Leeds’ Radrizzani Revolution Summed Up in One Magical Afternoon – by Rob Atkinson


Lasogga – Viduka Mk. II?

We’ve heard the phrase “dare to dream” often enough around Elland Road these past few years or so. Perhaps too often – because, when we did dare, the promised dreams usually turned to grisly nightmares. But this morning, thousands of Leeds United fans will have woken up pinching themselves to make sure that yesterday’s picture-perfect display of attacking football, defensive solidity and, oh, just everything you could possibly want, was not, after all, just some figment of an over-active imagination. For the vast majority packing out the stadium, though, the dream was real alright. It was the dedicated band of Burton Albion fans with the nightmares, as their team was hopelessly outplayed, outgunned, out-thought and outclassed in what was a virtuoso performance by United. It was men against boys from minute one, and the best part has to be that, although a dominant display like this had been coming, there is surely much more to anticipate and expect from Leeds this season.

There’s no point in downplaying this performance because it was “only Burton”. Albion are a fellow Championship side who were coming off the back of a three match unbeaten run, yet Leeds made them look several leagues inferior. The gulf between the two sides was, as BBC commentator Barry Davies once said on the occasion of another famous Leeds thrashing of hapless opponents, “an almighty chasm”. One look at the face of Burton manager Nigel Clough afterwards was enough to realise that he was only too well aware of the magnitude of the thrashing handed out to his team. I had been polishing a question along the lines of “Nigel, you said in the run-up to this game that you’d spotted Leeds’ weak spot. Can you reveal it to us now?” The pain on the face of the pro persuaded me to hold my tongue.

Leeds won at the easiest of canters, managing to introduce a new striker in the burly form of Pierre-Michel Lasogga in a manner that might have had you thinking he’d been in the team for months. There is much to look forward to from Lasogga. A few people have commented on his resemblance to Mark Viduka, and he really could be that good. Early in the game, the Viduka comparison looked spot on, as he received the ball on the right of the box, turned smartly and then pirouetted back to supply Kemar Roofe with a chance that the Burton keeper (who actually had a good game) saved well. That pirouette was very reminiscent of the Duke’s hat-trick goal in that memorable 4-3 defeat of Liverpool just over 17 years ago. It showed that, just maybe, Lasogga might be looking to fill far more illustrious boots than those vacated by Chris Wood.

There were so many other highlights, too. The sight of Roofe at last scoring the kind of goal he was serving up routinely in his Oxford days a couple of years back. Another fine, left-footed finish from young Kal Phillips, who just keeps getting better and better. And the brilliance of Samu Sáiz, as he cleverly prompted Leeds’ attacking moves, one forward pass to Roofe in particular being the sort of thing you’d normally expect to see in la Liga, never mind the Championship. That Giles-esque, chipped pass set up Roofe on the byline to cross for Lasogga’s second, a well-placed header to complete the scoring after about an hour. Enough was as good as a feast, Lasogga came off to a noisy standing ovation, and Leeds strolled through the rest of an afternoon where you suspect they could have had ten if they’d really wanted to.

And all of this, of course, without arguably the season’s star up to this point, Ezgjan Alioski, who was benched for this game after his international exertions with Macedonia in midweek. Gaetano Berardi was missing still, as was Matthew Pennington, and Leeds felt able to replace Vurnon Anita with Stuart Dallas at the interval as well as giving the young colossus Jay-Roy Grot some minutes later on. None of this disrupted the progress of the Leeds juggernaut and poor Burton were simply steamrollered flat as a pancake.

It was the kind of performance to ring the changes between epochs, a signal demonstration that what had been is no more; here was a new era and it’s one to get excited about. Four areas of the club are radically altered from what many see as a reasonably successful season last time around. The owner is now the sole owner, and has been going about things very much his own way; everything Andrea Radrizzani touches seems currently to turn to gold. And it’s his birthday today. Many happy returns, sir.

The other three areas are recruitment, coaching and the team. Victor Orta has demonstrated his unerring eye for a player, pulling off some remarkable coups in the transfer window lately completed. The Wood exit has summed up Orta’s success; the income from that deal has virtually financed all of the incomings, including the loan deal that has provided us, in Lasogga, with a striker who looks better and who provides more options than the effective but one-dimensional Wood. And the coaching of Thomas Christiansen has been a revelation; the likes of Roofe and Liam Cooper have grown under his tutelage, almost overnight, into the players they clearly had it in them to be. The team looks solid at the back, creative in midfield and fluidly lethal up front. Many are still trying to assess the ability of new keeper Felix Wiedwald, or even properly to learn his name. He’s had that little to do so far, beyond linking up well with the back line to distribute the ball across the defensive third.

These are heady times to be a Leeds supporter; it’s difficult for many of us to keep our feet on the ground after so long in the doldrums. The first defeat will be the big test for the support; you suspect that, as far as the squad is concerned, Christiansen has plans and a message for that contingency. On the evidence of yesterday in particular, and the season so far in general, that first setback may (fingers crossed) be some way off. In the meantime, supporting United currently feels so good that you wonder if it’s not somehow bad for your health. But these are good feelings, and we deserve them – they’ve been a long time coming, after all.

Whatever the long and short term future may have in store for us all, there’s one thing that’s quite certain: this demolition of Nigel Clough’s Burton Albion, with the scoring debut of Lasogga as the icing on the cake, will live long in the memory. It truly was the stuff of dreams – and it really happened, just as we recall it. So we can stop pinching ourselves right now, and settle in for what looks like being a season to savour.


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9 responses to “Leeds’ Radrizzani Revolution Summed Up in One Magical Afternoon – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Thank you for that post Rob,you summed it all up perfectly!


  2. The difference now as well is we get 3 or 4 men in the box,last year we did not have a plan b or quite know what plan a was, but how do you stop leeds nobody knows how we play,we get the ball in deep positions and the opposition have 4 men marking nobody and we run at them,no fixed positions its simple and brilliant


  3. NickB(50yrsLU)

    Yes, Rob, yesterday was a case of the new-look Leeds United ‘Puttin’ on the (Rad) rizz’ ! We really haven’t had this much style and swagger since the days when Viduka, as you mention, was bossing midfield forwards. And yes, what a match that was ! Weren’t we losing 3-0 at half-time ?
    It’s phenomenal that, after fifteen years of misery and incompetence, we suddenly have a trio of outstanding professionals in Radrizzani, Orta and Christiansen who are as thorough in their attention to detail in their specific roles as just about anyone else in their respective positions in football. I can see this being a record-breaking season, and I’m ready to take another couple of quid down the bookies, because I’ve already allocated the £400 I’ll collect next May when we’ve gone the whole league season undefeated. I seriously believe we could beat most of the Premiership clubs right now. And, for once in a long time, we have plenty of ability in reserve. Also, when was the last time we had a +10 goal difference ? Maybe, during that run under Poyet when we were trying to claw back the fifteen-point deduction ? Despite the global reality of hurricane clouds the size of France, and the threat of North Korean nuclear clouds, I’m on cloud nine !


  4. Reality Cheque

    An excellent analysis of our season so far and the contribution of all the players in the boardroom, training ground as well as on the pitch. In Radrizzani, Orta and Christensen we truly do have our very own amazing Trinity leading us to the promised land!

    Although it was difficult to take my eyes off of what was happening on the pitch, I was extremely impressed with Christensen’s constant instructions from the touchline. It was indeed a perfect performance but Thomas did not hesitate to show his frustration if a single pass was not the one he preferred and during the first half hour he was constantly demanding that the ball be moved forward quicker into the final third to intensify the pressure on Burton’s goal.

    Clearly, TC has very high standards and expectations of his team and even though, as a long suffering fan I am currently in dreamland, Thomas wants the players to keep improving and move to an even higher level!

    There appears little likelihood of our players ever being allowed to relax, rest on their laurels or underestimate any opponents.

    The final 30 minutes were a total cruise allowing our players to stay fresh for Tuesday and Thomas to call over Pontus, Ayling and Cooper and give instructions for them to try out different patterns of playing out from the back, in effect, using the opportunity to treat the final half hour as a practice match whilst extending the run of clean sheets.

    Finally, there has been much debate about how Thomas can rotate his squad whilst in such brilliant form without causing too much disruption and I would like to suggest that we rest Felix and play another attacker because based on yesterday’s performance Felix will soon need to bring a chair to sit on during games. LOL



    • Yes, TC strikes me as the quietly demanding and meticulous type. After the game, he was keen to pay tribute to those squad members who as yet are not in the team or match day squad. He seems very strong on the “team as family” ethos, and I just love that.


  5. Spot on summary of the season so far Rob. Yesterday was one of those ‘winnable’ home games that in previous seasons we have struggled and lost. At the mo I simply do not see any team in this league looking as potent as Leeds. I can only judge from the inconclusive Channel 5 coverage of the Championship but no other team unduly worries me on the evidence I’ve seen so far.
    Most of our goals appear to be made from clever inter play, slick finishing etc rather than just relying on our opponents defensive hic-cups.
    For example check out the frankly lousy defending this week by Forest, Bolton, Hull etc.


  6. Brilliant Rob, on holiday so I could not attend ,annoyed the wife updating her on all the goals and stats that by the way were unbelievable my god last season we struggled with 2 shots per game . All looking good at mo. Was it really 17 years ago.I remember that match praying for a boring 0.0 as I had a massive hangover how wrong was I.
    very impressed with our new manager.


  7. Another 30k + on Tuesday night Rob – quite simply the turnstiles never lie ,. The transformation is there for all to see , we’re well and truly on our way back…


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