Tag Archives: Thomas Christiansen

Lasogga and Ekuban Would Give Leeds New Attacking Dimension – by Rob Atkinson

Ekuban Lasogga

Caleb Ekuban – ideal strike partner for Pierre-Michel Lasogga?

If I can be a little upbeat, without offending the Leonard Cohen drones and clones that infest the LUFC Twitter hashtag, I have to say I saw more positives in one slightly unlucky defeat at Sheffield United than I have in perhaps half a dozen victories we’ve eked out this turbulent season. There just seemed to be that little bit extra about some of the players, a bit of desire and composure, especially in the second half, that has been lacking since the earliest part of this Championship campaign. It wasn’t enough, after a disastrous start at Bramall Lane, to get any tangible reward from the clash of the two Uniteds – but, in the final analysis, Leeds were maybe a couple of highly debatable decisions away from getting Paul Heckingbottom‘s tenure as Head Coach off to the best possible start.

Still, that’s history now, and we’re left seeking to take what encouragement we can from an improved display, albeit in defeat, from Leeds United. One noticeable element fairly late on was the introduction of Caleb Ekuban, who was lively and threatening up front as he worked away, making his runs and contesting every ball. One thing this blogger would love to see over the rest of the season is a good run of games where Leeds play with a front two. It would take a better tactician than me to suggest the ideal formation behind a twin strike-force, but I do feel that Pierre-Michel Lasogga, despite his fairly impressive goal-scoring record, has not been used to the team’s best advantage when asked to fulfil a lone striker role. It doesn’t seem to me that this solitary workhorse thing  is his forte, and yet, on the occasions when he’s had some support in attack – usually in a crisis, such as 0-2 down to Millwall at Elland Road – Lasogga has suddenly looked full of menace. Ekuban, such a willing worker, appears to be the ideal foil for the big German, probably more so than the misfiring Kemar Roofe – and it’s surely only a matter of time before he, too, chips in with the goals. It would be well deserved; Ekuban’s current drought is not for the want of effort in his rare appearances between injuries so far.

Any input from the team shape experts out there would be genuinely welcome. 3-5-2? A diamond in midfield with Samu Saiz (when available) at the front of it, operating just behind Pierre and Caleb? It was a very wise man who once said that attack is the best form of defence, and I’m sure I’m not alone in my desire to see United go fully onto the offensive, making opponents too busy trying to stem our attacking tide, even to consider mounting a threat of their own. Yep, that would be nice.

So, what do others think? Do we have the personnel to play two up front? What’s the best balance for the team in that situation? Let’s have a heated debate. The play-offs pressure is largely off, now – unless the team suddenly gets its act together and moves up towards the top six. And, I’d venture to suggest, if that were to happen, it’d most likely be as a result of just such an attacking change of policy as I’ve suggested here.

Am I simply deluded? Do let me know.

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Aggression, Consistency & Intensity: Heckingbottom’s Ethos is Leeds Through & Through – by Rob Atkinson

PH LUFC

Paul Heckingbottom: happy and honoured to be here

Paul Heckingbottom‘s performance as Head Coach in the first few days since his whirlwind move from Barnsley to Leeds United could hardly have gone better. Of course he’s only been talking the talk so far; the serious stuff, the walking of the walk, starts on Saturday, High Noon at Bramall Lane, with a Yorkshire Derby against Sheffield United. Still, in advance of that baptism of fire, the new Leeds boss has excelled as he set out his stall to players, press and fans, hammering home his message to great effect.

Let’s be in no doubt: for a Royston lad who grew up as a Barnsley fan hating Leeds United, Paul gets what our club is all about. His emphasis on qualities such as consistency, aggression and intensity could be taken from Page One of any United fanatic’s Leeds-supporting handbook. These are the ideals we hold dear, the characteristics we love and expect to be hated for. Without these principles, forged through blood, sweat and tears, there would be no modern Leeds United. They’re written into the DNA of the club – and now we have a man who appears to have the same list of attributes carved upon his heart.

It’s no mealy-mouthed recitation of what he knows we want to hear, either. The qualities espoused by Heckingbottom don’t fall from his mouth like lazy platitudes, but as the solid structure behind his footballing philosophy. Aggression with and without the ball. Consistency being the golden key to league success. Intensity, the way to the fans’ collective heart. These are the principles that can lead to success for what is a talented squad. How long it will take to establish such a pattern is another matter entirely.

For the time being, though, the task of showing us all exactly what we’ve got in Heckingbottom is well under way. Already, social media doubters and naysayers are swinging into line and declaring themselves won over. That’s not a bad start before a ball is kicked. The new Leeds boss has a disarming manner about him too, when asked about the pressure that goes with working at what is perceived as a sack-happy club, he gives us the anecdote of how he tells his kids not to worry about Dad getting the sack as, if he does, they’ll all be going on holiday. We even understand his childhood hatred of United; having seven shades kicked out of you in the field behind your Mam’s house by bigger, older Leeds fans is not calculated to endear a lad to that lot up the M1. But now, those same Leeds fans are ringing to wish him luck and success at Elland Road. It’s gone full circle, and – so far, at any rate – it feels right.

I’ve certainly not heard a better Leeds United philosophy since the early, heady days of Sergeant Wilko, who breezed into a troubled Elland Road from South Yorkshire thirty years ago, and did really quite well. As a precedent, the Wilko example is not a bad one for Paul Heckingbottom to emulate, though he appears happily to be very much his own man. But he has the same air of confidence and self-assurance about him; the same conviction that his way is the right way, hopefully with the same ability to carry others along on the path he treads.

It’s early days, and the sadness that accompanied the departure of Thomas Christiansen, a genuinely nice guy, has barely begun to dissipate. But in football, you always look forward, even when making comparisons with former Leeds legends. In Hecky, a coach who sets so much store by “getting on the grass” to work with his players, we might well have found at last a round peg for the round hole that is Elland Road. This is a bloke who was doing too much at Barnsley of what he didn’t really want to be doing – now he has the chance, in this Leeds United structure, of concentrating on what he does best.

It should work well; let’s all get behind the guy in the fervent hope that it will.

“Completely Lacking Spirit and Passion”: Leeds Owner Radrizzani Issues Stern Rebuke – by Rob Atkinson

In a complete departure from his usual urbanely diplomatic stance, Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has taken to Twitter and bemoaned the “lowest moment for me since I joined” in what are, for him, harshly critical terms.

Normally, Radrizzani confines himself to what amounts to a supportive and broadly positive stance, preferring to exhort the fans to greater heights of support rather than issue any direct criticism. This tweet, though, utterly abandons any such diplomacy, and instead hits hard – striking right to the heart of any football professional‘s self-image. In accusing the players of lacking spirit and passion, he is levelling about the most serious charge imaginable. Let nobody doubt the anger and frustration behind such frank and revealing words.

It may be that Andrea has been rattled by the spitting storm that threatens to engulf the club, depriving Leeds of their best attacking player Samu Saíz for maybe up to six games – if the charge is proven. That would be enough to unsettle the most sanguine of club owners but, even so, Radrizzani’s words are pointed in the extreme. Tweeted to the entire Leeds United Universe, the criticism is scathing, devastating. Anybody on the Leeds United payroll will disregard this at their extreme peril.

It looks as though the owner is a long way short of happy. To an extent, the remedy is in Radrizzani’s own hands, with most of the January transfer window remaining available to him. It’s fair to surmise that, as the owner has seen fit to be so very publicly critical, and about areas of the game that form the basis of professional pride too, then much harsher words will be spoken in private behind the scenes at Elland Road. And what might come of that – well, it’s anyone’s guess. But the gloves are off now, the owner has broken cover and the game’s afoot.

There has, as yet, been no dreaded “vote of confidence”, for which small mercy Thomas Christiansen, our likeable Head Coach, may perhaps breathe a small sigh of relief. But a warning shot has definitely been fired across the bows of the Leeds staff, both playing and coaching. Once the top man identifies a deficiency in the Spirit and Passion Department, then something most definitely has to be done. The only one of the Holy Trinity of pro qualities not identified was “commitment” and, based on the Cup showing at Newport, that was most probably an oversight on Andrea’s part.

One way or another, the mood around the club has just been amply clarified in resoundingly emphatic terms; following momentous words like that, some sort of decisive action can usually be anticipated. It should be an interesting next few weeks down LS11 way.

Grayson Haunted by Ghost of Wasted Leeds Transfer Windows Past – by Rob Atkinson

Grayson

Simon says: get the chequebook out if you want more promotion fizz

Simon Grayson is a man and a manager who knows a thing or two about getting clubs promoted from difficult leagues. As a lifelong Leeds fan and ex-United boss, he knows quite a bit about the Whites, too. One of the promotions on his CV came during his tenure as Leeds manager, and he was well-placed to achieve a second successive elevation after guiding his United team to second in the Championship halfway through that first season back up to that level. His verdict on that season is that investment needed to maintain a promotion challenge was not forthcoming, and thus Leeds fell away.

Looking back, few would argue with that assessment. So, when Sky Sports pundit Grayson stated, immediately after Leeds United‘s disappointing goalless draw with Nottingham Forest, that United are “a few players short” of kicking on, you really have to listen to such hard-won wisdom. It would seem he’s worried that history will repeat itself, that the failure to strengthen which eventually cost him the Leeds job may yet imperil current boss Thomas Christiansen.

Christiansen himself, when asked in the aftermath of defeat at Birmingham about team strengthening in the window just opened, merely stated “That is not a question for me”. It wasn’t the most ringing endorsement of January window boardroom caution (or complacency), and you suspect that, given his own way, Thomas would happily go shopping. His refusal to commit even to an opinion raises suspicions that the Elland Road chequebook may not see much of the light of day in the month to come.

Grayson, though, is under no obligation to keep his thoughts to himself, and he speaks from a position of expertise when he identifies deficiencies in the Leeds squad, up front most especially. To make up for that lack of cutting edge would cost serious money, but the old saw about speculating to accumulate rings as true at Leeds as it does anywhere else. The other side of that coin is that a failure to invest represents false economy, if the outcome is to miss out – yet again – on the crock of gold at the end of the promotion rainbow. That, in a nutshell, is the lesson of 2011.

Leeds are solvent enough to have their chances of the play-offs at least in their own hands. The money is there, beyond reasonable doubt, from the sales of Wood and Taylor to Burnley. Ironically, it’s a reliable striker and a specialist left-back we’re particularly short of right now, so there might even be a moral obligation, as well as a fiscal case, for investment to invigorate the squad for the rest of the season.

In my opinion, Christiansen’s refusal to comment on incoming transfers, beyond remarking that he will be talking to the board, speaks volumes. And what it might be saying is: give me the tools, and I’ll finish the job. His performance so far this season, given those two high-profile departures to Turf Moor, has been respectable to say the least – and he has unearthed a couple of diamonds in his summertime recruitment, aided, no doubt, by Victor Orta. Now, the opportunity is there to build on that fairly successful summer , as well as to make up for unavoidable losses in the outgoings market.

Watch this space. Leeds fans will be watching too, with a very close eye on what the club will or won’t do this month, and a characteristic readiness to draw conclusions about just how ambitious and hungry for promotion Leeds United really are.

Hull Well and Truly Pablo’d as Leeds Grind Out Three More Points – by Rob Atkinson

Genius: Pablo Hernandez

For the third home game in succession, Leeds United managed just a solitary goal at Elland Road – and for the second time on the trot, it was enough to take the three points on offer. Although Aston Villa salvaged a draw after falling behind, the last two visitors to Elland Road, the Cities of Norwich and Hull, have departed without troubling the scorers – despite making the Whites weather some heavy pressure. It’s been a less than convincing run of home games for Leeds, but the ends have justified the means, with only the United fans’ bitten down nails telling the story of how nervy the performances have, by and large, been. But Leeds are starting to rise to the challenge of exploiting Elland Road’s cauldron-like atmosphere, something they’ve too often failed to do in the past.

Against Hull yesterday, a pre-match hammer-blow turned out to be a blessing in disguise. The absence of talisman Samu Saiz caused a collective groan among the 35,000 faithful who had congregated to worship United’s brightest star. It was a groan that rippled throughout social media, sending a frisson of apprehension through the virtual Leeds universe, all we of little faith wondering if we’d have the creativity to deal with our rivals from Humberside. But the enforced rest for Samu (tight calf, didn’t feel right, should be back for Burton away) meant a start for United’s Pablo Hernandez, and it was the little Latin genius who provided the decisive moment almost half an hour into a first half that Hull had threatened to dominate.

After the visitors had put Leeds on the back foot for the most part, creating presentable chances while the hosts huffed and puffed to no great effect, Hernandez seized upon a shockingly poor clearance from City’s previously untroubled keeper Allan McGregor; swiftly sizing up the situation, Pablo snapped up possession, moved forward and produced an outrageous dinked chip over the advancing McGregor, the ball dropping sweetly under the bar and into the net to give United an advantage that, after the Norwich game the previous week, you thought they might well hold onto.

In truth, Hull were less of a threat after the goal than before, just as their fans were largely silent once behind, having exhausted their repertoire of songs about dead perverts and cities of culture – an ironic enough playlist while it lasted. Afterwards, Hull manager Nigel Adkins bemoaned the lack of reward for his team’s industry, estimating a 3:1 ratio in his team’s favour on chances created. Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen was disarmingly honest: “We were lucky to take the three points,” he acknowledged.

One big reason behind that win was much-maligned Leeds keeper Felix Wiedwald, who produced a string of fine saves before United took the lead, one great example being a full-stretch tip around the post in the very first minute. Felix looked solid throughout, and it was reassuring to see him looking so confident and self-assured, without those occasional Sprake-esque howlers.

It was Hernandez who made the crucial difference, though, with Leeds creating little else of note other than a good effort from Gjanni Alioski as the interval approached. At the end of this derby, Leeds could reflect upon another gritty home performance and three points to see them back in the playoff zone. As for Hull, they had positives to take from their early domination, but departed for their City of Culture disappointed, chastened – well and truly Pablo’d.

Leeds Boss Christiansen Delighted to See Man Utd Lose to City – by Rob Atkinson

TC

TC: they say I’m a WHAT??

I despair at the world of Twitter sometimes, particularly as it relates to Leeds United. Lately, after every game, or so it seems, win lose or draw, there’s some Twitter-generated “news” article based on the random tweets of various Leeds fans. These are small pearls of unwisdom, giving opinions of varying degrees of cluelessness about the performance of this or that player. Invariably, the articles will be headlined by quotes such as “He’s not good enough for the shirt” or “the worst I’ve ever seen”, the aim being to inveigle the unwary into reading a bunch of uninformed and barely coherent opinions that make about as much sense as a post-match interview with Jose Mourinho. Often, it’s clear that there’s a deliberate attempt to whip up controversy, simply to generate hits. It’s unedifying stuff, a storm of white noise that tends to obliterate any real news or sensible opinion.

The latest such storm in a teacup concerned Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen, who – according to some of the more hard-of-thinking Leeds Twitterati anyway – committed a cardinal sin in being pictured at Old Trafford after the Manchester derby. Some mischievous Pride of Devon fan, seeking to assuage the pain of a defeat by Manchester’s number one club, captioned a picture with a hint that Thomas was an aficionado of the Dark Side and, true to form, the dimmer Leeds fans on Twitter fell for it, hook, line and sinker.

The responses from these dullards were amusingly over the top, and what was clearly the mother of all non-stories seemed likely to gain undeserved notoriety. Until, that is, Christiansen himself, backed up by United owner Andrea Radrizzani, set the record straight, pointing out that his sympathies in the derby match were with the blue side of Manchester and that he’d been delighted by the result. Finishing off an explanation that he should never have had to make, Thomas stated “I used to play at Barça with Pep and we very much enjoyed the result! However, I’m Leeds!” and the hashtag for All Leeds Aren’t We.

Christiansen has since revealed that he was surprised his trip to the biggest game of the day should have aroused such controversy – which is the bemusement a professional feels when confronted with the mass hysteria and lack of any joined-up thinking that characterises so much of the Twitter output of any major club, especially – or so it would seem – Leeds United. A typically brainless comment from one Leeds fan, who sent a picture of Christiansen outside Old Trafford to both the owner and the manager, was “This is an absolute disgrace! TC has crossed a line you should never cross. We won’t forgive him for this ever. Absolute s**t house!” I leave you, gentle reader, to judge the level of idiocy inherent in that particular tweet.

Of course, it harks back to the faux outrage, designed to draw attention to the tweeter and show what a great fan they are (if ever so slightly demented), that we got in the wake of the Alan Smith transfer from us to them. It’s attention-seeking stuff, and you have to hope that the people responsible are actually able to think more clearly than they tweet. But that’s the problem with Twitter – it allows people who should really go through life with large socks in their mouths to announce their flawed opinions to the world via the LUFC hashtag.

Twitter is what it is, I suppose. It serves a purpose, but it’s open to abuse – and certain “news sources” should really know better than to quote it so often, given the appalling lack of thought that goes into the majority of tweets. A lot of it is knee-jerk stuff and a lot more is from the “look at me, aren’t I controversial” brigade. Neither faction adds much if anything to the Leeds United debate, yet both are given undue prominence by media outlets desperate for clicks. It’s so depressing.

What we should do, of course, is celebrate results like the QPR one and accentuate the positives – instead of looking for random rubbish to be seen to be outraged about or to use as a stick for battering the manager. But that’s probably asking too much from the more useless tweeters themselves, and even from supposedly sober journalists who choose to use such virtual detritus as the basis for yet another pointless article.

Well done to Thomas Christiansen, who maintained a half-amused, half-incredulous dignity in rubbishing the claims of a few half-baked idiots who fell for a Man Utd jape. The sad thing is, he’ll most likely have to take time out to do this all over again, the next time some wally fancies having a pop just to try to make a name for himself. Perhaps though – just perhaps – Thomas could just be left in peace to get on with his job?

Fat chance.

This is Not the Time to Push That Leeds United Panic Button – by Rob Atkinson

Divine duo

Christiansen and Radrizzani of Leeds United

A little sober analysis of last night’s defeat at the hands of a rampant pack of Wolves will reveal that, after a bad start where we got properly mauled, things could have turned out oh so differently. The fact is that, in the wake of Gjanni Alioski‘s excellent finish to pull us back into the game at 2-1 down, Leeds United were on the up and up, exerting considerable pressure on a home team that were doing some post-interval creaking after a dominant first half. A second yellow meaning a red for Ronaldo Vieira changed all that, and Wolves were able to reassert their authority with two more goals, leaving the scoreline looking rather lop-sided. But the positives were there for United against an expensively assembled side that looks certain to dominate the division this campaign.

Some Leeds United fans, so overjoyed at sending Middlesbrough coach Garry Monk back up the A1 with nowt, have then failed to see beyond that 1-4 scoreline, leading to renewed calls for the revolving door on the Elland Road manager’s office to be greased up ready for an impending departure. Whites boss Thomas Christiansen will not be unaware of the calls in certain quarters for his replacement, but he has troubles of his own to contend with – a tendency to concede ridiculously harsh penalty kicks, and doubts over the future of a certain Herr Lasogga among them. Yet Christiansen’s poise and dignity are still the hallmarks of his brief stewardship at Elland Road; he remains defiant and determined. The facts back up the theory that he’s not had the best of luck with various factors beyond his control, and – given the comical frequency of managerial turnover during the previous regime – surely it is time for the club to stick to its guns and give its man the opportunity and resources to do the job for which he was hired.

A visit to arch-nemesis Barnsley on Saturday is hardly the kind of trip Christiansen would choose as he looks to bounce back from the Molineux mangling; the Tykes have in common with so many other Championship clubs an almighty chip on the shoulder where Leeds are concerned, and this tends to inspire them to hit heights they find unattainable on less Cup Final-ish occasions. So we can expect a fired-up opposition to be waiting for us at Oakwell, but that’s the name of the game for a club like Leeds, and it’s high time we learned to deal with it. Again, Christiansen will be aware of this syndrome, having fallen foul of it at Millwall not so long back.

For many, that was where the rot set in, though worrying signs had been visible against Birmingham City just four days earlier, despite a 2-0 success against the Blues. There are many who feel that, despite his respectable goal return, it’s been the introduction of Lasogga to the team and his presence around the squad that has made the difference between the early season Leeds that was carrying all before it, and the misfiring machine we’ve been watching more lately. There does seem to be some issue, and a few conflicting rumours, where Lasogga is concerned, and this is just one of the factors on Christiansen’s worry list right now. But the priority should be to give him every opportunity to get that list sorted.

Happily, owner Andrea Radrizzani currently seems inclined to take the path of least resistance, keeping faith in his man and, although his motives might be open to question, that has to be A Good Thing for the time being at least. Whether Radrizzani is motivated by a deep personal conviction that he has the right man, or whether he is trying to establish his Leeds United ownership credentials by being as obviously as possible Not Cellino, remains a moot point. Whatever the reason, Christiansen deserves the chance to turn the currently less than ideal situation around. The performance against Middlesbrough showed that his methods have some merit, and it may well be that another endorsement of his ability and leadership was on its way against Wolves – until Vieira’s dismissal signalled the end of United’s chances.

The buzz phrase at Leeds United, for the time being at least, must be “Keep the Faith”. Christiansen has much in place within his squad that has been both pleasing to the eye and effective at times this season. The aim must be to regain a position where the whole of the team performance is greater than the sum of its parts; lately that equation has been the wrong way around on too many occasions, but in the last two matches there have been definite signs of a return to form.

Keep Fighting, as they used to say in the old days. And keep behind the team. Now is not the time to push that panic button.

2-1 To the Referee as Leeds Lose at Home to Derby – by Rob Atkinson

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TC: “This must stop”

It’s fair to say that, after Leeds United‘s controversial defeat at home to Derby County last night, United boss Thomas Christiansen was almost speechless with frustration and anger at some of the decisions made by match referee Simon Hooper. If anything, that’s an understatement. I’ve rarely seen a manager so upset and so clearly having to choose his words carefully. Even after his stint at the post-match press conference was done, Christiansen lingered, still speaking to the assembled reporters about two pivotal penalty decisions: “You saw the situations – didn’t you?” There was sympathy in the room, but also a sense that here was a man starting to be bowed down by the pressure that goes with the Elland Road hot seat.

On a night when former United manager Simon Grayson got the boot at Sunderland, his was a name being whispered in the West Stand corridors following a third successive home defeat for Leeds. Christiansen pronounced himself happy that an additional coach – Gianni Veo, touted as a “set piece coach” – is joining the Leeds backroom staff, though he didn’t claim to have been a party to that recruitment decision. It might be premature to say that the future is bleak for the Leeds manager, but it is at the very least uncertain; we can be sure that results need to pick up sharply in the very near future, starting at Brentford on Saturday in what Christiansen aptly describes as a “must-win game”.

Objectively, the performance of referee Hooper was poor; Derby’s penalty didn’t stand much scrutiny and, arguably, Leeds should have gone in at half time two up with a penalty of their own to add to Pierre-Michel Lasogga‘s 8th minute opener. In the event, both decisions went against United, a situation most Leeds fans will be wearily familiar with especially if they’ve been watching the Whites over the past five decades. I actually put this to Christiansen as he left the press conference – he just sighed and replied “This must stop”.

Given that one man may not be able to alter the course of so much history, though, it’s down to the players and the coaching staff to make Leeds a threatening team once again, miserly in defence and productive in attack. That’s what we got in the early part of the season, and it did seem that Leeds were back at it against Bristol – but since then, they’ve gone back into their shell when hosting Sheffield United and Derby. Poor refereeing decisions notwithstanding, Leeds must shoulder their portion of blame for the results that have befallen them.

After the Brentford match on Saturday, there’s yet another international break – the chance, perhaps, for new coach Gianni Veo to make his mark on at least United’s dead ball situations. How good it would be to follow up on a promising away showing at Bristol, with another winning performance and three points at Griffin Park. Not only good, indeed, but potentially vital, at least for Thomas Christiansen. And you can be sure nobody appreciates that more than he does. 

What do Leeds United need to do to turn around this run of form?

Divine duo

Christiansen and Radrizzani – keeping the faith

Until this weekend just gone, Leeds had lost four of the last five matches in all competitions, a seriously bad run for a team aspiring to promotion. The fact that three of those were league games serves to highlight the sharp contrast between our form up until just three weeks ago when we were top of the league and the present – when we now sit in fourth place only thanks to Saturday’s three point, three goal haul at Bristol City.

As we said in our post mortem of the Reading game last week, and even given the victory at Bristol – as one swallow does not a summer make –  the situation is dire at the moment. So what do the Whites have to do to turn it around? Let’s assess the options…

Is the manager the problem?

Absolutely not – I’m not even going to pussyfoot around with this one. Part of the problem at the club in recent years is the revolving door they seem to have installed in the manager’s office. We’ve had six managers in the last three years and none of them have had enough time to make their mark. What we need now is stability, not someone else coming in to rock the boat.

Leeds were unbeaten until mid-September when we lost 1-0 to Millwall and the team were a real joy to watch. Our emphatic 5-0 win over Burton Albion was a masterclass in tactics and showed the quality in the squad. Just a few weeks ago, the Whites were second favourites for promotion at 2/1 (mid-September). Now the odds our higher at 4/1, it may be worthwhile taking advantage of those bonuses and free football tips at Bethut.

After the Burton game, Nigel Clough held his hands up to concede Leeds’ sheer quality. None of the five goals we scored against Clough’s side were his goalkeeper’s fault – our movement and finishing made us unstoppable.

Despite the drop in our fortunes of late, the Leeds United board are clearly confident Christiansen can turn things around. After starting the season with all guns blazing, time is the very least the new manager deserves. Let’s face it – three wins won’t get us into the Premier League and three defeats don’t mean our campaign is over either.

Do we just need to regain confidence?

As the Secret Footballer says in an article in the guardian from 2012, there’s a strong correlation between lack of confidence and loss of form. Footballers are only human, after all. It stands to reason that confidence can waver when a run of four defeats in five games follows such glorious form.

Some players’ heads had started to drop – this was clear to anyone who watched the nervous way in which Pablo Hernandez took that late penalty against Reading. When we were flying high at the start of the season, Christiansen told us to expect ‘bad moments’ – and he was bang on. So instead of panicking, what we really need to do is get behind our team!

Post-Bristol update

And, as if to confirm the wisdom of that philosophy – what a difference a week has made! Saturday’s comprehensive win over a Bristol City with only one previous league defeat all season has completely changed perspectives. It’s amazing how one good win can do that. We’re still going strong in the playoffs and, apart from Beradi (anyone know what went on there – the footage was hardly conclusive), there was much to be pleased about – although we must not now rest on our laurels.

As many fans commented during the match, the Viera – Kalvin Phillips – O’Kane trio in midfield worked wonders and looks like the way forward, with far more energy and bite in that midfield area..

Top marks to TC and the lads too for dedicating the match to Stuart Dallas after his mother’s tragic passing last week – we also extend our condolences to Stuart and his family. MOT always.

Reading FC Expose Leeds’ Loss of Mojo & Jansson’s Missing Magic Hat – by Rob Atkinson

 

Rhinos

Super League Champions Leeds Rhinos on their Elland Road lap of honour

Without wishing to seem wise after the event (I like to think that my wisdom is pretty much a permanent fixture) I just knew that Leeds United’s last-gasp penalty would not go in. There would be no salvaging of a late point for the home side at Elland Road; Reading FC would depart with the three points yesterday’s script demanded. And so it came to pass as I looked on with a jaundiced eye. I just bloody knew it.

It was not a good Saturday. Leeds were sluggish and out of sorts, the referee was fussily horrible – at one point he allowed Reading to take a free kick for offside ten yards inside the Leeds half – and there was a general feeling of malaise. To say this was a bad day at the office for Leeds seems hopelessly inadequate – David Brent himself had a better day, that time he was sacked by Wernham Hogg. The only bright spot (and not even this applied to everybody in the 33,900 attendance) was the sight of the victorious Leeds Rhinos players parading the Super League champions trophy around the pitch at half time. It was good to see United saluting the achievements of another Leeds sporting institution.

It seemed to many of the Leeds persuasion, and to some impartial observers too, that Pablo Hernandez had been fouled in the build-up to Reading’s winning goal, scored with poetic injustice by last season’s United loanee failure Modou Barrow. Post-match opinions were polarised: Reading manager Jaap Stam felt it hadn’t been a foul (and also that there was no foul for the Leeds penalty); Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen disagreed, but noted that “foreign coaches should not complain”. Even so, he’d made his views clear from pitch-side at the time – afterwards though, he simply shrugged and remarked “Well, you saw it”.

For United, it was a day to forget as swiftly as possible and move sharply on. Reading, arrayed in a day-glo orange and looking like a set of highlighter pens, came to do a job; they did it, however irritatingly, and now it’s history. Leeds will have to concentrate on regaining their mislaid mojo over the next few fixtures; they’re still handily-placed, even after three successive defeats, courtesy of that scorching start to the season. But losing can become a nasty habit, and it’s something that Christiansen and his troops need to nip in the bud before an annoying blip becomes a genuine crisis.

The Leeds boss was philosophical after this latest setback, whilst hinting that a change of system is not out of the question if he judges that’s what is necessary to turn things around. One notable factor in Reading’s success was their tactic of pressing high to stop United playing out from the back as has been the preferred approach all season. On the day, the home side simply weren’t good or confident enough to deal with the way Stam’s men set out their stall to contain, frustrate and hit on the break. It was a bad, bad day; as simple as that.

And it could even have been worse, but therein lies the one positive aspect of yesterday. At long last there was a change of ‘keeper for a league game, with Andy Lonergan taking his chance to impress. Lonners pulled off a few really good saves and generally looked less error-prone than Felix Wiedwald has done on many of his appearances this term. Afterwards, when asked about the change, Christiansen said that it was something he’d been thinking about. Lonergan did his future prospects no harm at all, and we must hope that his relatively unflappable air of security might spread to a United back four that has looked shaky of late. Pontus Jansson in particular looked tentative and even clumsy at times in the Reading game; part of United’s reduced effectiveness is probably down to Jansson’s magic hat being worn slightly askew as compared to last season. 

It’s still early days, and the situation as it stands is far from dire. But Leeds must do more than hope for better days ahead; they must be proactive, and take steps to ensure that a sharp improvement comes about – sooner rather than later.