Leeds United 1
“Win at home and draw away and you will not go far wrong” is an old football adage; so a point at a place where we traditionally get none cannot be sniffed at. We are 2 points ahead of target on that basis too, having played 4 away games and only three at home!
And then we have to add in the fact that we are a bit injury ravaged at the moment in that three of our expected 1st XI starters were missing – Pablo, Kemar and Gaetano. Pontus for Gaetano was probably no real issue for us as Pontus was immense today and his size and strength helped us for the bulk of the game. I had Pontus down as my man of the match for the huge number of clearances he made and he looked much more like the brick heading beast from the start of last season. The other two though are causing concern.
I happen to think that Tyler Roberts can, given time to settle in and time to get familiar with the team mates around him in a match situation, become a decent replacement for Roofey. But that wasn’t the situation today of course. This was his first taste of playing that central role and in a game where, without Pablo, the use we made of 63% of the possession wasn’t always totally convincing. That’s not Roberts’ fault. He grafted well enough and got himself into a couple of half-chance situations but he will need time and will be all the better for a couple of goals too; we forget he only turned 19 in January this year. It still needs to be borne in mind though that until he’s had that settling in time, he will not be as efficient as Roofe in that role and that’s going to make winning games more difficult. The situation with Pablo is even more concerning.
We saw against Boro how we dominated the ball – 62% of it – and again today it was very similar; 63%. If we had that sort of possession with Pablo on the pitch I’m sure we’d see plenty more chances and plenty more goals – we had less possession than that in the three big wins against Stoke, Derby and Norwich for instance. That 63% possession today resulted in only 11 goal attempts whereas Millwall fashioned 16 from their meagre possession. But we don’t have Pablo at the moment and probably not for the rest of this section of the season, and, at least until we can see what Izzy Brown can offer, we have no one even close to the blueprint needed to do what Pablo does for us. Even Samu Saiz doesn’t have that wisdom and guile that Pablo has amassed over the years.
I’m sure Marcelo is at this very moment scratching his wise old head to try to come up with a solution to the Pablo problem but until he does I think we will find it hard to beat teams. We have Preston arriving on Tuesday night and I’m convinced if we had Pablo we’d wallop them – we owe them anyway! Without Pablo, and certainly if we were to play today’s starting XI again, I’m not so sure. I’m just not sure where the moment of “brilliance” that is often needed to unlock a Championship defence will come from. Jack Harrison is a decent player to bring in as a replacement but he’s a different type of player and doesn’t play the Pablo role, although he can finish, as we saw today.
Somehow, Marcelo needs to come up with a combination of players and a formation that can achieve what Pablo achieves but do it differently. So, I don’t think we can automatically assume that the arrival of Preston and Birmingham at Elland Road will yield another 6 points. In fact, I’d be happy with 4 right here and now! Birmingham, Monk, Clotet et al, are no pushovers and they have lost only 2 league games… it is winning them that is proving difficult for Mr Monk and they are yet to get off the mark in that respect… let’s hope they don’t open their account next Saturday! Before then though I do think we can find a way to see off Preston.
So, another four points from the next two home games and we’ll be on 19 from 5 home games and 4 away. You do the maths, that would be bang on target for that old adage!
Millwall Leeds Utd
Possession 37% 63%
Shots 16 11
On Target 2 4
Corners 6 4
Fouls 14 7