Auf Wiedersehen, Felix
Monday, 18th Jun 2018 14:48 by Tim Whelan
It’s no surprise that our new head coach has already decided that Felix Wiedwald won’t be part of his plans for the coming season, but a few Leeds fans might be wondering why Eintracht Frankfurt want to take him off our hands.
The Yorkshire Post reported today that even though Marcelo Bielsa wasn’t officially appointed until Friday, he has already spent weeks studying last season’s Leeds United’s matches, and has told a few members of the squad that their services won’t be required in 2018/19. One of those will be Wiedwald, seen by many as completely unreliable as last season unravelled after a promising start.
Wieldwald was signed this time last year and replaced Rob Green as the number one keeper, as coach Thomas Christiansen wanted to try a new fangled idea of having a goalkeeper who was good at distributing the ball from the back. Green promptly went off to Huddersfield in a huff, wanting to sit on the bench in the Premier League rather than the Championship, and we had to resort to re-signing Andy Lonegran as back-up.
So it was that Leeds had lost the spine of the successful Garry Monk side, with Green, Bartley and Wood playing for different clubs by the end of August. For different reasons Leeds weren’t able to retain the services of Bartley and Wood, but the departure of Green was an entirely self-inflicted wound.
At first it didn’t seem to matter, with Wiedwald coming under little pressure as Leeds went to the top of the table, though in hindsight we can see that we had quite an easy run of fixtures at the start of the season. But Wieldwald began to struggle once some of the more physical sides in the Championship learned that the way to play against us was to close us down as we tried to play out from the back.
He struggled in the air, perhaps unused to dealing with the number of crosses we get in the English game, and began to make more mistakes as his confidence suffered. After one of the beambacks at Elland Road I managed to grab a quick word with Norman Hunter, and was glad the great man agreed with me that the basics of goalkeeping were more important than this fancy idea of being good at passing out from the back.
After a few errors too many Wiedwald was dropped and the good old-fashioned English keeper Lonegran was back in the Leeds goal. Lonegran did well in his first couple of games, making some good saves a vital times, but then suffered his own bad spell after a poor night at Brentford, apparently conceding the first goal after losing the flight of the ball in the floodlights.
So Wiedwald was back again, but still the mistakes continued, including a schoolboy error at QPR as he allowed the ball to pass over his head into the net. Finally the hew head coach Paul Heckinbottom could take no more, and Wiedwald was dropped, and with Lonegran injured there was no choice but to play young Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
And thankfully BPF was excellent during the closing games of the season, so there was to be no third spell in the first team for Wiedwald. It’s possible that Peacock-Farrell will still be the first choice keeper next season, though Leeds are said to be trying to get Manchester City’s Angus Gunn on a season-long loan. The YEP report that signing Birmingham’s David Stockdale is unlikely, as we can’t agree on how much his wages should be.
So it seems inevitable that we’ve seen the last of Wiedwald at Elland Road, and one of his former clubs Eintracht Frankfurt are said to be interested in signing him. Frankfurt have lost last season’s first choice keeper, as Lukas Hradecky has chosen to move to Bayer Leverkusen as his contract expired.
Wiedwald still wouldn’t be sure of first team football, as Frankfurt have already signed Frederik Ronnow, so maybe looking to Felix just as a backup or to ‘provide competition’. But there is no doubt that a return to Germany would be a good move for all parties, as Wiedwald looks to be far better suited to the slightly less physical world of continental football.
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