jack Harrison I’ve been waiting all season for the Harrison flame to ignite. He has pace, occasionally has the ability to get to the end line and comes with the pedigree of Manchester City to support his credentials. However, his infuriating tendency to miscontrol the ball under no pressure at all negates all of these positives. We badly need Jack Clarke back and it is worrying that at this pivotal moment of the season, we are relying on a teenager to provide that spark and reliability, albeit a very gifted one. Cutting Edge The sight of top-scorer Kemar Roofe in a leg brace was enough to send shivers down the spine of any white-blooded Leeds supporter. While not the most clinical striker in the Championship, he was OUR most clinical, and the games we have played without him have seen us struggle to find the net. Leaking the odd goal to inferior opposition is fine, if you have the goalscoring prowess to make amends. We really need Bamford to pick up the goal-scoring baton and run with it. Lack of Bite The chips are well and truly down at this stage in the Championship. It’s the stage at which Derby, Frank Lampard’s or otherwise, normally start to wilt under the pressure. We’re usually well on our way to a 15th place finish, but as we chase promotion it’s even more vital that we, to use a colloquialism, “grow a set”. Despite our high tempo and work-rate, we are lacking in the kind of ruthless nastiness that every team needs. The Batty, the Bremner or even the Bowyer of old would provide that spark needed to drive the rest on. The closest we have at the minute is Kalvin Phillips, and Jansson to a certain extent when the mood is upon him. When the opposition up the cynicism stakes, like QPR in tonight’s second half with the consistent hauling back of Roberts towards the end, or the petulant play-acting to waste time, we need someone who is going to stand up and show that we are not the kind of mugs to stand for that kind of shit. January The elephant in the Leeds United room. We are loathe to acknowledge it, but the fact that Leeds did not strengthen as much as they would have liked in the January transfer window is sure to be exacerbating the post-defeat panic. The Daniel James debacle was easily brushed off at the time due to the intransigence of Swansea and Huw Jenkins, but imagine what the flying Welshman would be doing to defences right now. Everything that Jack Harrison can’t. Yes, we got Casilla, who has shorn up that slot between the sticks with composure and confidence, but the window left us talking more about the players we didn’t get than those we did. And yet, we still sit in contention two points off the top. A win on Friday will still put us top of the league and put the pressure back onto Sheffield United and Norwich City. It would also open up a seven-point gap on West Brom. A win on Friday restores the confident veneer. It makes everything okay again for a while, but despite the unbearable tension of a title chase, it’s preferable to the mid-table obscurity to which we have become accustomed. It brings with it a temporary madness, but as we ponder the panic on the streets of London, we’ll be left asking ourselves one question amid the unerring rollercoaster. Could life ever be sane again? And do we really want it to be?