Leeds United 0
Brighton and Hove Albion 1 (Maupay 17)
This result was predictable as soon as the final whistle went at Crawley last Sunday and if you doubt me, have a look at my Super Six prediction! (I didn’t dare go for a defeat in the YEP jury piece I do so I had that down as a 1- 1 draw). For whatever reason, the concept of resting players just doesn’t suit Leeds United; it never has done. It doesn’t work in the game they are rested from and it doesn’t work for a couple of weeks after either! Brighton had travelled all over the country in the last week and had played a tough, energy sapping game against Manchester City in midweek and yet it was the Seagulls who looked the sharpest from the outset. Otherwise, there wasn’t much between the teams overall, just that one moment of brilliance from Brighton and sloppiness from us.
This cup hangover issue has been going on for years, both during and before the Bielsa era, but you would have thought that by now someone would have analysed why! For me, football is more about momentum and continuity than worrying about whether a player can play every week. From the start today Brighton looked like they knew what they were doing, instinctively knew where their team mates were going to be and, in the 17th minute, they put together the sort of move we might have expected to see from our lads; sharp inter-passing, bamboozling the defence and finding a real goal poacher in the middle in the unmarked Neil Maupay. A quick look back through our history in games with Brentford should have quickly highlighted that he’s always a danger to us.
Leeds looked stodgy and lack lustre and if an alien had zoomed down to watch this game they’d have bet their last Lightsaber battery that it was Leeds that had had the tough week, not the Seagulls. We looked out of sorts and once again it looked like we had too many players playing out of position, much as we did at Crawley, albeit with a few different faces. We even added to the confusion by, for some reason only known to Bielsa, playing Harrison on the right and Raphinha on the left where neither looked comfortable. It wasn’t until the last twenty minutes, when Bielsa had a good old reshuffle, that we started to look like we knew what we were doing and what we were supposed to be doing. Luke Ayling had signalled what we were missing from him as he slalomed down the right wing just minutes before the change round and as soon as he slotted in at right back, with Stuart Dallas going back where he started the season at left back and Pascal Struijk slotted into the CB role, the back line was suddenly able to link up through Matty Klich who by then had dropped back into the Kalvin Phillips role. Further forward we then had the ever open option of a pass to Pablo Hernandez and hey presto we looked like a team again.
There will be those who put some blame on the Elland Road pitch, which did look very heavy; not surprising really with the weather it’s had to deal with lately and the fact that Angus Kinnear revealed this week that it is now 25-years-old! It was the same for both sides though and if it did have an impact we’re going to have to learn how to tame it as it ain’t changing until the summer!
This team of ours needs a pick-me-up now, the pressure is starting to build as the teams below us start to pick up points and reduce that gap between us and the bottom three. We have shown that, at our best and when the rub of the green goes for us, we usually have the beating of the poor sides around us but there is something more I think we have to recognise. The first thing is that playing Rodrigo in the middle just isn’t working; it has never worked, although sometimes it gets hidden by the results we sometimes achieve with him there. I’ve said this most weeks in this forum and I cannot believe Bielsa can’t see it. Maybe it is the best alternative to Hernandez we have but surely it’s time to try something different isn’t it? Once again I felt the jigsaw came together once he was on the pitch today but I accept he may not be able to do 90 minutes these days. It is a sign that we may have to see this season out with what we have and hope we’ll pick up the wins we need and then splash some cash in the summer to ratchet us up to the next level. If so, it might be a nervy few weeks!
Next up is Newcastle and we would do well to remember that our recent game with them was pretty even for an hour and that every break, every rub of the green, went for us that day to get us what, in the record books looked a comfortable win; it wasn’t and it will be another tough one in ten days’ time, especially if we continue to play with this Crawley hangover!
Leeds United Brighton
Possession 66% 34%
Shots 7 7
On Target 2 2
Corners 5 2
Fouls Committed 8 9