How does Thomas Christiansen stop the rot?
Tuesday, 17th Oct 2017 18:28 by Tim Whelan
With Leeds facing another difficult game at Bristol City on Saturday, the head coach urgently needs to assess where things have gone wrong in recent weeks.
Before the game on Saturday I was hoping that the international break had given Thomas Christiansen the chance to assess where we had gone wrong during the three consecutive defeats we had suffered away from home, and that we could get that out of our system and bounce back with a decent win over Reading. But instead of that we got a side that seemed to be totally lacking in confidence, and could possibly have lost faith in the manager’s tactics. The players seemed a bit fed up with having to go round in circles tying to play out from the back, but had to persist with it because that’s what they had been told to do.
So it was a bit disconcerting to hear that the head coach thought that Leeds had been unlucky to lose, as we certainly weren’t, as it was a performance that was lacking in any sort of urgency until the closing stages, and by then we could have been behind by more than the one goal. Lonegran had to make two good saves before Reading finally scored, and that goal was conceded when the defence switched off and seemed more concerned with appealing for a foul than with tracking Barrow’s run. We had no width until Sacko came on, and although I’ve been critical of him (as usually there is no end product after his runs down the wing) at least he looked interested. Saiz was the only other player looking to drive us forward, but after he’d won us the penalty that should have saved the game, Hernandez’ poor spot kick summed up the whole afternoon.
Pontus Jansson took to Instagram last night to give a very honest assessment of our recent form. “Last few weeks has been tough, things hasn’t gone in the way that we all wanted and I personally have been s***. But we all want the same thing now, going back and win games, and the only way to go is hard work, 100 per cent. Stay together everyone and we will for sure come back.” And this forthright admission appear to have been liked by both Lasogga and Saiz. Lasogga himself has been quoted by the press in Germany as being unhappy at the downturn in our fortunes, but hopefully this isn’t a sign of discontent with life at Leeds in general or a sign of any unrest in the camp. We wouldn’t really expect or want players to be delighted after a few poor results.
Thomas Christiansen gave a more measured assessment of the current situation when he spoke to the Yorkshire Post “I believe in my ideas. Of course we have to analyse the situation – what we can improve – and if the way we can improve has to be through a change in the system, we will change. These players can play in the same system or another one. The matter is to find a solution and to come back to winning.” It would help if he could move to a plan B during a game, to change the system to move to something a bit more direct rather than persist with tactics that clearly aren’t working. On Saturday he made one change that most of us had called for, by bringing Lonegran in to replace Wiedwald, but quite a few Leeds fans are now suggesting that it’s time for Vieira to get a game to give our midfield a bit more of a physical presence.
Now Eddie Gray has joined the chorus of those calling for Vieira to be recalled “You’ve got to have a certain amount of physical strength in this league. That doesn’t mean you can’t play or you can’t accommodate players with flair but most Championship games are a hard, physical challenge. “For me it comes down how well the players are dominating games. We’re not overpowering teams in the midfield and I think Thomas might have to have a rethink now. Personally, I think there are times when we need three in the middle of the park – another body to make sure that if it is a battle, we can win it. It’s that extra bit of strength and insurance and in my opinion that means playing (Ronaldo) Vieira. He’s only young but I don’t think his age makes a difference to his quality or his strength. The boy can bring a bit of physicality to the team, which I think they need at the moment.”
Gray also thinks our tactics have become far too predictable. “There was a lack of confidence against Reading, I think we could all see that, and the football was too slow. You cause trouble for teams, and in fairness this Leeds side have caused trouble for teams, when you get in behind them but we’re finding that harder to do. He wants his team to pass out from the back, you can see that, but the passing has to be quicker. It was slow coming out and every time, players were picking their heads up and seeing Reading lined up in front of them with no space in behind. With the type of player we’ve got, we have to be moving the ball at pace. Confidence helps but the confidence is probably down because the system isn’t quite working. The season’s settled now and teams have had a chance to have a good look at us now. The teams we’ve played recently knew what to do.” And that observation is confirmed by a quote from Reading manager Jaap Stam. “We knew how they’d play. “They can make it difficult if you give them space. Sometimes teams have to play it back to their goalie, which they don’t like.”
And up front Lasogga struggled to offer much against Reading, and never looked like winning much in the air, before his 77th. minute substitution by the even more ineffectual Grot. The German had a great start against Burton Albion, but in hindsight that might have just been down to the poor quality of the opposition, as the Brewers have suffered two other tonkings since, and would expect them to remain at the wrong end of the table for the rest of the season. But we could soon have another option up front, as Caleb Ekuban will soon be back to fitness for the first time since he suffered a foot injury at Sunderland in August. I’ll have to admit that I have yet to see him in action (having been on holiday in the USA during the two games he played for us) but I’ve read good things about him, so I’d like to see him get a chance once he’s back.
Let’s hope that Christiansen is willing to make the changes we need to the personnel and the tactics, not least for the sake of all of us who are making the effort to drag ourselves all the way down to Bristol on Saturday. Otherwise I fear it could be another of those tough games when we go down to yet another morale-sapping defeat, and slip even further down the table.
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