Nottingham Forest 2 (Ameobi 31, Walker 90+4)
Leeds United 0
Leeds have now not scored in 4 of our last 5 games; we blanked only three times in the previous 26. We have failed to record a single clean sheet in our last ten league games; we recorded 7 of them in the previous ten. We have conceded first in every game played so far in 2020; we have not scored first since the game at St Andrews on December 29th. We have been behind in 8 of the last 9 games; prior to that we’d been behind just 4 times in 22 games. The contrast in our results before and after that rude awakening we got against Cardiff City in mid-December could not be more stark.
And yet, even in this latest debacle against Nottingham Forest Leeds bossed the possession to the tune of a massive 70%. The obvious question is: “What the hell are we doing with all this possession?”
And thereby hangs the tale really; we are doing very little with it! Wherever you look on the pitch at the moment things are not really going to plan. At the back we conceded another soft goal today; Hernandez lost possession, Ameobi strode towards goal and fired a shot from a tight angle and Kiko watched it beat him at his near post, not for the first time in recent times. That is not good enough. Pablo would also continue to lose the ball more often than not throughout the game. Further forward we continue to feed the ball out wide to Costa and Harrison but time after time they over hit their crosses causing no danger whatsoever. And then at the sharp end we apparently had 13 attempts on goal today… but only one hit the target. Not good enough, not good enough, not good enough.
The perplexing thing though is we are using broadly the same XI players now that were tearing up the Championship prior to Christmas! Yes, we were missing a few chances every game and, yes we always looked flaky at set pieces and corners but, pretty much the same players were winning most games and seldom lost one! What’s gone wrong?
I have absolutely no idea but the notion that we can continue to put the same XI players out on the pitch for the next game and the game after that and expect results to magically improve doesn’t seem right to me. We have now frittered away a lead of 11 points over the side in third place that we held at the start of the year and now it’s just the goal difference that we earned early in the season that keeps us in the automatic promotion places and not Fulham. A betting man would surely now conclude that if we continue to play the same players we will very quickly slip out of the top two places and, with so few points (6) separating the top seven sides, probably out of the top six as well. We have no choice in my mind other than to change a few players.
My guess is that Bielsa is coming to the same conclusion. He warned that we may not see Big Kev much at all for the foreseeable future as he was not match fit and yet there he was on the bench today and, with the situation looking hopeless, Bielsa threw the dice with him in the 71st minute. I think that was the sign that Bielsa knows he can wait no longer for his preferred XI to come good again. Quite why our new winger, Ian Poveda, was not on the bench today as an option, I have no idea but with Costa clearly struggling to impact the game we surely need to throw him in too. Neither comes with a guarantee but we are in the gambling game now. Stick and continue to struggle or twist and, maybe, change things round.
We have Kalvin Phillips back for our final ever trip to Griffin Park (assuming we don’t have to meet in the play-offs!) on Tuesday but this poor run began with him in the side anyway so I don’t expect that alone to bring about much in the way of improvement. What else can we try? Well, Alioski looks more and more suspect at left back so I’d opt to get a regular full back in there – either Douglas or maybe Dallas again where he was successful early in the season. Whether Alioski should be left out or moved I’m not sure, he is still a player who is constantly on the ball and one always capable of making something happen so maybe try him back on the wing. Pablo? Well, he looks completely drained to me so why not throw young Shackleton into the mix and see if an injection of pace in there works better.
To be honest I’m not sure what the answer is, but I know we have to change something and I’m sure we will now see something different at Brentford; we are in the last chance saloon now, those automatic promotion hopes are fading fast, the players must be struggling to keep last season out of their heads and the support of the fans is growing thin as we too wonder if we have seen this particular movie before.
Forest Leeds Utd
Possession 30% 70%
Shots 14 13
On Target 6 1
Corners 3 8
Fouls Committed 11 14