Leeds United 1 Cardiff City 4
This is becoming harder to explain with every passing game! This was another case where as a team, an XI, we just did not cope with a Cardiff side that appeared to be more organised, stronger and fitter, more street wise and more clinical in everything they did than we were. Cardiff were actually in a poor run of form recently, near the bottom of the form table, so the teams they have faced recently have come up with a plan to play against them and yet we couldn’t. So why is that?
We have not played well this side of Christmas yet so that’s a starting point. We have had to face up with a lack of continuity in the team selected due to an array of suspensions and injuries and yet has that really affected us? No one would argue I think that the loss of Samuel Saiz has been a factor – he himself didn’t play that well by his standards in the games immediately ahead of the Newport fiasco, but, in the main we were scraping results and we know he affects the game. I personally think we are missing Luke Ayling far more than people acknowledge too. But other than them it is hard to say that the loss of the likes of Liam Cooper, Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips should have bothered us overly much. It seems to me to be the players we have not lost that have been the ones letting us down!
On the face of it yesterday, I didn’t hear too many folk complaining about the starting XI – the back line of Berardi, Pennington, Jansson and De Bock is possibly the one most people would pick as our best defence … and yet, Cardiff pulled that defence apart in the first half and made it look a shambles. That is therefore a worry; are they any good or not? Pontus no longer looks like the colossus he once was while the failings of Berardi are becoming more and more obvious.
There is always the argument that defence starts up front too and I wonder if shortcomings in our midfield and attack are more to blame. Certainly Ronaldo Vieira is not playing well – he looks overdue for a rest and is exhibiting all the inconsistency that we’d expect of any young player. In Adam Forshaw everyone currently agrees “he’s a player” but without the support of quality around him his effort is being wasted. It will be interesting to see who TC turns to partner him at Sheffield on Saturday – to not take Ronnie out of the firing line will be a huge mistake in my book. As to whether it should be Phillips or O’Kane I’m not sure it matters.
Alioski is border line for me too, I personally would give him a rest and try Stuart Dallas out there – he always helps out in defence which we clearly need but also has an eye for a cross and a goal and we’ve not really used him much all season. He has more strength than Alioski too and may not lose the ball so often! On the other side we have to persist with the maestro that is Pablo Hernandez even though he has not been at his best lately – without Saiz we only have Pablo to come up with a moment of invention and we know he will do it again sometime soon; he always does.
And then we come to Kemar Roofe. If I’ve said it once recently I’ve said it a hundred times, Roofe is not giving us enough. Early in the season he was wasted on the wing but recently he has been given his more central role and it’s not working. For whatever reason he doesn’t look right. I said it against Hull – he looked weak, hesitant, lacking in pace and stamina and almost looking to avoid a challenge. He was no different yesterday and I’m sure I was not alone in being dumbstruck when TC chose to take off Lasogga and not Roofe towards the end. Roofe is not a bad player, but at the moment he is not adding to our effort and he must be replaced. We all assumed it would have been yesterday with the arrival of Tyler Roberts but that was not to be for whatever reason; it must happen at Sheffield.
We are steadily changing the shape of our favoured XI and some quality appears to be rising to the surface with De Bock and Forshaw quickly assuming the mantle of first choices and Pennington looking better each time we see him. We still need to continue swapping them around though in the hope we can find a better all round “team” than we currently have. There will be another forced change at right back next week where I presume we’ll see Anita given another chance and at centre back who knows who will partner Matty Pennington if Pontus isn’t fit. As I said last week, it is all about next season now and we have a chance to hit the ground running in August if we can continue to experiment with those few positions where it isn’t working now. Rome wasn’t built in a day they say and clearly neither will Leeds be!
Leeds Utd Cardiff City
Possession 63% 37%
Shots 8 11
On Target 4 5
Corners 5 5
Fouls 14 20