Eunan O’Kane: An absurd luxury in a faltering Leeds United side TSS February 19, 2018 Leeds United 11 Comments The learned men of football tell me that Eunan O’Kane’s strength is in sitting deep, dictating the rhythm and playing simple balls out from the back. By ‘learned men’ I mean those I converse with on Twitter, and while they might fall short of professional pundits, they do offer the only explanation for his continued presence at Elland Road. I’m not usually one for total character assassinations of our own players and O’Kane is far from lonely in the ‘stealing a living’ club, but even when he plays his role effectively – which he hasn’t for some time – I’m at a total loss to understand why anyone thinks his contribution is anything more than an absurd luxury. Perhaps growing up in an era of David Batty and Gordon Strachan spoiled me a little, but when did a deep-sitting midfield who offers practically nothing to the defence become a thing? The whole concept of his role is lunacy. Are we genuinely trying to convince ourselves that the other ten men are so good, we can afford to have one whose only role is playing simple passes? And why is an ability to play simple passes no longer something we expect of every midfielder, but a specialised role? A deep-sitting midfielder dictating the rhythm is hardly a new thing in football, but those who came before O’Kane had the very important distinction of being a disruptive force and a shield to the defence. Perhaps the most notable example of this is Patrick Vieira, who was an absolute brickwall of a player, but who also filled the bare minimum requirement of a midfielder insofar as he could pass a ball – the only skill O’Kane apparently has and something we’re now to believe is a specialised artform. And he’s not alone in being a bit one-dimensional. Wingers used to beat their man and get a ball in to the striker, while dropping back and helping out the full-back when out of possession. But now we’re to accept that Hadi Sacko is a winger because he’s quicker than most players, despite him having no idea when to release the ball. That’s if he remembers to take it with him. Then there’s Felix Wiedwald; a goalkeeper who can control and pass a ball, which presumably makes him second in line for Leeds United’s defensive midfield spot. That he rarely makes the right decision in deciding whether to stay on his line or come for a cross and seems totally incapable of catching – two things I’d have previously said were the bare minimum requirements for a goalkeeper – apparently aren’t as important. There are many things wrong with the current Leeds United side and to put all the blame for recent performances on a handful of players is incredibly harsh. But when things aren’t going for you in football, a ‘back to basics’ approach is usually called for and that’s exactly where we’d be at, had Leeds United not signed so many players who’ve totally redefined the basic expectations of their role. There’s been a lot of blame placed on Orta for underwhelming signings, but this habit of signing players who fail at the very basics long precedes him. It’s part of what’s made Heckingbottom’s transition so difficult. When you arrive at a club where the goalkeeper can’t catch, the winger can’t cross and the holding midfielder can’t tackle, you’re not able to enforce the Paul Heckingbottom way, because too many of the players fail at what he should rightly be able to expect from a player in their position.