Tag Archives: Burton Albion

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

Lasogga

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.

-o0o-

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Monk Wanted Investment in January, Cellino Said NO. Failure, the Leeds Utd Way – by Rob Atkinson

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Monk: he told us what was needed – Cellino ignored it

I’m pretty sure I’ll still be hearing some of the more deluded Whites fans telling me how Massimo Cellino has saved Leeds United. Yorkshire folk can be pretty stubborn, but sticking by Cellino after the collapse of United’s play-off challenge – seemingly nailed on only a week or so ago – that takes more than mere stubbornness.

The fact of the matter is, and despite any recent conciliatory words designed to disguise that fact, our manager Garry Monk knew in January that investment was needed to cement the promotion challenge. His statements in the press at the time were loaded and significant – words to the effect of “The club knows what is needed, and I’m sure they will act accordingly”. But former sole owner Cellino had different ideas. Despite the arrival of Andrea Radrizzani, a co-owner in equal partnership, el Loco‘s advice was not to invest money at this vital time. So the manager was casually undermined, and Leeds were sticking by the old tried and tested – but unsuccessful – formula.

That formula may be summed up as follows, to paraphrase a pissed-off but insightful LUFC tweeter as United struggled at Burton: Inadequate investment in the summer followed by a lot of ambitious talk and then a failure to invest in January, with an over-reliance on loans. Rinse and repeat.

It’s not been a recipe for success for Leeds for the last several seasons since the club first bottled a chance to go back to the top level in their first Championship season of 2010/11. It’s highly unlikely now to prove a recipe for success this season either. And for the unaccountable decision to stick to this same hopeless, hapless policy, we have only Mr. Cellino to thank. Things must change at Elland Road, or we’re going to become permanent second-tier plodders at best.

The first thing to change must be the removal of any Cellino influence at the club. This is a must – though, as I said earlier, some will fail to see it, much as Lord Nelson failed to see enemy ships through his blind eye. Secondly, there must be investment in the summer on a par with the big hitters in next season’s Championship, where I’m afraid we will still be plying our trade. Defeat at Burton pretty much confirms that. And the failure to make the play-offs may be a blessing in disguise. That mini competition is likely to turn into a “Who ends up getting thrashed by a rampant Fulham” affair.

There will be those again who will insist on hailing this ‘nearly but not quite’ season as a relative success, following years of unabashed mediocrity under various useless owners. Again, I disagree, and I turn to another despondent tweeter in Adam Turnbull, who sums up why the campaign is a failure in a few well-chosen and famous words, first uttered, after a fashion, by John Cleese in Clockwise: “It’s not the despair, I can take the despair. It’s the hope I can’t stand. MOT”

MOT indeed. But to what? Next season has to provide the right answer to such a vexed question – and that will require decisive change at the top – and for Leeds United to start acting like a big club again. In a week that marks the silver jubilee of the last United team to ascend to the top of the game – the Last Champions, no less – our allegedly big club has confirmed its failure to compete adequately at the top end of its league, and for the umpteenth time. That’s as pitiful as it’s shameful.

For now, our play-off chances are gone for a Burton – and we need to focus on a brighter future.

Garry Monk is Creating a Bubble of Sanity Within Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson


Leeds United 2, Burton Albion 0

Little by little, bit by bit, things are looking up at Elland Road, as Leeds United manager Garry Monk appears to be insulating the football side of the club from the madness that has dogged the West Yorkshire giants over the past decade or so. Thus protected, and focused on the business of actually kicking a ball about, the men in All White appear to be quietly thriving. That focus, that separation from the bigger picture of court cases and ownership wrangles – that is what has elevated the level of performance achieved by Monk’s team above and beyond the efforts made under previous managers. 

It’s a factor that will be instrumental in any success United may enjoy this season and – incredibly – football’s craziest club does appear to be poised for success, as things currently stand. Ninth in the table, just a point outside the playoffs, and EFL Cup quarter finalists with a TV date against Liverpool at Anfield to come, damn your eyes. It seems almost too good to be true. Success is all relative, but for the current vintage of Leeds, this is as close to that elusive commodity as we could reasonably imagine. Is better yet to come? Well, you never know.

I’ve thought for a while that, the longer certain non-football personnel within the club can stay out of the limelight, the better the chances will be for the club to succeed where it matters, on the park. In previous seasons, things have been going reasonably well – but there’s been this tendency for those of us who love the club to twitch nervously, all too well aware that something would probably happen to derail us. And then it would happen – a loco rant from the boardroom in the local press, an inexplicable sacking or two – and it’d be as if the players’ heads went down and they were thinking “what kind of Fred Karno’s army outfit are we playing for here?”

This season, that dreaded twitch has been noticeable by its absence. We’ve had our bad times, and even Monk himself has been guilty of the odd gaffe. But overall, his stewardship of the football club has been characterised by a serenity, and a steadfast determination to get on with business, that has permitted no distractions to interfere with the steady progress being made.

It’s progress that has been solid if unspectacular, but Monk has made a point of commenting that the players are a group growing in togetherness and unity of purpose. Within that insulating bubble the manager has created, the squad seems happier and much better able to function as professional footballers. The difference this has made to the angst and anarchy of previous seasons is difficult to over-stress. But you only have to look at the results and performances to see that it is so.

There is still chaos and uncertainty abroad at the higher levels of the club, there’s no point in beating about the bush on that one. As we’ve seen in previous years, it’s the kind of thing that can spread throughout the whole place and negatively affect playing matters. In a highly professional and competitive environment, tiny differences can have a vast effect on relative performance – and United have thus been at a disadvantage compared to calmer, better-run clubs. The credit due to Monk for creating a vacuum between the footballing aspect of the club, and the nuttiness elsewhere around Elland Road, must be immense. It’s Monk we have to thank for the fact that we don’t look as daft nowadays on the field as we still frequently do off it. 

Today, against Burton Albion, Leeds got the job done without having to be particularly brilliant. Hard work, concentration and commitment proved to be sufficient unto the day, and two late goals from Wood and Doukara saw off determined and tough opposition before whom last season’s United might well have wilted. It was an object lesson in earning the right to win – and then pouncing just in time. 

Monk seems to be building a team and an ethos upon traditional lines; work hard, don’t accept defeat, show grit and determination, keep going to the end. That will get you a hell of a long way against most teams in this league, as was evident against Clough Junior’s men today, and also our frequent nemesis Norwich City in midweek. The foundations are being laid in blood, sweat and tears; the brilliance can and will come later.

So, it’s onwards and upwards for United on the field – and long may that continue. And, as long as Garry Monk is allowed to get on with doing his job, his way, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be at least guardedly optimistic for the future. Monk has an air of confidence about him that inspires faith and belief, in players and fans alike. He seems to expect to succeed, and there’s a determination about him to keep that vital separation of football matters from everything else. 

Winning is what matters. All else is secondary and subordinate to that. Such seems to be the Monk Mantra. Let’s hope that everybody connected to the club understands and accepts it.