Leeds United 1 (Alioski 38)
West Brom 0
I love looking at match stats and trying to see what they are telling us but you do have to be careful with them; they are pretty much like any other type of stats and can be made to mean just about anything you wish if you try hard enough!
Last night Leeds recorded their lowest share of possession since our away game with Sheffield United last December and that was the last time any side recorded a higher percentage of possession than Leeds. Usually it’s the Mighty Whites who dominate possession of the ball and not in a Jaap Stam Reading sort of way by aimlessly passing it back and forth along their back line. Rather we usually build possession through working hard at regaining the ball as soon as we lose it and then by passing and moving quickly to try to get through the opposition. In fact, in the second half last night we saw the Albion play a very ‘Bielsa Leeds’ type performance. And yet, just as Charlton did to us on Saturday and Swansea did a few weeks back, the side with the lowest share of the possession won the game.
It is actually not unusual in the Championship ; I’ve looked at this several times and quite often in any round of games you'll find that, more times than not, the winning team is the one with less possession. Why does that happen? Well it’s pretty obvious really, the game is not about how much ball you have it’s about what you do with it when you have it! We’ve moaned about the likes of Forest, Swansea, Derby and Charlton “stealing” points from us, but our complaint hides a bit of respect for the opposition in that we recognise they were just more efficient than we were. It’s the same thing we’ve been talking about all season really, when you get a chance in the Championship you have to take it; if you don’t the opposition will take one of theirs, however few they get.
Our efficiency was better than usual last night; we managed to get 9 of our 19 shots on target for a change… although I’d still have to say even the on-target ones were mostly poorly struck! But the point is, from less ball, Leeds hit almost twice as many shots at the Albion goal as they did at ours (9 from 19 compared with 4 from 10). For my money we still hit too many over the bar or pea-roll them straight at the keeper, but it was an improvement of sorts.
The key to winning last night though was the way we worked so hard when we didn’t have the ball. West Brom are a decent side and many folk think they will be up there in the top six come next May, hopefully behind us. They are quick and nimble, without being full of six foot bruisers, but Leeds kept them out and inflicted the first league defeat of the season on the Baggies. If we can add that sort of resolve, especially having lost Cooper and Shackleton to injury during the game, to our normal domination of the ball then we’ll not be far off. Patrick Bamford deserves special mention in this respect.
I’m still not convinced Bamford is the best man to be our main finisher in the side – even last night you can argue he missed a decent first half chance and, in his post-match interview for Radio Leeds, he said himself he should have scored several more than the 4 he has got this season. “I’ve missed too many chances”, he told Noel Whelan. Patrick believes he can solve the problem and get back to scoring a goal a game… I’m less sure. But, last night he was instrumental in keeping the Baggies at bay with his tireless chasing and closing down of the West Brom defence, giving them as little time as possible to ponder their next move. Bamford does need to be careful with his tackling though; his booking last night bordered on red for me and he later charged into a West Brom defender knocking him for six (how he didn’t get another booking for that mystifies me!) which was reckless in the extreme in that match situation of trying to see out the final minutes. But, I have to admit his work rate was first class and he was a worthy MOTM.
So, the growing worry that we were starting to slip-up too often has, at least for the time being, been eased with that result. A very different Leeds performance to what we're used to seeing but one that shows we can grind out a result if the opposition are ever good enough to put us under constant pressure. If we can add that steel to our normal match domination then we should see another good run of positive results coming up and especially if we can continue to hit the target with 50% of our attempts. That efficiency is maybe the most important stat from last night.
Leeds Utd West Brom
Possession 48% 52%
Shots 19 10
On Target 9 4
Corners 7 6
Fouls Committed 6 12