Leeds United 1 (Klich pen 6)
West Ham Utd 2 (Soucek 25, Ogbonna 80)
I wrote last week that it was a reality check playing Chelsea, well, this was another reality check, or at least a lesson learned. From the first moment Klich missed that original penalty until the last moment when Rodrigo headed straight at the keeper, Leeds didn’t do anything very well. Only Illan Meslier, Kalvin Phillips and, for his first half performance Raphinha, deserve any praise.
With the bonus of that dire first penalty being retaken due to the intervention of VAR, you’d have thought Leeds would have powered on to victory in this pretty important, not to say vital yet, game against the sort of team we are really battling for our Premier League future. But we didn’t. Virtually everything we did was poor, weak and lacking decisiveness.
Our crossing was again dire, our ball control was poor, there seemed to be no vision in midfield and of course our defending of set pieces was awful yet again; not just the two goals we conceded but every set piece we faced and had Illan Meslier not stopped a couple with superb saves we’d all be talking about this set piece problem more intensely. We have now conceded eight times from set piece situations this season – more than any other side and West Ham are one of the best at it and proved it.
I accept that we were missing our two tallest, arguably best headers of the ball and I accept that Bielsa is saying we are trying everything possible to improve this issue – but we were worse tonight than ever! We simply do not attack the ball, at set pieces at either end to be honest. Time and time again the picture is of an opposition player head and shoulders above our man who is usually hunched down making no apparent attempt to challenge for the ball. It’s got to change or it could yet prove our undoing.
Overall, I didn’t think West Ham were much better than we were – both sides were pretty average to be honest – but when they needed to do things correctly they did and maybe that is the benefit of that extra bit of quality they have in a few positions compared to us. At the end of the day it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the only reason we lost this game was that we can’t defend et pieces.
For me, Rodrigo is not setting the world alight. He seems to be neither a striker nor a visionary midfield general in the manner of Pablo Hernandez. I was sure we’d see Pablo on the pitch tonight but no, we continued to plough on with little or no creativity and no control in that vital final third of the pitch.
The wingers didn’t’ cover themselves in glory either, so often with the ball at their feet in the corners they contrived to hit the first man either right in front of them or on the front edge of the box; I lost count of the number of times we did that. Whether that was the reason Bielsa used two subs at half time giving Alioski and Harrison the hook I’m not sure but the subs did little to improve the problem.
A lot of thinking for Bielsa to do then before we go out again on Wednesday against another team in this middle section of the table. We have to be better in that one or a blip can quickly become a slide and we’d be looking at the bottom six as our main rivals. I think we need to change things a bit but will Bielsa change or will he try again to do plan A better?
Leeds United WHU
Possession 64% 36%
Shots 13 19
On Target 7 8
Corners 5 6
Fouls Committed 12 10