Leeds United - Opinion: Ronaldo the catalyst for resurgence
Friday, 27th Oct 2017 14:38 by @LucasMonk_
The return of 19-year-old Ronaldo Vieira to the Leeds United starting eleven yielded a superlative victory away to Bristol City that confounded all expectation; should head coach Thomas Christiansen elect to afford him further starts, United will stand to benefit and reap the subsequent reward of crucial points in their quest to secure a play-off berth this season.
Prior to last Saturday's rather excellent performance against Bristol City at Ashton Gate, three consecutive Championship defeats - to Cardiff City, Sheffield Wednesday and Reading respectively - had sapped from many Leeds United supporters the appreciable optimism that had been instilled into their minds by a sprightly start to the season.
In those three matches in which they were deservedly vanquished, United produced arid, insipid and impetuous performances. A defence that had been steadfast and dependable, and had mercilessly marked several potent attackers into silence, became porous and ceded seven goals in those three fixtures. Leeds' vanguard fared no better, with one goal scored, but most conspicuous in those contests was an abject absence of defensive steel and tenacity in midfield.
Kalvin Phillips and Eunan O'Kane are both indefatigable players who have no qualms about running themselves into the ground for the United cause, but neither are tough-tackling, no-nonsense enforcers capable of providing defensive aid by halting opposition attacks and regaining and recycling possession. Indeed, the only such player at Thomas Christiansen's disposal is Ronaldo Vieira.
After recuperating from a minor knee injury, Vieira had conferred upon him by Christiansen a first Championship start of the season at Ashton Gate. The youthful midfielder from Guinea-Bissau functioned as the rightmost player of a central midfield trio, as Christiansen displayed an alacrity to alter his tactical methods in pursuit of victory by adopting a 4-3-3 formation.
Disposing of an attacking midfielder to allow for Vieira's inclusion was perhaps one of the most judicious and pragmatic decisions undertaken by a United head coach for a great many years, and to suggest so is not in any way to be guilty of employing hyperbole. Leeds retained the creative aptitude of Samu Sáiz, Ezgjan Alioski and Pierre-Michel Lasogga while also possessing recourse to Vieira for imperative defensive support. The final score not only spoke volumes concerning the efficacy of Christiansen's tactics, but also the influence of the 19-year-old.
All of Vieira's attempted tackles proved successful, and he enjoyed 65 touches of the ball. He utilised his vigour and muscle to devastating effect and ensured that the Bristol City strikers were divested of any adequate ammunition, while permitting O'Kane and Phillips to venture into the opposition's half with greater regularity - United's 3-0 victory was founded upon Vieira's endeavours in the middle of the park.
Vieira brought to Leeds defensive solidity, tenacity, aggression and abrasiveness in the challenge. All attributes that were absent in the sorrowful trinity of successive defeats that preceded what was a wholly merited win over the division's dark horse, and all attributes required to mount a concerted challenge for the play-off positions.
Vieira's inclusion last weekend brought to an end a barren run; his continued selection could quite feasibly assist in precipitating a lengthy unbeaten run in the Championship to propel Leeds toward glory come the season's end.
Photo: Action Images
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