Leeds United 2 S D Eibar 4
(Wood 63, Alioski 72, (Imanol Sarriegi 5, Arbilla 26, Enrich 43, Oliveira 88)
Well, it was a new experience for me; watching a Leeds game on Facebook! To be honest, apart from the fact it took the first twenty minutes to pop up, the coverage was quite watchable! What did we learn this time?
Well, first of all we have to acknowledge that Eibar played against Watford in Kufstein yesterday and, as far as I could work out, they pretty much split their best players amongst the two games. Most of their squad from last season remains at the club and five of their regulars were playing against Leeds; so, a half decent La Liga side but not their best XI. Having said that, the way we capitulated in the first half suggested we are a long way behind them in our preparations for the new season. On paper at least our first half side looked pretty decent:
Anita Pennington Jansson Ayling
Dallas Saiz Sacko
But it soon became apparent that it didn’t actually work “as a team”. Luke Ayling looked like a fish out of water at left back while Anita similarly looked anything but a top Championship player on the right. In the middle, Jansson and Pennington looked generally OK although Pontus is clearly still a bit rusty as he made a complete hash of dealing with a simple right wing cross for their 3rd goal. Saiz just didn’t get into the game in the manner we’d expect from Pablo Hernandez and Hadi Sacko was, well, he was Hadi Sacko; lots of promise but little delivery. Chris Wood looked rusty too and in total we just were not up the task. It was a bit like Guiseley last season, 3 goals down in the blink of an eye with some sloppy defending and little cohesion across the whole team.
We made changes at half-time as usual and from the off it looked a much more balanced proposition:
Ayling Jansson Cooper Anita
Roofe Hernandez Alioski
Pontus took a knock on 53 minutes and was replaced by Shaughnessy while Gomes got some time near the end in place of Anita.
I think the second half provided us with several answers as to the likely starting XI at Bolton and to questions about the best positions for certain players. In my mind there should be no question of starting at Bolton without Luke Ayling at right back. He gives us drive up that side of the pitch and seems able to link with anyone on the right wing; he’s an important cog in the new wheel.
I think we saw enough of young Shaughnessy to know he’s not ready yet and I’m still not convinced Liam Cooper is solid enough to rely on game in game out. Pennington and Jansson looks the likely key pair once Pontus has served his suspension but I’d guess we must still be bringing in one more experienced CB.
I’m not sure what Anita has brought us yet – folk initially thought he’d play midfield but with so many players already fighting for a spot in the boiler house I’d say he’s here for a RB role and hence I don’t see him ahead of Ayling yet. Berardi for me at LB if fit.
Eunan O’Kane has looked good this pre-season – something he patently failed to achieve last season – and he did enough today to suggest he’s the best bet in behind Hernandez although it’s anyone’s guess who plays alongside him if we continue to play 4-2-3-1 as it seems is likely. I wouldn’t mind if it was Vieira, Phillips or Bridcutt! They all offer about the same quality albeit in subtly different ways.
The second half middle three of Roofe, Hernandez and Alioski looked miles better than the first half of Dallas Saiz and Sacko so currently I’d go with that although I do have a soft spot for Dallas on account of his boundless energy and his finishing which we saw a glimpse of recently at Guiseley. Up top, Chris Wood is of course a certainty to start although Ekuban looks a decent alternative or a possible partner in a 4-4-2 line up.
At half-time today I’d guess many Leeds fans were starting to fear the worst for the season ahead but by the end, and having “won” the second half 2 – 1 things looked altogether more positive. I think there will be better teams in the Championship but like last season, if we can play at our best I think we will compete in most games. Putting money on automatic promotion though looks a tad optimistic to me.