Leeds United 3 Norwich City 3
A dire 17 minute spell at the end of the first half effectively brought to an end our dream of a play-off place and a chance to fight for a seat at the top table of English Football. Three-nil down as we went into added time it was hard to believe we were watching the same Leeds team that got us into the top six in the first place. We looked far more like the mainly Janson-less side that registered just one win our first six league games back in August. Once Jansson arrived to pair up with Kyle Bartley our defence had been largely supreme, right up to the final international break but since then, in seven games, we have again registered just the one win; a fine one admittedly against Preston but just one win and for this final crucial period that defence of ours has often looked suspect while the midfield and attack has generally looked toothless. In the second half we saw one of the positives of this current squad - a spirit and determination that saw them battle back to a well-earned draw.
Garry Monk put our recent dip in results down to the inexperience and youth of the side, saying that the end of season pressure of getting the side over the finishing line has come too early in its development. I can accept that but it is still galling to have seen us so far ahead of 7th place to then throw away what may be a rare chance of a play-off place right at the death. As I’ve said before I actually think the ultimate failure of the squad is the result of a number of factors all coming together of which the naivety of the young players is just one. We all know that Garry Monk wanted to strengthen the squad in January and I’m sure he had his eye on one or two more experienced players who might have been able to help the youngsters as the pressure mounted; the arrival of Messrs. Barrow and Pedraza I am sure was not his plan. The fact that they did arrive though and with, on the face of it, decent CVs complicated our team selection and for me, there were far too many changes on the flanks during the final months of the season which meant playing partnerships were not developed. The failure to bring in more quality in January also meant there was no plan B available to Monk at a time when all the opposition sides had clearly worked out our plan A. Add to that relying on the old legs of Pablo Hernandez week after week as the one player to offer us real vision and it was probably inevitable that our penetration got weaker as he began to fade. His passing is by its very nature is always ‘on the edge’ as he is trying to make that killer ball but in these last few weeks his missed passes have become too frequent and those killer balls rare.
All of that is not meant to be criticism of the players Monk has had at his disposal or indeed of Monk’s tactics and selections – with the possible exception of those frequent shuffles of personnel out wide. It was really just the cards we’d had dealt to us and at the end of the day to finish 7th in a tough Championship populated with sides more experienced and more costly than ours is a fine achievement.
In a week when we were all reminded of the importance of stability and momentum in securing footy success by the excellent “Do you want to win” documentary, we can only hope that the Leeds management has listened to the lessons of the film. At the Awards Dinner last night, the fans in the Pavilion did their best to get the likes of Radrizzani and Mansford to commit to securing the services of Garry Monk for the long haul (with constant chants of his name) just as Fotherby did with Wilkinson a quarter of a century earlier. Whether that fundamental building block and foundation is cemented into place will probably determine our success or failure next season. Reports in the newspapers this morning that ‘The Club” is considering firing Monk will have caused many a furrowed brow amongst the Leeds faithful although, as we know, it is not only the truth that is carried in the press!
To me as a fan, it seems obvious that the current coaching staff has shown sufficient ability to merit another go next season and to be given the support from the ownership to add the quality and strength in depth we need to turn a difficult to beat side into a promotion chasing one. Surely to throw it all away again will only delay the owners’ big payday?
Leeds Utd Norwich City
Possession 49% 51%
Shots 15 16
On Target 5 8
Corners 4 2
Fouls 10 9