Tag Archives: goalkeeper

Leeds Utd Have Goalie Plan B if Gianluigi Buffon Deal Falls Through – by Rob Atkinson

Promising youngster Peter Shilton

The internet is currently abuzz with rumours that Leeds United are looking to secure the services of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, the 41 year old Italian World Cup Winner who has just been released by Paris Saint-Germain. The deal for Buffon has been regarded as unlikely, given United’s second tier status, but now some bookmakers are quoting odds as narrow as 5-2 against the legendary keeper signing on the dotted line for Leeds.

However, should the sensational swoop fail to transpire, it is believed that United are looking at alternative targets in the geriatric goalkeeper market, with the name of Peter Shilton being bruited about. Shilton, at 69, would be at the top end of the age range even for a keeper – but armchair experts are rating him a possibility and “certainly better than that clown Kiko”. The signing of older players is becoming more common since Derby County took a punt on 74 year old former England left back Ashley Cole (after being turned down by Kenny Sansom).

When approached by Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything for a comment on the likelihood of him joining United’s promotion push, Shilton confined himself to a cryptic “I don’t think Tina would be too happy”.

Former Sheffield United keeper William “Fatty” Foulke is 145.

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Chelsea Need Some Leeds Style On-field Leadership, but Sarri Should Hold His Head High – by Rob Atkinson

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Today isn’t the first time I’ve felt a bit sorry for Chelsea, even though as a Leeds United fan, it’s in my DNA to despise them, and I normally manage that quite well. But I sympathised when they lost a Champions League Final on penalties to you-know-who, after outplaying them during the game itself. As loud as were the celebrations the length and breadth of Devon that night, I was gutted for the Bluescum. It was a question of which is the greater evil – no contest.

Today, though, I felt sorry for them at Wembley in defeat to Man City, even though I wanted City to win, naturally. I think everyone knows what happened, with the Chelsea goalkeeper, whose name I can’t be bothered to look up, refusing to come off when his number went up for substitution near the end of extra time. The lad put himself first and his manager Maurizio Sarri nowhere, showing a total lack of respect for his team-mates in the process. The outcome seemed incredible, but the player remained on the field, and his team duly went on to lose to City, with the young lad (Kepa Arrizabalaga, that’s his name) diving over one he should have saved. Coach Sarri cut a forlorn figure as he followed his defeated team up the Wembley steps, and it’s difficult to say what his future now holds. But it seems fair to say, despite his post-match attempts at smoothing things over, that he was hung out to dry by a young lad who needs to learn, and learn fast, that what the boss says, goes.

A lot of what was missing today at Wembley for Chelsea, quite apart from that vital element of respect for the coach, was a bit of on-field leadership. Now my club, Leeds United – although our squad is infinitely less costly and talented than Chelsea’s – has that quality of leadership in spades, both on and off the field. In the first place, none of our players would even think of defying coach Marcelo Bielsa – and in the second, there’d be no shortage of volunteers to point out, not so gently, the error of his ways to any player daft enough to try it. In today’s game, only David Luiz made some sort of half-hearted attempt to set a young player back onto the straight and narrow, and it wasn’t nearly enough.

A great example of what I’m talking about occurred during yesterday’s win over Bolton. Leeds were awarded a penalty during the first half (check the records if you don’t believe me) and, in the absence of regular spot kick taker Kemar Roofe, there were three contenders to grab the ball. Patrick Bamford was the man who got to it first, but Pablo Hernandez was quite interested, and tyro Tyler Roberts was positively insistent. Roberts was prepared to make an issue of it when, from the back, Luke Ayling came steaming into the area and grabbed Tyler by the scruff of the neck to usher him away and let Bamford get on with it. I’m sure that Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper et al would have intervened if necessary, but Roberts wisely yielded before things got that serious. The penalty was converted, and they all lived happily ever after.

That Elland Road penalty incident didn’t directly involve the coach, but it does demonstrate the importance of players showing some leadership and solidarity on the pitch, when all the manager can do is holler from a hundred yards away above the noise of a 35,000 crowd. On-field leadership is the eleventh commandment as far as football is concerned, and Chelsea grievously lacked it today. The rest of the team, faced with such blatant defiance of the manager, should have been frogmarching their arrogant young keeper off – because once the boss’s authority is compromised, it’s a slippery slope downwards. Luiz apart, the Chelsea players simply stood by and watched. Clearly, some sort of damage limitation script was agreed for the eager Sky interviewers afterwards, but the fact remains that there are big problems at Chelsea, problems that they seem to lack the essential character to deal with.

In the circumstances, I fear for Sarri, whose authority now appears to be shot through. But, for me, he can hold his head up high; the fault lies with a young professional who has set himself in defiance of his boss, as well as the senior professionals, Luiz apart, who failed to enforce their manager’s will on the field. To me, going into a penalty shoot-out just minutes after that scene of disgrace and confusion, Chelsea were certs to lose, and it was no surprise that they did, missing their first penalty and then seeing their rebellious keeper dive over one that he should have saved. Justice was served, it seemed, for everyone except poor Sarri.

Incidentally, this sort of thing has happened before, and in circumstances surprising to those who were so quick to claim that what happened to Sarri would never have happened to Alex Ferguson. Because Ferguson was the Man U manager in 1991, when they faced Sheffield Wednesday at Wembley in the League Cup Final. Les Sealey, since sadly deceased, was the Red Devils keeper, and he sustained a deep knee gash for which they wanted to sub him – but the hotheaded Sealey refused to be subbed, getting almost violent with the member of the coaching staff trying to see him off the pitch. Wednesday went on to win 1-0 with a goal from John Sheridan.

It’s not often that I look at a major final, and at the situation of a major and majorly rich, honour-laden club like Chelsea, and end up with my appreciation of the way my own club is run so greatly enhanced. But it happened today. Chelsea could learn a lot from the way things are done at Leeds – but I wish only the best for their beleaguered coach Maurizio Sarri, whatever fate now has in store for him.

Fulham 0, Leeds United 3; The Worries Behind the Win   –   by Rob Atkinson

Three kinds of lies

Three kinds of lies

A wise man once told us: “There are three kinds of lies. There are lies; there are damned lies – and there are statistics.

The point he was making, of course, was that the bare numbers rarely tell the whole tale; they can be twisted and manipulated to support a variety of points of view, depending upon the user’s level of dishonesty. Ask George Osborne about that – but don’t expect anything like the truth…

It was Mark Twain who popularised the quote; the identity of the originator is sadly lost to us. But, whoever it was, if he had been present at Craven Cottage last night to watch Leeds United seemingly cruise to a routine 3-0 victory over Fulham, then he might have found reasons both to praise and damn those pesky stats.

The main statistic of course, as Sky TV hacks are always expressing it, is “that little one in the top left hand corner of your screen”. The scoreline is the Alpha & Omega of statistics; a 3-0 win is a 3-0 win, decisive and indisputable. So mote it be. And yet, the other statistics in a game of football frequently bear critical examination. This is particularly so when that bare scoreline on its own might just lead us to false assumptions about form and performance. And the human element can also act so as to skew the outcome against all the logic provided by the facts and figures of a match. Last night at Fulham, if it hadn’t been for the frankly superhuman performance of Leeds keeper Marco Silvestri in all its elastically bendy brilliance, then the trend of the game’s shots on goal figures may well radically have changed the final scoreline.

Those damned match stats

Those damned match stats (Thanks to BBC Sport)

So, to get to the meat of the matter, the fact is that watching last night’s highlights is a fairly sobering experience for any Leeds fan, and tends to cure even those glass-half-full types of any excessive post-victory euphoria. The evidence of your eyes is that Leeds United were under considerable pressure for much of the evening; this continued to be the case even after Fulham defender Kostas Stafylidis‘ two mad moments which saw him dismissed for back-to-back yellow cards. There were too many times when Leeds were cut apart; too many occasions on which heroic custodian Silvestri had to fling himself into the breach. He had a very successful evening, our Marco – but it’s fair to say that you don’t ideally want to see your ‘keeper given quite so many chances to shine. Those statistics confirm for us what we could quite plainly see; Fulham’s creation of clear-cut opportunities was right up there and on another night might well have been reflected in a different result. A combination of poor finishing (a nervous and too-eager-to-succeed Matt Smith must hold his hand up here), excellent shot-stopping and the kindness of the woodwork saw Fulham fail to score, when they could easily have had half a dozen. That’s really no exaggeration.

After the match, United coach Neil Redfearn was understandably keen to highlight the fact that Leeds could have had half a dozen of their own. And it’s fair to say that it’s not Redders’ job to spread alarm and despondency among the troops. But equally it’s important that the weaknesses inherent in a performance that afforded the opposition so many chances, should be recognised and addressed. This is the big worry that the scoreline, excellent though it undoubtedly is, tends to conceal.

The fact of the matter is that, in the medium to long term – or perhaps as soon as the next game – we will get found out if these kind of statistics keep cropping up. Numbers can be interpreted or manipulated or crunched until the cows come home – but in their raw form, they still have their own undeniable message. Conceding a large majority of possession is a worry; it’s tiring to play and chase without the ball. Shots both on and off target against your own goal – that’s another worry. If you buy enough tickets, you’re going to win a raffle sooner or later; the woodwork and an inspired goalkeeper can only do so much. The numbers suggest that Leeds were cut open by an average Championship attack on far too many occasions. The conclusion has to be that Silvestri is insufficiently protected, and that can have only one outcome over time – we’ll be conceding too many again, and results will suffer accordingly.

This is not intended to be a whinge, or in any way to detract from yet another good result on the road. We should rejoice in that; the recent run has hauled us well clear of danger at the bottom and we now have the breathing space to think about next season – a significant luxury before we’ve even reached Easter. But the planning for a new campaign in August must surely address the concerns revealed by last night’s lop-sided possession and attempts on goal stats – otherwise, eventually, we’ll pay for soft-centred characteristics.

Perhaps the root of the problem is a lack of bite in midfield when Rudy Austin isn’t present. On the other side last night, Scott Parker gave an object lesson, even in defeat, of the difference an all-action, tigerish midfield presence can make. A lot of Fulham’s good stuff came through him, and – let’s not forget – there was plenty of good stuff from them last night. That we didn’t suffer by it was an eccentricity of the occasion, with so many chances fluffed, wasted or thwarted by Silvestri. But we can’t rely upon there being too many nights or days like that.

Fulham may yet fall through the trapdoor into League One, just a season after sinking out of the Premier League. If that were to happen then – once we had dried the tears of mirth from our eyes at the way Ross McCormack‘s dream had gone sour on him – we might well wish to look at the availability of Mr Parker who, on last night’s evidence, would be an asset to many a Championship team. I’m sure we could get him for a lot less than £11 million, just to pluck a figure out of thin air. Scott Parker was, more than anyone else in a Fulham shirt, rather unlucky to be on the losing side last night, and it’s clear as day to me that he would improve our midfield options.

Pie in the sky, of course – there are currently far too many variables, including the distinct possibility of yet another TOMA scenario this summer, to speculate on the direction of Leeds’ recruitment policy. That’s even assuming that we’re going to be out of embargo. But if there was even a chance of securing a Scott Parker type for the White shirt, then surely we’d reap massive benefit from that kind of all-action, committed presence. And, maybe then, we’d see a few of those damned statistics turning the way of our beloved Damned United.