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Saturday, 4th August 2018 Kick-off 15:00
Being a Leeds Fan Can Be So Hard Sometimes – Notes for Leeds
Friday, 12th Jan 2018 10:40 by HarryFromBath
HarryFromBath assesses the mood in the opposition camp ahead of Saturday’s game at Portman Road by delving into their forums.
“Christ, I’m sick of this happening year in year out”, “Well done Newport. You deserve it, but I am now sick to death of this scenario every year”, “Every year this happens, every chuffing year. I don’t mind losing but at least lose with dignity”, “Disrespect lower league clubs and they will punish you.”
Leeds head down to Suffolk sitting just inside the play-off places but many Whites feel this flatters them. Their 2-1 FA Cup defeat last Sunday away to League Two Newport was preceded by a dull 0-0 draw on New Year’s Day at home to Forest and a 1-0 loss at relegation-threatened Birmingham.
“The current squad will not make the play-offs. There’s not the depth or quality to push on now we are reaching the business end of the season when things step up. We have seen that last year”, “The vast majority of those players who started at Newport simply aren’t good enough for the shirt.”
“We can beat anyone on our day. Unfortunately, we can also lose to anyone including rock-bottom teams. Inconsistency has been the same problem affecting us for years”, “The last thing I want is a repeat of last year, peaking too early and missing the play-offs. We need to time our run just right.”
“Despite some good results in December, our current form has been poor. We have ridden our luck”, “Our form hasn’t been great but we have picked up good points lately. Imagine how far we can go when we start playing well”, “No excuses now for the rest of the season. We move on to Ipswich.”
Thomas Christiansen (TC)
“The Newport debacle raised more tactical questions about Thomas Christiansen”, “It’s worrying how he seems unable to change a game while it’s taking place. His lack of flexibility and willingness to change things winds me up a bit”, “He cannot change the tempo of a game to our advantage.”
Fans have started losing patience with the 44-year-old former APOEL Nicosia manager, who replaced Garry Monk last June. Many cited Sunday’s unsuitable and unbalanced starting XI at Newport as the latest in a line of poor decisions which have had a negative impact on results and performances.
“I just don’t get TC at times”, “You would expect a new team and a new coach to get better as the season went on, but performances from individuals and the team are getting steadily worse. That reflects badly on TC”, “I just want him for once to change the shape when things aren’t working.”
“I gave TC a chance but he’s not good enough. He has no tactical nous whatsoever”, “He showed the team a video of Newport before the game and how they were direct in getting balls into the box. At that point he decided to play Gaetano Berardi at centre-back, all 5ft 8in of him. Strange logic to me.”
“Leeds will not finish in the top six this season because the team is not good enough, it’s that simple. Lacklustre is the overriding word once again”, “Our early-season tactic of playing one-touch football and passing rapidly through the opposition seems to have vanished as the season has progressed.”
“We never pass the ball around well enough to control the game”, “We have been getting away with being poor in an attacking creative sense and sneaking games against poor opposition”, “We need to play more on the front foot. Matches that turn into scraps don’t suit us. We lose more than we win.”
“We have a lot of average players with a couple who have a bit of class, but it’s not enough.” Leeds overhauled their squad last summer, but many of their overseas acquisitions have not fully adapted to Championship football. “Without Samuel Saiz and Pablo Hernandez we would be very average.”
Leeds’ starting XI (above) for their draw against Forest had the 4-2-3-1 shape which Christiansen has used in league games. There will be two enforced changes for Saturday. Luke Ayling is out for the season after ankle surgery while Samuel Saiz received a six-game ban for spitting against Newport.
Pontus Jansson and Berardi have been praised for their defending and leadership at the back, but fans are alarmed by keeper Felix Wiedwald’s and centre-half Liam Cooper’s errors. New signing Laurens De Bock may go straight into left-back slot with Berardi switching flanks to replace Ayling.
“We have no bite in central midfield and are too small to handle physical teams.” Kalvin Phillips has been the most regular midfield starter and is praised for his industry, but Whites want him and his central partners Eunan O’Kane, Ronaldo Vieira or Mateusz Klich to take games to their opponents.
The loss of Saiz after his dismissal on Sunday is a source of real concern. “I’m worried we will be on a slippery slope with Saiz suspended. We will have no creative spark in midfield”, “We need another playmaker for when Hernandez gets tired. Most teams crowd him out, giving him very little space.”
Samuel Saiz v Jordan Spence
“I hope the club throw the proverbial book at Saiz.” There is considerable anger with the former Huesca man given the nature of his actions. “It’s disgusting behaviour and I don’t care how good the player is. A six-game ban will cost us dearly and could possibly end up costing us promotion.”
“Opponents are drilled to put 10 players in front of the ball when we bring it out slowly, and the play gets compressed in one half of the field”, “To put low crosses into a box full of defenders, you must get in behind them, but we can’t do that because we’re often not moving the ball quickly enough.”
“We have no problems getting into crossing positions, but we shy away from delivering as nobody is going to attack the ball in the box.” Wingers Ezgjan Alioski and Pawel Cibicki have been criticised for being lightweight and indecisive, while lone striker Kemar Roofe is a more threatening number 10.
“The issue with our forward line is simple. We have not replaced the goals of Chris Wood from last year.” Pierre-Michel Lasogga and Jay-Roy Grot started in a two-man attack at Newport but neither are capable of holding down a regular starting place. “We desperately need a quality striker.”
Newport 2 – 1 Leeds (FA Cup Third Round)
“A disaster”, “Newport have been superb today, every man jack of them has been up for it all match. They have concentrated, competed and outplayed us in every position on the park”, “Shocking, shocking, shocking. Apart from Berardi we were outclassed and outplayed in every department.”
“This game is there to be lost.” Berardi put Leeds ahead on nine minutes with a deflected shot but many Whites felt that their team was in trouble despite leading at the interval. “I’m a bit worried now. Newport are clearly up for it, whereas we have looked distinctly average apart from Berardi.”
“An own goal by Conor Shaughnessy, that was on the cards.” The defender put a cross from former Town man Frank Nouble into his own goal on 76 to give Newport their equaliser. Shawn McCoulsky headed the Exiles’ winner on 89 before Saiz’s stoppage time dismissal rubbed salt in Leeds’ wounds.
“This isn’t far from being shambolic, there is nothing coming at all from our midfield. It is being overrun.” Christiansen’s decision (above) to start only two players and alter the shape from the side that played Forest rebounded badly. “The Cup defeat at Sutton last year was bad, but today was awful.”
Leeds 0 – 0 Nottingham Forest
“Just got in from the game. We were the better team but paid the price for poor decision-making”, “Well, Forest got what they came for. We created enough chances to win today, but at least Forest didn’t nick all three points”, “You don’t deserve to win matches if you don’t take your chances.”
“A decent striker would have won us that game.” Jansson came closest to scoring for the hosts when Kieran Dowell headed his header off the line, while Roofe’s shot struck the bar after he was set up by Saiz. The hosts had the lion’s share of chances but could not find a way through Forest’s defence.
Birmingham 1 – 0 Leeds
“That was a poor performance and we didn’t look interested”, “We never looked like scoring today, and at 0-0 with 15 minutes to go I sensed Brum would score a messy goal to win what was a woeful match”, “How can we be so tepid against such a poor side? We deserved nothing from this.”
“Bloody hell, that was on the cards.” Jacques Maghoma scored the only goal when he hammered the ball home from close range after Leeds keeper Wiedwald parried it into his path on 83 minutes. The hosts were bottom of the table at the time and many Whites felt that this was a missed opportunity.
“Very disappointing. This was not a game we could afford to lose but we got what we deserved. We were poor in midfield and too many players were off their game”, “We lacked any spark. This was on a par with many of our recent performances but this time we didn’t get the breaks or the luck.”
“We were too negative against the division’s bottom team.” Fans criticised Christiansen for sticking with a familiar line-up (above) despite playing weaker opponents. The switching of Shaughnessy into central midfield and the resting of Saiz were seen as factors in handing the initiative to Birmingham.
Goalkeepers and Defenders
“We need a real replacement for Felix Wiedwald.” The 27-year-old summer arrival from Werder Bremen “is a bit of a shot-stopper but he’s always an accident waiting to happen. I hate the number of times he punches the ball straight into the middle of the pitch. He is not a dominant goalkeeper.”
“Wiedwald is prone to errors and lacks the presence to command his box”, “For all the criticism of him, we are statistically better when he plays”, “He won’t improve and also won’t get much braver, which is a major fault”, “I feel for the guy, but I can’t see us going up with him between the sticks.”
“I was chuffed to bits when Gaetano Berardi scored at Newport. He’s Leeds through and through, and it obviously meant a lot to the lad.” The 29-year-old ex-Sampdoria full-back “wins tackles, saves certain goals and fires up the crowd”, “A totally committed defender with a never-say-die attitude.”
“Berardi’s left foot is really just for standing on and he should be our right-back”, “He gets the crowd going when he gets a nosebleed, but why does he bleed? Because he has ventured over the halfway line and found himself out of his depth”, “He might not be perfect but he’s defensively very solid.”
“You can see why Newcastle left Vurnon Anita behind in the Championship after getting promotion last summer. Really good players don’t have to do anything very special to drift past him.” The 28-year-old July signing “lacks the pace to be a full-back but maybe he can play as a holding midfielder”.
“Laurens De Bock is our rock.” The 25-year-old Belgium U21 left-back signed from Club Brugge on Thursday and many hope he will play on Saturday. “Technically he’s not the best but he’s a strong character. He’s physically strong and hard in the duels, he has a fierce tackle and can be impulsive.”
“There are better players operating in the West Yorkshire League than Cameron Borthwick-Jackson.” The 20-year-old full-back is on loan from Manchester United and had a rare start at Newport. “He kept getting killed out wide and did nothing to suggest he’s good enough. He’s not what we need.”
“Matthew Pennington has not been good enough to demand the shirt.” The 23-year-old centre-half is on a season-long loan from Everton and has been a bench option. “His concentration is erratic, he loses players and dithers on the ball”, “He has been caught out like a schoolkid by clever strikers.”
“It’s bizarre how Conor Shaughnessy, the club’s fourth-choice centre-back, started in midfield at Birmingham.” The 21-year-old youth product “played a cameo in that position at Barnsley and we lost total control of the game”, “His composure is good but he has the odd lapse in concentration.”
“Liam Cooper is either excellent or poor and there’s no in between for him. That’s a concern.” The 26-year-old former Chesterfield centre-back “tries to drive us forward with some imaginative passes but they don’t always come off”, “He cannot eliminate the mistakes and the constant switching off.”
“Cooper always worries me”, “He may be a nice bloke and he has improved significantly this season, but he’s a League One defender at best”, “He makes good runs and passes when he plays well”, “He makes silly decisions for no good reason and picks up needless yellow cards under no pressure.”
“Pontus is so important to this side.” The 26-year-old Sweden international and ex-Torino centre-half “is an island of quality in a mediocre sea”, “He’s so solid and wins everything in the air, and he makes a nuisance of himself in opposition boxes. He steams into challenges and wins the ball fairly.”
“Jansson leads from the front and his crucial blocks and headers are superb. When he plays well, we win”, “He has struggled at times earlier in the season without last season’s partner Kyle Bartley [now back at parent club Swansea]”, “Thankfully he’s returning to top form, which we have badly missed.”
“I’m not sold on Eunan O’Kane and never have been.” The 27-year-old ex-Bournemouth man “is in and out of the side. He should be that player demanding the ball and giving structure to our attacks but too often he’s anonymous”, “He looks good on the ball but never puts in a run towards goal.”
Eunan O'Kane v Tom Adeyemi
“O’Kane doesn’t get stuck in and give us the bite we need”, “He can be impressive with his passing, switching play between the flanks”, “He shows nice touches but never breaks anything up”, “He gets overrun in midfield. He stands off and lets teams attack us when he should be calling the shots.”
“Mateusz Klich is a Poland international who captained a Dutch top-flight team last season. That will do for me.” The 27-year-old summer signing from FC Twente “is nowhere to be seen for whatever reason. I don’t see how we can write him off as not good enough without giving him any chances”.
“I’m not sure Klich is the solution in the centre. He’s a lightweight in the same mould as Cibicki and not suited to a holding role in the Championship”, “He has been anonymous, hardly venturing out of the centre circle”, “He’s neat and tidy and our best passer of a ball, but he needs a run of games.”
“I love the attitude and desire of Kalvin Phillips but let’s be honest, he’s very average.” The 22-year-old youth product “often has a busy job as he’s the only one holding up the midfield”, “He could open defences running from deep but he seems to be anonymous, stuck in the centre of the park.”
“I don’t get what kind of midfielder Phillips is. I have always thought he is occupying space and he’s not a creative playmaker”, “He’s a box-to-box player who does everything quite well. His stamina and shooting are his strong points while his weaknesses are his concentration, vision and passing.”
“I like the way Vieira appears from nowhere and links up with an attack.” The 19-year-old Benfica and Leeds youth product picked up a knock in the 2-1 Boxing Day win at Burton and many Whites would welcome him back into the line-up. “We have missed his energy and his combative nature.”
Ronaldo Vieira (R) and Liam Cooper v Forest's Apostolos Vellios
“Vieira can give the ball away but he’s everywhere in midfield for the full 90 minutes. He lacks the nous to manage games simply due to his inexperience”, “I love it when he shrugs off opponents with his strength but he frustrates me when he misplaces passes, often in very promising positions.”
Wingers and Attacking Midfielders
“Ezgjan Alioski shows flashes but is that enough?” The 25-year-old Macedonia international and July addition from Swiss side Lugano “is attack-minded and you get the odd flash of quality from him, but he can easily get swatted away by opponents and makes poor decision in promising positions.”
“Teams struggle with Alioski’s movement”, “He started well for us but faded badly. His movement and craft make us much less one-dimensional, he is becoming more of a threat again when he gets on the ball”, “You can leave yourself badly exposed if he doesn’t like getting back and defending.”
“When Hadi Sacko comes on you know it’s desperate.” The 23-year-old one-time Bordeaux man has been a fringe player lately. “He had a run earlier in the first team, but it’s clear that he may have pace but he has no footballing brain and should never have made it to the level of a professional.”
“Sacko is a roadrunner. He can rattle full-backs with his speed, but he will dither and dally, and not go past his man”, “He’s a comedy genius and at least he tries to inject some energy into the game”, “His brief appearances have been poor to say the least”, “Bringing Sacko on makes my head hurt.”
“Pawel Cibicki looks dangerous on the one hand but lightweight on the other.” The 23-year-old August signing from Malmo “is too worried to run with the ball. He always tries to pass too early or whip it into the box from closer to the halfway line. He also doesn’t fancy it when it gets physical.”
“Cibicki clearly has talent but he needs to bulk up muscle-wise to play Championship football”, “He lacks the self-belief to do anything other than play simple balls backwards”, “He has hinted at a bit of quality. His deliveries from set-pieces can be exceptional but he isn’t quite so effective in open play.”
“The good football is all coming from Pablo.” The 32-year-old one-time Swansea man “brings us that extra class and gets everyone involved. He’s always looking for that killed through ball even if it does not always happen”, “He causes all sorts of problems and shows real quality at important moments.”
Pablo Hernandez v Dominic Iorfa
“Hernandez will illuminate proceedings and tries to make things happen. He’s not that strong but he never stops running when others have given up”, “The entire emphasis has been on him to create when the playmakers burden needs to be shared. If you shut him out, you shut the entire team out.”
“Jay-Roy Grot is built like a powerhouse but he’s still a kid.” The 19-year-old August addition from Dutch side NEC Nijmegen “looks way out of his depth when he comes on. He drops clangers and looks like he is trying to move in cement”, “He is the most disappointing signing of the summer.”
“There was a moment in the Leicester [Carabao Cup] game in September when I got Grot. He burst through on goal, skittling defenders out of the way before thundering a shot towards goal with very little backlift. There might be a player there and I saw what potential could lurk under the surface.”
“Pierre-Michel Lasogga stands around like a lamppost.” The 26-year-old Hamburg loan signing “is a poor man’s Chris Wood without the work ethic”, “He’s easily pushed off the ball for a big man when challenging for high balls”, “He looks like a striker but he certainly does not always play like one.”
Pierre-Michel Lasogga celebrates scoring their first goal against Town last September
“My car moves more than Lasogga and it’s parked in the car park. The guy should be bullying centre-halves but he has poor positional play and no desire”, “He looks three stone overweight and needs to get fit”, “He has shown that he can stick the ball in the net but he lacks the stamina to work hard.”
“I like Roofe, his movement is very clever.” The 25-year-old ex-Oxford United man “provides options with his ability to break the lines and run in behind defenders. He makes space for creative players in behind him”, “I’m not sure he’s the man to spearhead our attacks, directly up against centre-halves.”
Vurnon Anita (ex Newcastle, now Leeds) v Kemar Roofe
“Roofe is more of an inside forward and he is totally wasted playing out wide. He thrived last year in a deeper role”, “A lot of his runs go unnoticed. He allows the front four to move with fluidity and to express themselves creatively”, “He does miss some decent chances despite being our top scorer.”
Whites’ Views on ITFC and the Game
“Mick McCarthy's men have had a torrid Christmas losing to Wolves, Derby, Fulham and the Blunts, but saying that would Leeds fare any better against these teams?”, “Ipswich haven't been doing amazingly in the past month or so but generally McCarthy teams are hard to break down.”
“Ipswich are not in good form either but their home form lately has been good with two wins and a draw in four games. My head thinks we won’t be up for the fight and will go down whilst my heart as ever hopeful that we can turn the cup exit around and start getting back to some sort of form.”
“Ipswich is a big game to show we are up for it. Mick McCarthy will have his boys fired up following our showing at Newport today. We could get murdered if we are not up for it. The failure of a fair few players to show up has a least whittled down the number of players we can choose from.”
“I'm pretty sure our record at Portman Road isn't great. I just hope that it isn't going to be case of déjà vu. We lost to Sutton United in the FA Cup and we went on a terrible run last year. I just get this bad feeling that it might be the case. Our team is short on quality and even more so in confidence.”
West Yorkshiremen see Saturday’s game as a vital milestone in getting their season back on track. Last year’s FA Cup defeat to weaker opponents was followed by a run of poor league form which contributed to their narrowly missing out on the play-offs. They don’t want to see this repeated.
“We need a huge improvement for Ipswich or we will be taken to the cleaners by them”, “No more mucking about, we have to be professional every step of the way from here onward”, “This will be tough as Leeds yet again seem to have gone in to meltdown on their last two or three matches.”
Bartosz Bialkowski drops a clanger v Leeds
“Mick McCarthy is looking a bit wobbly at the moment. The club is in a bad place with owner Marcus Evans being almost as unpopular (and invisible) as Mike Ashley is to Newcastle fans”, “I have a lot of time for Leeds-supporting Mick McCarthy, he always comes across as a really honest.”
“Portman Road is a lovely ground and Ipswich are a proper family club”, “It is one of my favourite grounds, a proper stadium. I have lots of good memories dating back to the early 70s. Ipswich in a perfect world would be a Premier League side along with us but sadly neither team are.”
“I thought the Ipswich performance at Elland Road earlier in the season was as good a football side I've seen from a Mick McCarthy team”, “A little close for comfort but a win is a win”, “A game almost designed to play on nerves frayed by 15 years of trauma”, “Ipswich deserved a point from us.”
Photo: Action Images
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