Southend 1 Leeds United 1
Lennon 20, Ayling 34
Another friendly and for me it looked like more confirmation that, at this moment in time, Marcelo Bielsa knows his best and fittest XI. This was the same side we saw play 90 minutes down at Forest Green on the previous Tuesday with the exception that Pablo Hernandez was missing through a slight injury and hence Stuart Dallas moved forward to the wide left midfield berth and Laurens De Bock came in to replace Dallas at left wing-back. To me, that says also that Tom Pearce is not considered First XI material at this moment in time as the more experienced yet, some would argue, less forward minded De Bock got the nod when a left back opportunity came up.
I am confident that, if we were playing Stoke City tomorrow, then this would be the side to face them. There do appear to be a few players on the fringe of elbowing their way into Bielsa’s preferred XI though. Prime among them must be Tyler Roberts who finally made his debut in the 62nd minute of this game for the inevitably tiring De Bock who played the whole game at York as recently as Thursday evening. Roberts inevitably got a huge reception from the near 1,000 Leeds fans basking in the sun at Roots Hall… although I dare say some of that was slightly tongue in cheek as, until he stepped onto the pitch there were still doubts that he even existed! Another player who you would have thought would close to Bielsa’s first choice XI is Jamal Blackman – the Chelsea loanee goalkeeper has been expected to fight a pretty even contest with Bailey Peacock-Farrell for the number one jersey and yet we have still not seen the big keeper in a game yet! I do not understand that at all unless even a goalkeeper has a lot to understand about Bielsa’s tactics and Jamal is perhaps still in the classroom on that one.
Roberts was the only sub to appear so the rest once again got a full 90 minutes under their belts and you have to say we do look to be very fit even at this early stage. The longer the game went on, the better Leeds looked, and Roberts helped that enormously when he appeared although it did baffle me why he played so wide on the left. It was almost like watching the Jay-Roy Grot experiment unfold again as a so-called central striker, wearing 11, played along the left touchline. Very strange! Roberts did impress on the ball though and I’d think Kemar Roofe is nervously looking over his shoulder wondering if he is about to be overtaken by Roberts in the striker pecking order.
Other than that, not much more to say about this game; it looked like the 4 – 1 – 4 – 1 formation (partly explaining why Roberts played wide of course so that Roofe could continue as the furthermost 1) again, with Phillips and Forshaw taking it in turns to fill the defensive midfield role. Without the brick heading ability of Pontus in there it was no surprise to see an unchallenged header from a left-wing corner give Southend the lead and the sooner Pontus gets back in there the better, We saw an almost identical header from York last Thursday do for us, albeit that was with Klich and Vieira pretending to be centre backs!
The conclusion has to be that we still need those three or four additions, players who need to be a step up from what we have and able to relegate their existing counterparts out of the XI and onto the bench. Watch this space! Oh, one last thing, fair play to the players for being able to put on a show in 30 degree heat! It was as much as I could do to lift a pint in that heat!