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Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
It’s an Awesome Time to Be a Leeds United Fan – Notes for Leeds
Friday, 22nd Sep 2017 11:45 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Elland Road by delving into their forums.
“How brilliant is it that we are all feeling so upbeat at this point in the season?”, “It’s an absolutely amazing feeling to see the lads top of the league. They truly deserve to be there as well”, “Things are going well so just enjoy the ride. I know I am”, “Top of the league, it has been a long time coming.”
“The years of misery have been worth it for the start to this season”, “How we have suffered long and hard over the years. I relish the fact that we are top of the league with an incredible wave of enthusiasm surrounding the club”, “The bottom line is that we now have a bloody decent team.”
Leeds arrive into Saturday’s game top of the table and boasting what is comfortably the best goal difference in the league. The momentum of a seven-game unbeaten start to their league campaign which included six consecutive clean sheets was only broken by Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Millwall.
“Millwall was a reality check for everyone, especially the fans”, “We have made an amazing start to the season and had to get beaten at some stage. I am downhearted but who would have thought our boys would be top of the league with six clean sheets in a row going into the Millwall game?”
“Starting to dream again”, “We need to keep our expectations realistic and not get carried away”, “There is much to be pleased about, we are definitely better than previous years”, “I don’t want to get carried away, but who can deny we are in a better place than we have been in over a decade?”
“I don’t know if Radrizzani is the messiah, but he’s certainly impressing me with his purchase of the stadium and his work-rate behind the scenes”, “He’s not some fly-by-night chancer hoping to hit the jackpot by somehow stumbling into the Premier League”, “He is just quietly doing the groundwork.”
“So much foresight.” The 43-year-old Milanese completed his takeover of the club from Massimo Cellino in May. Whites have been impressed by the swift progress they have witnessed. “Everything he does suggests that he’s here for the long haul. He’s building a proper club on stable foundations.”
“Time will tell how Christiansen reacts when things don’t go so well, but fair play to the bloke. He’s exceeding most expectations at the moment”, “An intelligent bloke and one of the new breed of managers”, “We are much better than under Garry Monk last season. The style of play is terrific.”
“A gamble that is paying off.” The 44-year-old became head coach in June after enjoying success last season at Cypriot side APOEL Nicosia. He has been praised for getting a squad with many unfamiliar faces playing stylish football while improving many of the players he inherited at the same time.
Fast Fluid Attacking Football
“I love this team’s togetherness and passion”, “Our style of play is improving and we are without doubt an improved team on last year.” Fans have embraced a style which is based on fast, direct running and capitalising on turnovers in possession. It is seen as a marked contrast to last season.
“The main emotion is relief for me. It just feels so refreshing playing attacking football and without fear for me. We have a young squad with loads of pace and talent, so why not?”, “Remember these guys are still gelling together, not to mention that a new manager is still putting his ideas on them.”
The starting XI (above) against Millwall was close to full-strength with centre-half Liam Cooper the only major absentee with a back injury. The club has no shortage of attacking midfielders with pace and technique. Stuart Dallas and Kemar Roofe rotate with Ezgjan Alioski and Pablo Hernandez.
“We defend well as a team on the whole”, “I really like how the defence as a whole has stepped up”, “Six clean sheets in the league in a row, have we ever done that before?”, “The defence have been immense so far this season and they have shown how important they are in tight arm-wrestles.”
Whites have consistently praised the back-four’s defending as a unit, and Conor Shaughnessy is seen as a capable stand-in for Cooper. Manchester United loanee Cameron Borthwick-Jackson has been a weak link on the left of defence so right-backs Vurnon Anita and Luke Ayling have switched across.
“The wide defenders need to be constantly ready and showing for the keeper’s ball, it’s a tactic we seem to play”, “Playing narrowly allows our full-backs the option of getting in behind the opposition, Space opens up as our opponents’ wide defenders drift inside marking our wide playmakers.”
“We have pace in abundance now, especially up the pitch.” The creative trio behind the lone striker carry the greatest threat and two new signings in particular have hit the ground running. “We cause real problems going forward and in Ezgjan Alioski and Samuel Saiz we have two quality players.”
Preston (in a scoreless draw in August) and Millwall caused problems by disrupting Leeds’s rhythm and physically getting in amongst them. “I would like a bit of steel added to the Ipswich starting XI, maybe bringing in Gaetano Berardi for Anita and Ronaldo Vieira for O’Kane, but it’s a tough call.”
Millwall 1 – 0 Leeds
“A reality check today. Credit to Millwall, they battered us for 90 minutes and 1-0 was very flattering on us. It seemed to me that they had the ball on a yo-yo. They completely snuffed out any creativity we possess. This will happen and Christiansen now needs to work out how to overcome this tactic.”
Aiden O’Brien won the game for the hosts when he fired home Fred Odwyinma’s pass on 73 minutes but many Leeds fans were quick to acknowledge that the margin could have greater. The Lions’ high-pressing and intensity stifled the Whites and never allowed them to establish any effective rhythm.
“Gutted with that, Millwall did a proper job on us today. They made it a physical game and we could not cope”, “Every time they sent a high ball anywhere near our box we seemed to panic. They also often got it down the channels”, “They restricted us to having just a single shot and none on target.”
“It was a poor physical effort from us which is very worrying”, “We needed height and muscle today. Millwall outbattled and stopped us playing today. We needed to see how we would fare in these games before looking too far ahead. It will be an opposition blueprint for how to play against us.”
Leeds 2 – 0 Birmingham
“Well, we made hard work of that. As good as we were in our 5-0 win over Burton three days ago, we were poor tonight with so many misplaced passes and wrong options”, “That was harder than the score suggests. Possession and shots on goal were even”, “We would have lost this last season.”
“It was great to see us grind out that result. It was sloppy at times.” Samuel Saiz opened the scoring on 17 minutes, pouncing on City keeper David Stockdale’s parry of Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s powerful strike. Stuart Dallas sealed a Leeds win in second-half stoppage time with a low left-footed shot.
“Our passing game didn’t some off for us but we were attempting to play attacking football rather than hoofing it. It wasn’t the game for flair players”, “I was entertained but not by the passing free-flowing football. It was our grit and determination, the whole team showing they can tough it out.”
“Just two starters from the team that started last season’s August game against Birmingham.” The starting line-up (above) had just one change to that which would begin at Millwall, with Liam Cooper fit. In familiar second-half substitutions, Roofe replaced Alioski and Dallas replaced Hernandez.
Burnley 2 – 2 Leeds (Carabao Cup, Leeds win 5 – 3 on Penalties)
“Wow, that was impressive, we have real strength in depth”, “I’m over the moon with that. Credit to the lads, they dug in after we had that corker of a Burnley goal at the end of normal time”, “That was a brilliant result and it was also a great workout for the lads who have not had much game time.”
“Always nice to beat our Lancastrian neighbours.” Hadi Sacko put Leeds ahead on 80 minutes, but injury time saw penalties awarded to both sides. Burnley levelled when former Leeds striker Chris Wood scored his spot-kick but Pablo Hernandez then scored his to put Leeds 2-1 in front.
There was one further stoppage-time twist when Robbie Brady equalised again for Burnley with a freekick on 96 minutes. With no extra-time goals, the Whites won the penalty shootout after keeper Andy Lonergan saved from the Clarets’ James Tarkowski, with Leeds scoring five faultless spot-kicks.
“We are Leeds. We do things the hard way”, “To be fair, all four goals were gifts of some description, two of the softest penalties you will ever see, a terrible tackle to give Burnley their late freekick and Sacko given a free run on goal with his marker nowhere”, “We were dogged and very persistent.”
“It’s a big ask for this Leeds team [above] to beat a Premier League XI, especially with so many lining out together for the first time.” Christiansen selected a second-string side against what was a strong Burnley team. “You name it, the game had it, the sort of night we constantly crave as football fans.”
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“Anyone who gave the Millwall man of the match award to someone other than Felix Wiedwald did not see the game.” The 27-year-old keeper arrived this summer from Werder Bremen. “He did well and made several very decent saves, but it was the first time that he earned a wage in a Leeds shirt.”
“Wiedwald is comfortable with the ball at his feet and is very quick out of his area, but doesn’t seem the safest or as assured as he’s supposed to be in control of his box”, “He’s good on the ball, is adept at rushing out and suits our style of play, but on crosses his eyes are on the attacker and not the ball.”
“Luke Ayling’s defending against Birmingham was worth a goal to us.” The 26-year-old ex-Bristol City full-back “rarely puts a foot wrong. He attacks and defends well, puts a good shift in and consistently shows commitment”, “He gets beaten at times when at left-back but he always seems involved.”
“Ayling is one of the finds of last season. He’s right up there in the skill department and should have chosen a more attacking position as a kid”, “He really offers a lot going forward and gets involved in a lot of good things when attacking”, “He covers a lot of ground and links up well with his winger.”
“Vurnon Anita is comfortable and neat on the ball.” The 28-year-old July addition from Newcastle “is growing into the team. He has experience clever passing and the ability to get up and down the pitch all day”, “He is steady, unflustered and completed many of his passes, a calm and assured full-back.”
Vurnon Anita (Newcastle) v Kemar Roofe (Leeds United)
“The first one to spot Anita passing it forward wins”, “He played 42 passes against the Lions, but only seven were forward and five of those were clearances to Millwall players”, “He plays across the back too much when struggling, but is the most under the radar signing that adds most value to the side.”
“Great to see the terrier Gaetano Berardi back.” The 29-year-old ex-Sampdoria right-back picked up a shoulder injury in the season opener against Bolton but he came on against Birmingham from the bench. “I think Liam Cooper said, ‘I make sure Berardi’s on my side in training so I don’t get belted’.”
“Conor Shaughnessy is steady and mature beyond his years.” The 21-year-old centre-half and youth product “was outstanding in defence against a Burnley side with one of the physically biggest attacks in football”, “It looks like he’s made to play the role of ball-playing defender beside Pontus Jansson.”
“Shaughnessy was as cool as a cucumber against the Clarets”, “I’m very impressed with his progress. Gary Madine got the better of him in the opening Bolton game, but he didn’t retreat into his shell. He put that to one side and steadily progressed. The Burnley game was a steady, assured display.”
“Liam Cooper has been a revelation this season.” The 26-year-old ex-Spireite “has greatly improved. It’s great what a bit of confidence can do, but he can still lose concentration”, “He’s decent enough when he puts his mind to the job. It’s a shame he sometimes has brain explosions which cost us.”
“The Birmingham game was one of the best performances I have seen from Cooper. He has stepped his game up to another level and he looks a yard faster as well”, “His lack of height and physicality in both boxes works against him but Christiansen is really bringing out the best in him at the moment.”
“With Pontus in your side, you feel an air of composure and solidity.” The 26-year-old former Torino centre-back “seems like a magnet to every ball that comes in. What an immense player he is at the heart of the back line”, “He has also calmed down this season and his discipline has been excellent.”
“One small grouse I have is number of times Jansson just kicks the ball straight down the middle for the tall striker to collect”, “His distribution is poor and he is lacking as the ball player. In a defending team he’s top drawer, but in possession and bringing the ball out he leaves a lot to be desired.”
“We missed Ronaldo Vieira’s combative ability against Millwall”, “I’m not sure Vieira is the answer in abrasive league games as he gives the ball away too much.” The 19-year-old Benfica and Leeds youth product “made a late stupid rash challenge against Burnley which Robbie Brady’s freekick punished”.
“Vieira was poor in pre-season and I’m not sure he’s good enough for a promotion-winning team. He is a great talent but not the finished article”, “He plays well and gets stuck into opponents but he is not consistent enough”, “A very promising player and a very big presence in the middle of the park.”
“Kalvin Phillips works tirelessly and creates the platform for the frontmen to do what they do best.” The 21-year-old youth product “has come on from previous seasons. He’s so much better on the ball and some of his tackling is outstanding”, “He looks solid this season although he still can’t pass.”
“Phillips was largely anonymous against Millwall, back off 50/50 challenges”, “He struggled with the Fulham midfield last month. He broke up play and protected the backline but struggled to drive the side forward and create space”, “He needs to string passes together to help us create some tempo.”
“Eunan O’Kane is a very good industrious player.” The 27-year-old ex-Bournemouth man “covers so much ground, is tough in the tackle, passes cleverly and is there in the middle of defence on the rare occasions it needs filling”, “He has been a huge factor in the stability we now have in the midfield.”
“O’Kane’s range of passing and decision-making is spot on. He also carries the ball into dangerous areas”, “He’s such an unsung hero who dictates the terms and tempo of the game for us”, “He grafts his socks off in the engine room and carries is forward picking up and pouncing on those loose balls.”
“The fulcrum in a three-man forward line with others buzzing around him.” The 26-year-old Spaniard arrived in July from Huesca. “He is a different class to nearly anything in this league”, “His technique and vision mark him out as pure class and he seems to have the pace and mobility to go with this.”
“Saiz is a truly massive player, running with the ball at pace, creating and scoring goals”, “He’s quick with the turnover of the ball and able to dictate play faster”, “He tries to be too clever at times but the way he keeps the ball surrounded by opponents is a joy. He is so direct and fast with his play.”
“What a pass by Pablo Hernandez to set Sako’s goal up against Burnley.” The 32-year-old one-time Swansea man “can use the ball and score goals himself, or probe defences by playing it into strikers’ feet”, “He’s a stronger attacking winger than Stuart Dallas but Dallas is the better all-round player.”
“Hernandez can go missing if things aren’t going his way. He was lacklustre against physical Preston players”, “Some of his play against Fulham was top drawer. He had their full-back on toast”, “He can have defences at sixes and sevens with his mastery of the ball but he just needs to add consistency.”
“Kemar Roofe had his best game in the 5-0 rout of Burton this month. He never stopped all game and controlled so many of our attacks.” The 24-year-old former Oxford United man “looked a League One player under Garry Monk but Christiansen changed all that. He’s playing with so much confidence”.
“Roofe was poor against Millwall and not interested in a battle, bottling a few challenges that really put us on the back foot”, “He causes plenty of nuisance running the channels but is isolated playing as a lone striker. The quality of his finishing and creativity shows he has quality if we use it correctly.”
“Don’t you just love Ezgjan Alioski?” The 25-year-old July arrival from Lugano “puts in a real shift. He is all action. He ran Sunderland ragged last month and will create a huge number of assists”, “He is a cut above and his ability to dribble at players will see him win plenty of fouls in dangerous areas.”
“Alioski has gone a bit quiet lately”, “He’s a player I rate as special but seems to lost his form in the last couple of games. He will be immense for us but needs a break”, “He struggled against Preston’s physicality. He will need to get used to physical battles in this division, using them to his advantage.”
“I haven’t been Dallas’s biggest fan but must admit he has really grown on me. He has improved this season and he seems to do something important in every match.” The 26-year-old former Brentford man “is just the reliable type of player every side needs and a far better player than people credit”.
“Dallas is becoming much more than a squad player. He’s finally a senior pro playing to his potential. He came on and made a difference at Millwall. He was tougher in the tackle, faster in possession and linked really well with Saiz”, “He puts in a shift every time he plays and he chips in with a few goals.”
“Jay-Roy Grot looks to have lots of potential but also looks very raw, He may not be at the level to contribute yet but is one for the future.” The August signing from NEC Nijmegen “may be 19, but he sure doesn’t look it. He is even more physically imposing than Chris Wood and has some pace too”.
“Grot looks rusty and raw but he’s a strong boy with a really nice touch”, “He took ages to get into the Burnley match. He’s a big lad but heading is not his forte. He showed plenty of good footwork”, “He gave Forest’s Armand Traore one shoulder barge which almost sent him into the river Trent.”
“Lasogga reminds me of Mark Viduka.” The 25-year-old arrived on August deadline day on loan from Hamburg SV. “He scored a no-nonsense finish on his debut against Burton”, “A big powerful striker, but he doesn’t win the ball in the air. He’s not a hold-up player or a lone striker and doesn’t jump.”
Byron Webster (Millwall) v Pierre-Michel Lasogga
“Lasogga was isolated against Birmingham due to the way the game played out and his first touch let him down. Credit to him because he never stopped running all game”, “Let’s not resort to long balls because we have a really big man up front. Let’s keep using the skill which has got us where we are.”
Whites’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Back to winning ways after Millwall blip”, “I hope it was a one-off, but need to bounce back against an in-form Ipswich because then we have another away hoodoo trip to Cardiff”, “I’m still confident we will get back on track against Ipswich. They have let in quite a few goals away from home.”
“I want three points from this game.” The overwhelming theme around Saturday’s game for Whites is the need to pick up where they left off before the Millwall defeat. Home fans largely expect their side to win, with 3-1 and 2-0 margins the most popular forecast scores.
“This will be a toughie as Ipswich are in decent enough form”, “Ipswich are never easy opponents but surely the squad at our disposal will be too strong”, “They are punching above their weight. Fair play to them if they get top six, but there's no one in their team who I would want us to sign.”
“Ipswich fans points of view don’t look too confident”, “They were early frontrunners but I can't see them being there at the end of the season if I'm honest”, “Me neither, although they are decent bets for the play-offs”, “People say we have not beaten any big teams. Well then, neither have Ipswich.”
“Mick will come to stifle us”, “Mick McCarthy is a wily manager and will have taken notice of how Millwall negated us. Whilst they won't possibly be as aggressive as Millwall they will be a hard-working side who will play their own way, which will be to be hard to break down and very direct.”
“Mick McCarthy's men made easy work of Bolton a week ago lifting them to fifth in the division”, “I wouldn't be surprised to see them target our left-back. If Anita is dropped we have either Berardi who isn't fully match-fit and is right footed, or Borthwick-Jackson who struggled against Burnley.”
“McCarthy knows what he is doing after all.” There is plenty of admiration for our manager. “I’m pleased for Mick McCarthy this season. He is a thoroughly decent man and has come in for a bit of stick at Ipswich despite having a very small budget given the wealth of their owner.”
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