I have been accused of and ridiculed for use of over-flowery prose so I am going to avoid that and stick to the meat and two veg in this piece, discarding the rest as superfluous and unnecessary.

The stats source I use, Squawka.com have just published a piece on September 24th called ‘Why Rodolph Austin’s resurgence could be key for Leeds United'; I published one looking at his performance during the 2013/14 Championship campaign called ‘Is Austin Leeds’ $6 Million Man’?’ on July 26th, a full two months before. I admit it, right here, I have a soft spot for Austin and was ridiculed for it on some Facebook fan groups – they focused on his wild shooting and apparent lack of grace around midfield. I tried arguing that asking him to do the graceful and nimble in midfield was like expecting one of the shunting engines from the Holbeck depot in Leeds Station to be a mainline train; it wouldn’t happen. However, against Huddersfield he did some Ronaldoesque ‘CR7′ moves such as pirouettes to avoid tackles and stepovers to win a free kick. I was interested in what he did last season and whether it would be effective this season; seems like it is looking that way.

Austin 2013 vs Austin 2014

Austin 13vs14

Source Squawka.com

Rodolph Austin had an excellent 2013/14 Championship campaign where he was the Championships leading midfielder when looking at ‘duels won’ (tackles/one-on-ones/headed duels) and 5th-ranked when looking at his ‘defensive actions’ (clearances/interceptions/blocked shots). This season’s figures show drop offs in the chances that he’s created from 7 (2013/14) to 3 (2014/15) and a drop defensively with 8 ‘defensive actions’ (2013/14) against 4 ‘defensive actions’ (2014/15); that however represents a change in the way that Rodolph Austin seems to be being deployed. Austin is taking a more active part in other midfield duties and this is represented in improvements elsewhere; most notably a massively improved pass accuracy of 84% in the 7 games he’s played this season (against 75% in first 7 games last season) . This change in passing emphasis is reflected across the whole of the Leeds United midfield unit. If you compare Austins ‘per 90 minute’ (per 90) returns across the 2013/14 season to his 2014/15 per 90 returns, it makes for  interesting comparison – well to a sad stat geek like me it does.

Passing-wise, this season, Austin averages 59.62 passes per 90 (against 37.25 passes per 90 in 2013/14) and with greater accuracy at 84% which means that more of his passes are finding the target with greater frequency than last season. This is important if you believe that more frequently accurate passing leads to more chances further down the chain which leads to  higher frequency of shots on target and hopefully more goals…I said hopefully. Defensively, Austin remains pretty similar in terms of tackles per 90 (2.84 in 2013/14 vs 2.56 in 2014/15) and successful one-on-ones per 90 (0.66 in 2013/14 vs 0.64 in 2014/15) although his number of headed duels has dropped per 90 from 1.77 per 90 (2013/14) to 1.12 per 90 (2014/15).

However, move over Austin, there’s a new kid in town that goes by the name of Tommaso Bianchi.

Austin Bianchi 14vs14
Source Squawka.com

I have written about Tommasso Bianchi’s rise to prominence in a little more detail than I’d like to go into here but I’d like to look at Rodolph Austin and Tommaso Bianchi’s 2014/15 season starts side-by-side. Bianchi has come into his own this season and is proving to be a savvy buy. Alongside one of last season’s most consistent Championship defensive midfield players, Tommaso Bianchi is more than holding his own so to speak. Both players share identical figures across almost all categories but what is worth a note is that Bianchi has created 6 chances in his 7 games so far this season.

Broken down a little, and looking at particular areas, Tommaso Bianchi’s stats are all the more impressive. Both players attempt a high frequency of passes per 90 (Bianchi 60 passes – Austin 52 passes) with both players ranked highly on average passes (Bianchi 7th-ranked – Austin 44th-ranked). Now I know passes are viewed as immaterial by some and that goals are viewed as the prize but I still think that a higher frequency of passes combined with greater accuracy leads to more chances which develop more shots on target and hopefully a higher goal return…phew a mouthful to type.

Defensively, Bianchi also comes out on top with all the major areas that had made Rodolph Austin so consistent last season. In the ‘duels’ category (tackles/aerial duels/take-ons) Bianchi has the edge in 2 categories on a  per 90 basis: ‘tackles’ (Bianchi 2.71 – Austin 2.56) and ‘aerial duels’ (Bianchi 1.57 – Austin 1.12) whilst Austin takes the ‘take-ons’ plaudits courtesy of a per 90 return of 0.64 versus no return for Bianchi. With regard to the ‘defensive actions’ (interceptions/clearances), again Bianchi takes all the plaudits per 90: ‘clearances’ (Bianchi 2.86 – Austin 2.56), ‘interceptions’ (Bianchi 1.86 – Austin 1.60) and ‘blocks’ (Bianchi 0.71  – Austin no return). A warning needs to be mooted though insomuch as that Austin’s role has changed somewhat and that he is now playing in a more advanced midfield role.

If you were looking at the Bianchi vs Austin situation as a straight replacement on a like-for-like basis then you have that replacement in Tommaso Bianchi. New head coach, Darko Milanic, has said that he will not tinker too much with the players who have performed so well in the 4 games under caretaker coach Neil Redfearn (10 points from a possible 12) but he may look for alternative formations to deploy those players in. Milanic tends to favour the 4-4-2 double six  over other formations; a formation that relies upon two defensive midfield players deployed as a ‘screen’ in front of the centreback pairing. One of these ‘holding’ players usually being more defensively-minded that the other whilst his partner usually has a better ball distribution.

Could this option be the bellezza e la bestia that Leeds United might turn to should the need arise?

43 Responses

  1. liam griffin

    Lewis cook defo has to be 1 of the two defensive midfielders if we play this formation.

  2. chris moore

    I think Austin is an Unsung hero..a terrific player and this coach will get the best out of him.one of Leeds’s key Midfielders.. is versatile and agile and creative and also a great tackler ..for me,both of these players are key for leeds along with Sloth and the Brazilian will add even more..forget Murphy he’s had his chance and is not very consistent.. we hav a good variety in Midfield right now..we will win most games than draw, while lose fewer..I think Leeds will win on average 4 out of 7 games this season.

  3. chris moore

    I think it going to be hard to find a place for all of out three great strickers.Doukara is a good midfielder abd creative player perhaps play him behind the two strikers or use sharp as a sub.it a hard choice because that leaves only three main midfielders then to play. cook is not yet ready to play in every game for me,a sub is an ideal position for now…we have to make room for the Brazilian soon.so we cannot afford to leave him out and Austin and Bianchi must start for me..

    • Graham

      Agree on Austin and Bianchi – I like the way Bianchi moves into space to receive passes, not many players do that nowadays.

  4. chris moore

    Correction…I think it going to be hard to find a place for all of out three great
    strikers.Doukara is a good midfielder and creative player perhaps play
    him behind the two strikers or use sharp as a sub .it
    a hard choice because that leaves only three main midfielders then to
    play. cook and Mowatt is not yet ready to play in every game for me,a sub is an
    ideal position for now…we have to make room for the Brazilian soon.so we cannot afford to leave him out and Austin and Bianchi must start for me..how about Montenegro Benítez and Zan Benedicic ? both excellent players also..Promising anyway..Benitez can play as a striker too..

  5. chris moore

    .I think it going to be hard to find a place for all of our three great
    strikers.Doukara is a good midfielder and creative player perhaps play
    him behind the two strikers or use sharp as a sub .it
    a hard choice because that leaves only three main midfielders then to
    play. cook and Mowatt is not yet ready to play in every game for me,a sub is an
    ideal position for now…we have to make room for the Brazilian soon.so
    we cannot afford to leave him out and Austin and Bianchi must start for
    me..how about Montenegro Benítez and Zan Benedicic ? both excellent
    players also..Promising anyway..Benitez can play as a striker too..

  6. henrymouni

    Competition for places has really shaken everyone up!!
    Play bad and you are on the bench.
    No automatic choices anymore!
    Rudy is great with a license to roam and run wild.
    Rampaging up the middle etc.
    Stats are always interesting but seldom tell the full story.
    It is easier to pass now as players are looking for the ball and not running away from it.
    They are making space.
    Our two strikers should be left as they are. Both are mobile, intelligent and quick and keep the oppositions defence occupied for 90 minutes +.
    Bianchi is our Rock in midfield.
    Lewis Cook our diamond!
    Sloth our dynamo.
    Mowett our goalscoring midfielder in the making.
    Cook can play anywhere.
    At the back of midfield or attacking and supporting our strikers.
    Sharp will get his chance.
    We are still waiting on the paperwork for or Brazilian wonderboy.
    How are we going to fit them all in TSS????

    • Graham

      I reckon we should sew them together and class them as 1 player. Seriously though, isn’t it nice to have ‘strength in depth’ rather than than the ‘threadbare, cupboards empty’ we’ve been used to in recent years.

    • Graham

      Grazie – I speak Spanish and knew I’d get caught out here – damned Google; I shall change it Cazzone.

  7. NottsWhite

    Strength in depth gives us plenty of options, something we have not seen for quite some time. Players are not guaranteed a starting spot irrelevant of their performance and there is quality on the bench if we wish to change personnel or formation/style of play. No longer are we a predictable long ball team, opposition managers and players are going to have to be at their best to get a result against us. For the fans supporting the team is starting to become a pleasure, no longer a chore

    • Graham

      “Pleasure not a chore”; imagine even thinking that under the old regimes.

      It is good to be a Leeds United fan again.

  8. PMH

    Those stats?? My sense is they do a good job of identifying Austin’s strengths but a very poor job of identifying his liabilities. Passing and tackling are fine, but a midfielder also needs to hold onto the ball to allow other players to get into position. We need a stat for that. Midfielders are the lynch pins of the team, and when they seem assured with ball control, then that confidence spreads to the whole team. When Austin was struggling last year, he seemed unable or unwilling to hang onto the ball to relieve defensive pressure or allow for attacking possibilities. His confidence appeared shot, and I thought his doubts had something to do with collective panic attacks the team experienced. Confidence is an amazing thing, and he seems like a totally different player when his spirits are good and/or he is being used effectively. I wouldn’t have given you 50 P for him last year, but he is clearly a valuable talent.

    Lots of commentators here talk about quality, but the key thing is that they all have ability, but getting them to play up to their potentials is a real challenge. That is why coaching/management is so important. Case in point is Wayne Rooney who clearly is a great player, but looking very average at the moment. We are not seeing it, but the talent is still there.

  9. Rebel White

    After the Brentford game, let’s look at this in context. We met a passing football team full of offensive intent and we folded like a deck of cards. From reports it seems that we fell back, like we did against Birmingham, Bournemouth and even Huddersfield for a while. Why? Because Austin, Mowatt and Cook were unable to break up fast passing midfielders and provided no exit for an under pressure defence. The first solid resistance Brentford met was Silvestri – bless him. There’s a mixture of inexperience (Mowatt and Cook), limited ability (Austin), but also a lack of confidence and aggression in the team generally that gives these teams space to play in. Many teams cannot avail of this, but Brentford and other top teams can and will. We literally have to step up but also offer options to defenders. Holding the ball under pressure and passing that hurts the opposition is what really matters. None of the stats will record these actions versus holding and passing in your own half with no one near you.
    Which brings me to the subs that were named for today. Whoever supplied Hockaday’s name to Cellino obviously suggested the bench list to Darko. If anyone thinks that Tonge, Wootton and especially Murphy were going to save any day, they are simply deranged. Sort it out Darko, move them on.

    • PMH

      Yes, this team has not proven itself able to handle an aggressive midfield from other teams. I saw it against Huddersfield quite clearly. Leeds backed off right up to their own penalty area, and that is way too deep to be defending. Huddersfield couldn’t hit a barn door with a dart, but that is just luck. You need to pick a line to attack the ball carriers and knock them off their stride. That can be high up in midfield, the half way line, or just inside your own half – I really don’t care. It just cannot be within shooting range.

  10. henrymouni

    Another depressing weekend!
    I wonder how Massimo enjoyed the game as a fan?
    Won’t be doing that again!
    Where was Redders?
    I hear he did not travel with the team.
    Any confidence he instilled in the team has gone!
    Again we started badly, then fell away, and we were flattered by the scoreline.
    Again we allowed their full backs to run riot.
    Darko looks a very downbeat fellow.
    At least we have another game on Wednesday to put it right.
    We were overrun by a team who were up for the game.
    We have tons of midfield players, but who can play better than yesterday’s players?
    Brentford are not worldbeaters, just Leeds beaters.
    Onwards and upwards!!!
    Nil desperandum!

    • Scally Lad

      No whinging!!! We’re six points adrift of automatic promotion to the Premiership. No despair!!!

      • henrymouni

        I can’t help it!
        You kid yourself that we are moving on but we lack momentum.

        What really worries me is Redders.
        If he leaves for a Manager’s job, we will be worse off than before Darko arrived!!
        Does Darko really want him in the dugout??
        We know Massimo does.
        Where was Redders yesterday??
        I don’t think the team would have been as rudderless – Redderless,
        if Redders has been in charge.
        Darko needs time, and maybe we may get a few loanees in before long.
        We need another good mobile centre-back.
        Our skipper was a fault for both goals and the penalty!

      • Mike

        Don’t forget we got the kid Del Fabro who’s a center back and apparently highly rated despite his age.

      • henrymouni

        Ah yes!
        He is playing for the u-21’s today against QPR, along with Adryan, Montenegro & Benedicic.

      • PMH

        Forget about promotion. We are still in teambuilding. This is a team that doesnt know what to do when not in possession. Thats half the game!

      • spellz

        I did not like the fact they kept backing off, no one was applying pressure at times it looked desperate.

      • henrymouni

        Yes it is odd how their performance changed so drastically.
        One of the mysteries of football.
        I would start with Casper Sloth every time, as he battles, and is a strong player.

  11. Irving08

    I wish I had seen Darko’s sad eyes before giving him such an enthusiastic reception last week.

    • henrymouni

      He seems cheerful enough to me Irv!
      He has left his family in Austria.
      Can you blame him?

      • Irving08

        Behind the cheer I perceive a sad, Slavic soul. A gentleman too,it appears. I pray he does not conform to type in his leadership style. It sometimes seems that Massimo, by his choices, is drawn to antipodes. Not saying that M is not a gent, of course; but he is too much of a rascal to be the real thing, hence Darko. But, yes, let’s hope that D is soon joined by his hopefully Slavic wife.

      • Irving08

        Dash it. We have enough hope; too often it feels like it’s all we have. This is what Slavic can do to you. Slovenia is a success is a success though.

  12. Helen LUFC

    Blooming heck, Graham’s gone from Emily Bronte meets Jayne Eyre to statto of the year in a mere tîckling of the keyboard. Incredible! Still managed to get a few key phrases in, Graham, ‘pirouettes’, ‘step overs’, ‘Ronaldoesque’ (is that a word, Graham?), a mention of Yvonne and Barry Hargreaves and you could turn this into a ballroom dancing competition.

    I still can’t understand why there was a need to rush into replacing Neil Redfearn, he was doing a great job. Darkio had the same system going for 90 minutes and never changed anything. Reading match will tell us more, though the players didn’t look happy with the formation on Saturday.

    • henrymouni

      Hi Helen.
      The thinking was that Neil Redfearn would be too vulnerable, and he was too valuable coaching the younger players.
      My worry is that we will lose him to another club.
      His profile is high just now, and if he cannot get on with Darko it will make his mind up to move on!
      I am sure the lads would have done better under Redders
      but Darko has had no time to get his ideas across.

    • Graham

      Ah my favourite stalker – I actually put the pictures in for you my love.

      By the way, Emily Bronte would never have met Jane Eyre because Jane Eyre was a fictional character written by her sister Charlotte Bronte.

      Interestingly they went under pseudonyms as well.

      For ‘Ronaldoesque’ check out the definition to the term ‘neologism’.

    • Irving08

      But are you happy with any formation that includes Austin ? Don’t you feel that he is playing the wrong ball game ?

      • oldschoolbaby

        After the endless commentary and stats about Austin you have encapsulated what is wrong with his game in a brief question. He could, indeed, play inside centre for anyone and at open side for less than professional sides.
        I think Mrs Milanic would be wise to seek a cheap holiday let over the winter. If he were seeking a mortgage Darko would have some difficulty persuading a bank manager he has secure employment

      • henrymouni

        She is not for moving osb!

        Apparently she has barricaded herself in, and is armed to the teeth!!!

      • oldschoolbaby

        Wow ! She is an amazing lady if she can do all that housekeeping and find the time to keep the lawn in such good fettle.
        I now see where Darko`s unshakable belief in a solid defence was nurtured

      • henrymouni

        Oh yes!!
        I managed to get a photo of her going out to the shops.
        You will see she is looking out to see if Massimo has a drone out, looking for her!

      • oldschoolbaby

        Formidable indeed. I think she should be signed up. Fully armoured she could be more manoeuvrable than Pearce and less cumbersome than Austin.
        Is Slovenia in NATO ? If not we need to see about recruiting them immediately. Maybe Salerno could have a word with their Defence Minister ?

    • PMH

      Reading won’t tell us much, except if we are in for a shorter or longer losing streak. The new manager has been in for a whole week- really! Does he even know all the players names yet? Doubtful. This will take at least a month to figure out. And by the way, this team were going to lose against Brentford under Redfearn because Brentford were just better than us. It wasn’t close.

      I do like Redfearn as manager, but the job is a poisoned chalice and he is better off with the kids.


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