Yesterday was extremely frustrating. Despite not playing great we deserved a point, we had as many chances as Sheffield United and they ended up winning from a penalty that shouldn’t have been given, although the situation gives the referee a decision to make. I don’t blame referee’s ever to be honest, and I don’t blame him yesterday but John Fleck was going down before O’Kane went to him and it was a dive. Despite that we are a long way off where we need to be and Heckingbottom now has the chance to analyse his first game.
Three Things That Still Need Addressing
1 – Underperforming Players, Or Players That Simply Aren’t Good Enough
I’ll get the negatives out of the way first and tis is the main one. There are players who have been getting in this side week in, week out and they don’t deserve it. Heckingbottom picked what should be a good team but he will have quickly realised a few of the players either aren’t up for it at the moment, or just aren’t good enough. I’ll name the obvious ones. Eunan O’Kane hasn’t played well for months, yesterday he was awful and was captain. He mistimed his header for the opener, gave away the foul for a free-kick which he then followed up by giving the penalty away. Gjanni Alioksi, Kemar Roofe, Kalvin Phillips all in that bracket. I saw some stats that made grim reading this morning, both Alioski and Roofe making something like five forward passes each all game. The pair aren’t performing, Roofe since he has been moved wide and Alioksi in general, both need dropping. Kalvin Phillips was another who’s passing was basically non existent. Lasogga lifted his game the last few weeks and yesterday did all he could. Hadi Sacko, Vurnon Anita, are these players going to see next season? Decisions have to be made. There are others too.
2 – Discipline
The discipline is a disgrace at the moment and just because we didn’t get any red cards yesterday doesn’t mean we kept our heads, we didn’t. O’Kane is the prime example, a daft tackle for the free-kick before he went into a challenge with Fleck seconds later, not good enough. He wasn’t the only one. Kemar Roofe just tripping a player in his own half because he couldn’t be arsed actually chasing the player, not acceptable. Adam Forshaw’s booking is forgivable, he went in for a tackle he thought he could win, unlike others and daft fouls all over the pitch yesterday stopped us building any momentum, it should be the other way around. Another good example was Kalvin Phillips barging into a player instead of either going for the header, or just pulling out. The most blatant of fouls, and as a fan one of the most frustrating.
3 – Starting Like A Sunday League Team
For some reason we are starting games like we are playing against Barcelona, backing off and looking like we are beaten in the tunnel. The last three games we’ve lost are a prime example, and Hull we should have been one down after a minute or two, Campbell missed a one on one straight away. It’s not good enough, what was different was that yesterday we got to grips in terms of stopping Sheffield United. Paul Heckingbottom wasn’t happy we allowed it to happen. I’ll name the players who were directly at fault as well, because it’s a few of the same names popping up. Kemar Roofe, should have been making a decent effort to stop the cross. Eunan O’Kane, a header he bottled, flicking it to an unmarked Billy Sharp, Matthew Pennington caught cold for the second time when he should be marking Billy Sharp. We conceded after two minutes at Elland Road with a cross Sharp converted. Talk about not learning your lessons.
Three Positives Under Paul Heckingbottom
1 – Changing Formations And Reacting To Situations
Under Thomas Christiansen we would have stayed at 4-2-3-1 throughout that game. We changed the formation to suit the opponents yesterday and it worked at times. He played three central midfielders to combat the three in the middle for Sheffield United, the personnel was just wrong. Vieira isn’t playing well so probably needed a break but if we had him in there with Forshaw and another it may have improved us. TC never played a formation to think about opponents, apart from starting Shaughnessy in central midfield to stop Sam Gallagher at Birmingham, because he was tall..I rest my case. We were the better team before the penalty and as soon as it happened we went 4-4-2 for 15 minutes, something we haven’t seen at Leeds United for a few years. Ekuban and Lasogga up front together is actually exciting, and although Ekuban has had a long stint out, I really like the idea. All we ask for from a head-coach is having a go if things aren’t going our way. Last week we took our one striker off and put a winger up front on his own.
2 – We Kept Attacking Until The Very End, No Giving Up
Really this should be the hallmark of any Championship team but we have just been folding most weeks, barring the Millwall game. We went until the end yesterday and we actually looked like scoring. We want to give it everything and we did yesterday, despite a few players playing poor. Last week we conceded early against Cardiff and it was game over, we ended up 0-3 down at half-time and down to 10 men again. A familiar story for the fans, we can’t accept that. Yesterday we dug in first-half and regrouped second.
3 – Key Players Regaining Confidence
Pontus Jansson, Pierre-Michel Lasogga, the two best players in a Leeds shirt yesterday along with Adam Forshaw and Stuart Dallas. Dallas actually looked like a player who had confidence again because under Thomas Christiansen it has just drained from his body. Jansson hasn’t been playing well but yesterday he looked like a player on a mission to stop Sheffield United and that was very encouraging to see. Lasogga missed a header from point blank last week but yesterday he battered one home from 12 yards, generating all the power himself. If Heckingbottom can get the like of Jansson and Lasogga playing like that every week then others will feed off that. A lot of work to do, but the marginal gains yesterday were positive, it’s just frustrating it’s come to this by February.