Tag Archives: Marius Zaliukas

Leeds United To Make Winning Start to 2014? – by Rob Atkinson

Image

Happy New Year

For the second year in a row, Leeds have rounded off twelve months of little real achievement on the pitch by sliding to defeat – last year it was a 2-0 drubbing at Hull City, this time around a slightly tighter affair at the City Ground saw us edged out by Nottingham Forest, courtesy of a late screamer from Matt Derbyshire after we’d fashioned what seemed like a point-saver from Ross McCormack.

It would be slightly rude of our heroes, then, not to avail themselves of the chance presented by a home fixture against Blackburn to get the New Year off to a positive and optimistic start. Three points against mid-table dwellers Rovers would very neatly sum up the mood in which United and most of its fans are starting 2014. A takeover is due to be ratified “imminently”. Signings are in the air, possibly costing actual money. Recent stand-out performer Marius Zaliukas has been handed an improved contract, something to gladden the heart of any White who has marvelled at his sterling work at the core of our defence. Things are looking pretty good with the likelihood of them getting even better – so surely Leeds can reflect this and send a 30,000 plus crowd home happy today by routing the Rovers?

The other side of that coin, of course, is that victory for Blackburn would haul them within a point of United, making both teams part of the pack chasing the play-off spots as opposed to being in there and consolidating. But, enough of that. This preview shall be informed by the prevalent air of optimism; no more defeatist talk.

Such a bullish mood must survive some slightly worrying team news as goalkeeper Paddy Kenny and attacking hero and demigod Ross McCormack both face late checks on injuries picked up in Nottingham. Kenny suffered a heavy blow on the ankle early in the piece, and had to delegate goal-kicking duties to Super Marius. McCormack was feeling a tight hamstring late on, and his importance to the team simply cannot be over-stressed.

More positively, teenager Alex Mowatt may be able to resume his midfield duties after being rested since coming off with a back problem during the Barnsley match. An injection may have helped the youngster overcome this discomfort, and his creativity and poise would be welcome after two matches in which United have struggled to create a great deal.

Blackburn will be without suspended Jason Lowe, while Corry Evans (ankle) and Todd Kane (thigh) are injury absentees. Rovers may welcome back David Dunn and Josh King as they seek to complete a double over United.

Having predicted defeat at Forest, I will be hoping to continue some rare good form as a pundit, because I’m calling this one as a 2-0 home win. The clean sheet would be a bonus, but really any kind of victory would do as we seek to get the new year – and the second half of the season – off to the best possible start. I’ll tip McCormack and Smith to do the damage and send Leeds off into Cup football with a 100% record in the league for 2014. Happy New Year!

Advertisements

Disappointment at Huddersfield – Can Marius Zaliukas Steady the Ship for Leeds? – by Rob Atkinson

New Boy Marius Zaliukas

New Boy Marius Zaliukas

Another derby day defeat, another three goals conceded, this time against a team shorn of their top scorer due to suspension.  There were some crumbs of comfort: Matt Smith scored again, and could prove to be a handful for Championship defences as the season goes on.  Dexter Blackstock came on from the bench for his United debut, and he scored too, which is a great way to start with a new club.  We probably should have had a penalty, we scored one of their goals for them – and last but not least, we’ve signed an international central defender who captained Hearts to a Scottish Cup win.

Marius Zaliukas has been without a club since the summer, but played for his country only last week.  He was wanted by ‘Arry at QPR and nobody has had anything worse to say about the lad than that he’s got a bit of a temper on him.  At 29, he’s in his prime as a defender, and we’ve got him initially till the end of the season.  Yay.

It’s looking likely that Marius will have an active role to play at Elland Road sooner rather than later.  Our defence didn’t look exactly comfortable at times in the second half against Birmingham, even though we recorded a clean sheet in a 4-0 win.  Three at the back, if that’s how we’re to continue, will demand a decent pool of centre backs to allow for inconveniences such as suspensions and injuries.  It seems that Messrs Pearce and Lees were culpable in at least two of the three we let in from our chip-on-the-shoulder bearing neighbours down the road, so maybe an injection of international know-how and experience is just what the doctor ordered.

From all accounts, the boy might be a tiny bit aggressive, but again that’s more virtue than vice down Elland Road way.  Since the days of Norman the Great – in fact tracing our illustrious club’s history back as far as Wilf Copping – we’ve always appreciated a lad who understands the tactical subtleties of “getting stuck in” and “getting rid”. Marius Zaliukas sounds like he might be just our cup of Yorkshire Tea and it goes without saying that we wish him well.

If we can get the defence sorted out, and if we can convert a few more of the chances that we again created in reasonably great number today, maybe things can still look up in time for this season to mean something.  Well, anyway, that’s the positive spin on another disappointing day for Leeds United Football Club and its devoted army of fans.

It’s Yeovil next, and they beat Forest today.  Bring it on.

No Winger Needed for Leeds if 3-5-2 Does the Trick – by Rob Atkinson

Image

It seems clear in the wake of the Birmingham victory that, while Leeds don’t possess an out-and-out winger (especially since Ryan Hall seems to have tweeted himself right into the ordure), what we don’t lack is the potential for width – given the right team selection and formation.

All of a sudden on Sunday, the team looked to have clicked – doubtless the result of some hard work and hard talking during a fortnight away from the domestic routine while England took care of business at Wembley.  Birmingham were dire in the first half, but even in the second when the opposition improved, Leeds coped well, created chances and scored a lovely fourth goal.

The width came from more advanced positions for the likes of Byram and Warnock, either side of three central defenders.  Suddenly, we could start to think of the players NOT in the team, who might also have contributions to make to such a system, some of them from the bench, perhaps.  Diouf, Hunt, Varney. Possibly Dexter Blackstock if strong rumours of his imminent arrival on loan are true.

While the Forest player’s name sounds like that of a kids’ cartoon private eye, Blackstock has some pedigree and, if Brian McDermott feels he could add value to the squad, that’s a call worth backing.  It’s interesting to remember that Brian has said in the past he’d be looking for loans with a view to permanent signings in January – watch this space indeed.

Another likely arrival is that of former Hearts captain and central defender Marius Zaliukas, available on a free since his release by the Edinburgh strugglers.  Again, a central defender didn’t seem high on the shopping list a few days back, but if 3-5-2 is the way to go, we will need more numbers in central defence to cover injury and suspensions. It seems nobody has heard much about Zaliukas that isn’t good, save perhaps a slight tendency towards overdoing it on the “getting stuck in” front.  But those kind of players have always been well-loved at Elland Road.

It may well be that discussions during the international break resulted in a decision to give width from wing-backs an extended try – and that this is behind the sudden cooling of interest in wingers.  I still feel that Chris Burke from Birmingham would have been a sound acquisition, but if Plan A has changed to Plan B then our limited resources may be better used elsewhere.

It will be very interesting to see the personnel and shape on display at Huddersfield next weekend, and also whatever may have transpired in terms of recruitment in the meantime.  Another display and result to compare with the Birmingham game, and the atmosphere around LS11 could really start to perk up again.