Garry Monk has said exactly what we’re all thinking. “Man-up”. After a very encouraging first half today we crumbled in the second half as Birmingham City quite simply out-fought us all over the park. If we played the same in the second as the first we would have turned Birmingham over. We haven’t kept a clean sheet in 14 games league and cup now, from last season to this but the nature of the goals today left a bitter taste in my mouth.
If I could write and article half by half it would make life easier, and I can…and will.
As we stood and chatted at half time I had one niggling issue from a half I enjoyed start to finish. Sol Bamba. He seemed to make the whole team uneasy when he was on the ball. I will leave it there as he will be getting his very own write-up. The attacking football was on another level from the last few years. Without a defensive midfielder in the squad we could only play one way, and we did. Pablo Hernandez dictated from deep, Alex Mowatt roaming and feeding off the Spaniard. Hadi Sacko caused mayhem from the right and Marcus Antonsson showed that he’s more than capable of holding his own at this level. Wood dropped into holes a few times and did a couple of good things but in the main he was very poor today, not good enough to warrant a place with that performance.
Luke Ayling, sporting the number 2 shirt was very impressive. He barely put a foot wrong although a foul throw should have embarrassed him he just laughed as he ran back past Garry Monk. Most on social media are in agreement he was a stand-out player on the day. Mowatt played in Antonsson and Sacko 3 or 4 times but we just couldn’t get the shots off. Antonsson his the bar, a header flashed past the post, Mowatt had a shot blocked, Ayling had one saved and all was going well. Lone behold a classic Elland Road counter attack. Birmingham went up the other end and exposed a gaping hole (The Bridcutt area) and rolled into a very undeserving lead. Straight from kick-off we came back with relentless link up play going forward and a lovely move ended with Hadi Sacko beating Birmingham’s Thomas Kuszack. we couldn’t get the second and we were all very pleased and excited when the whistle went.
I don’t really have much to say. Set pieces at Leeds United are a disgrace. Simple as that. The players need to take a look at themselves. Bamba said after the game it’s about desire to win the ball, where was his? He is meant to lead by example and he did in the second half, lead us to another soft defeat. Roofe added an injection of hunger and pace but missed his chance at the end, we hit the post but really we didn’t start after the break. Ronaldo Vieira has impressed me in games so far and I think he will be important for us but he was left trying to dictate a game on his own in the second half and didn’t do it. Bamba and Bartley were bullied by Clayton Donaldson and another set-piece cost us, with Sol Bamba standing with his arms out blaming everyone but himself.
Garry Monk accepted all of the above and was absolutely scathing towards the second half showing or lack of it. He said he needs a few more in and knows there is work to do. If we play like the first 45 minutes in most games this season we will be a team that will make an impression in this league. If we play like the second we will end up with another season watching over our shoulders. After 10 games we will know more about which way our season is going. Patience is key, Rome wasn’t built in a day and Monk is the right man to change things at this football club for me.
First half/Second half/Overall
Green – 6/6/6 – Didn’t do much wrong, more commanding and more confident.
Ayling – 8/7/7 – Very good debut, strong and powerful as well as a threat going forward, bargain at £750k/£1m.
Bamba – 5/4/4 – Shocking. Couldn’t pass 10 yards and constantly blames others for his own mistakes.
Bartley – 6/5/5 – Got worse as the game went on. Needs a partner he can trust.
Taylor – 6/6/6 – Didn’t do much wrong but did everything at 50/60%.
Vieira – 6/5/5 – Decent first half but found out in second half. Needs an experienced partner. Great prospect.
Hernandez – 8/5/7 – Dominated the first half before running out of steam.
Mowatt – 9/6-7 – Really impressive first half picked up pockets and threaded ball after ball into front players. Ran out of steam. Was at heart of every good move and created nearly every chance we had. Best he’s played in over a year.
Sacko – 8/6/7 – Started well and caused mayhem down the right. Worked hard but faded out of game.
Wood – 6/5/5 – Really didn’t do enough throughout. Needs to improve, failings highlighted by Antonsson.
Antonsson – 8/7/7 – Very good all round. Hit the bar and had a shot blocked and saved. Worked hard, linked up well.
Roofe – 6 – Worked hard but came into a team fading quicker than the winter daylight at 430pm.
Phillips – 7 – Got stuck in and led by example, got his foot on the ball. In line to start on Tuesday for me.
Dallas – 5 – Had about 15 minutes (7 mins stoppage) and made no impact whatsoever.
Certainly not all doom and gloom but issues that have to be addressed. Monk was brought in to change the DNA at Leeds United. Needs the 46 games to show what he can do. I’ll 100% stick by him and first halves like today will open many eyes to what we can do under his reign. Massimo needs to fully back him.