Leeds United 1 (Lowe og 20)
Derby County 1 (Martin 90+1)
As good as the start to this season has been for Leeds, it’s frustrating the hell out of me! We’ve lost just 1 in 10 (we don’t count losing on penalties) and we still sit at the top of the table as I write this despite dropping two more points this afternoon and yet it is still frustrating me.
We are struggling to win games at home; some fans are daring to criticise Bielsa for doggedly sticking to a formula and a starting XI when it’s perceived by some that we have better options on the bench; we miss too many chances; and we’re still conceding soft goals too regularly. It is frustrating because we are the best side in the division but we’re not proving it!
In this centenary year of ours I’m celebrating my own personal total of fifty years of supporting Leeds in an active manner and the frustration I’m feeling is not unlike that I felt during the Revie years at the very start of my half century. Back in the day, when I were a lad, Leeds United were the best team in the country by a mile. From our first season back in the top flight in 1964/65 until Don Revie’s final season in 73/74 Leeds United ruled the roost… and yet we won only two league titles in those ten seasons. As good as we were, there was always something preventing us winning that damn 1st Division crown. Five seasons we finished runners up, twice we were 4th and one time we were 3rd and then there were those two titles.. and yet, there is no doubt in my mind that our team of that era was the best side football had ever seen… We were known as a side dogged by bad luck and, now and again, Revie himself would cop criticism, either for his own stifling superstitions that were often seen to translate into the minds of his players or for sometimes sticking doggedly to a small group of players that at a certain time probably needed rejuvenating. It was frustrating.
Turn the clock forward to this season and I think the similarity is obvious; the squad Marcelo Bielsa has moulded over the last season and a bit is clearly head and shoulders better than any other side in the Championship – certainly any that I’ve seen anyway. And yet we’re struggling to translate that superiority into the kind of walloping that the great Revie side used to regularly inflict on teams and such as we see in the current Premier League when the likes of Citeh and ‘Pool get their acts together. We are the best side but something is missing and that something is goals. This is not a surprise to anyone, it dogged us all last season when, match in match out, we discussed our failure to convert chances into goals. We never scored five last season and scored four just twice. Seven times we managed three. For me, a side that dominates games as much as we do has to be scoring more and has to be banging in five or six a few times in a season; the chances are there, the clinical finishing is not.
The fact that we are not banging in the goals left right and centre also means we are dropping points despite all the domination we are showing. Last season it cost us automatic promotion and, if we don’t solve the conundrum, it could well do the same this time. No side has yet emerged on a charging run like Norwich and Sheffield United did last season but you have to think they will at some point and it will be more than frustrating if, when they do, they are able to overtake us because we’ve thrown away so many points along the way. You could argue we’ve done enough in our eight league games to have won them all and, had we done that, we’d now be seven points clear at the top!
Folk point to our home form as the problem by comparing it to our away form but I’m not sure it’s as simple as that. With only 8 games played we’ve only seen a third of the sides in the Championship so far and, in general, I’d contend that our 4 away fixtures have been against poorer sides than our 4 at home. Who is to say that our failure to take chances will not begin to eat away at our away record once we start to face the better sides on our travels. I accept that Bristol was an exception that perhaps proves the rule; they are a decent side and we walloped them. But next weekend we face one of the early pacesetters in Charlton, so that will be another good gauge as to where we are. If we were to dominate that game, and yet drop points, then the focus will not be on our home form but on that damn conversion ratio again.
And thus we come back to the burning question of the hour yet again: Costa v Harrison and Nketiah v Bamford. For a man who puts so much store in research and data Marcelo must surely be close to starting Costa instead of Harrison. I’ve not checked but there is a stat doing the rounds suggesting Harrison has made only one successful cross in something like 32 attempts, Bielsa may be the Revie of our age, but surely he cannot ignore such stats as that. On Nketiah v Bamford the picture is less clear. There is no doubt in my mind that Eddie is a more clinical, sharper finisher than Bamford is or ever will be. Bamford has never been a prolific goal scorer wherever he’s been and is yet to record a 20 goal season for anybody. But, equally, we don’t have too much experience of Eddie. Eddie looks to be a real quality finisher but he’s a completely different type of striker to Bamford. However, for me, let’s just try it and see how it goes!
Leeds Utd Derby C
Possession 67% 33%
Shots 13 4
On Target 5 1
Corners 8 3
Fouls Committed 8 12