Leeds United 0
Wigan Athletic 1 (Hernandez og, 59)
This is getting serious now! Since that glorious run of 7 wins on the trot (all against teams in the bottom half though remember) we have now followed that with a run of just 2 wins in 9 league games including 4 defeats and those defeats are now coming against teams of all calibres, not just the best sides. Once again today we have missed a glorious chance to lay down a marker.
The MO of this latest reverse is exactly the same as all our defeats and indeed many of our narrow victories like Tuesday night; a sloppy piece of defending giving a goal away, usually at a set piece, and then being unable to convert any of a huge number of attempts at the opposition goal including some very decent looking chances.
The problem at the back is, unfortunately, not likely to change between now and the end of the season, unless we have a budding Rio Ferdinand lurking somewhere in the junior teams, and so we are probably stuck with that through these final 16 games. Whether Bielsa is considering putting young Meslier in goal any time soon – let’s face it if Kiko gets banned he’d have to anyway – who knows. There is a case for saying Kiko should have done better with the goal today although I must admit the football gods had a bit to do with it as well; it was an unfortunate deflection and fault also lies in losing possession and conceding the corner in the first place.
At the other end of the pitch though we do have two new faces, attackers who we presume, are quality players. Quite why we’ve not seen at least a glimpse of them yet is, to me, unfathomable! I bet we are the only side in the country that has brought in two quality players, struggled at times in two games, but not thrown either into the mix even for a few minutes yet. I get that neither will be fully “Bielsa’d” yet, and both will be learning about their new team mates and the formation, but surely, top quality players are worth a punt even if only for the last ten or fifteen minutes, just to see if their novelty value can create something different. To leave Big Kev in the stands today is bordering on ridiculous in my opinion.
As I’ve documented all season (and much of last season if I’m honest) these two problems – sloppy defending at set pieces and missing good chances - have been with us too long now for it to be reasonable to expect it to suddenly to change without some new catalyst. In fact, the situation becomes worse with every game as all our upcoming opponents must be taking notes and setting out their stall to try to replicate what the likes of Millwall (almost) and Wigan did to us. Quite simply I believe we have to change something, and that something has to include changes to the regular personnel. To continue doing what we have always done risks us getting the same results more often than not. Sometimes, like on Tuesday, we will still come through, especially if we get a modicum of good fortune with the bounce of the ball or the officials’ calls, but, just as often, we will not, and I’m not sure that sort of sequence will garner enough points for automatic promotion.
It is not that we are playing badly. Once again today our general play was good, excellent at times, although the amount of ball we are feeding to the wings to the feet of Costa and Harrison should be bringing greater rewards than it is. So many crosses today were wasted by being over hit or not beating the first man, quite why Bielsa didn’t think it worth giving Poveda a try today as he watched the umpteenth cross go AWOL, I don’t understand. But it’s more than that, yet again Patrick Bamford had 7 shies at goal today and yet, despite the confidence you’d think he’d have brought into this game having grabbed two on Tuesday, he still looked like a fish out of water with weak, poorly directed shots and headers. “He’s not the only one” I hear you cry, and yes, I agree, the Harrison misses today were probably worse, but I can sort of forgive him as it’s not his primary role; probably not good enough at this level, but none the less he’s a winger not a striker.
If Bielsa will not change his formation then he has to change his personnel and, for me, that starts by giving Big Kev a start in place of Bamford, give him a couple of games and let’s see how it goes, but for goodness sake don’t leave it half a dozen games or it will be too late, whether he’s the answer or not.
Leeds Utd Wigan
Possession 76% 24%
Shots 18 5
On Target 5 2
Corners 13 6
Fouls Committed 10 5