With an exciting game against Sheffield United looming so soon after a spirited win against Bristol City, it was rather interesting that TC elected to label the game as a 6-pointer. For so many years we’ve been taught to expect very little from Leeds United – how many consecutive seasons were managers and head coaches writing the entire year off by February and echoing the tired “building for next season” message? It was actually nice to hear someone talk about the importance of such games early in the season because he’s right.
If you are to finish in the playoffs, then you not only need to beat the Burton’s of this league, but you must also win points against those around you. The 3-0 win against Bristol City was an important marker in this thought process – doubly so after the loss against Cardiff. Critics had written our good start off because we hadn’t encountered any of the “top” sides, but we’ve played some now. Sheffield United is another fine test because they’re in superb form and still carrying the momentum that got them promoted last season. TC was right to label this an important game, because a loss could see a competitor 7 points above us. While this is obviously not the end of the world in a very long season, it’s too easy to trivialise the significance of losing ground on your peers. So much so that we’ve been guilty of it too many times.
“It’s just a point, there’s still 10 games left to go” is how we rationalised last season’s collapse of form when it mattered most. The same thing is easily done here, losing to Sheffield is like losing to Cardiff – it won’t make or break our season on its own, but you shouldn’t down-play the significance of a potential 6-point swing when you’re contesting for position with other strong sides. Especially when clubs like Villa have found their feet (even if others like Boro haven’t yet).
It’s nice that the squad mostly picks itself, too. TC did drop hints today that he might try a formation that utilises 3 at the back against the Blades (a formation they favour) with Berardi suspended for breaking Matty Taylor’s nose (though no sign of damage in their cup game suggested this to be total nonsense, the Swiss adonis is still suspended). In lieu of a natural left-back, playing 3 centre-backs might be a sensible alternative.
I won’t discuss the Leicester game much, mostly because it’s fairly meaningless. It’s a shame that the League Cup is so maligned, but I wouldn’t ever write off a 6-pointer against Sheffield in order to play a stronger side in the cup. In essence, it is merely an opportunity for TC to allow fringe players to make a case for their first-team inclusion and in that way alone, it has been a worthwhile exercise.
Grot looks raw; talented, physical and filled with potential, but a long way short of a viable Lasogga alternative. Cibicki, too, looks a long way from applying pressure to the likes of Dallas or even Sacko. While it’s no bad thing to have depth in the squad in areas we haven’t previously, it’s perilous that we’re still light up-front. While Roofe may have deputised there acceptably against Forest and Ekuban hasn’t looked awful in the brief stints we’ve seen, Lasogga is a class above both in the solo striker role and an injury to him could be problematic. Though we at least have the benefit of having multiple goal-scorers this season, so at least the risk is mitigated somewhat by that load being distributed.
The final note worth discussing about Leicester is the unfortunate case of Felix Wiedwald. When presented with an opportunity to demonstrate his value to the first team he underwhelmed again. That’s not to write him off as a candidate, because Rob Green made numerous catastrophic mistakes early in his time at Leeds and later went on to become one of our best players. This isn’t about simple handling errors though, but the space between his ears. His inability or cowardice to claim balls and position himself accordingly (or to deflect the ball out of dangerous zones) makes him a very difficult goalkeeper to love. While Andy Lonergan isn’t ever going to be goalkeeper of the year, his 6/10 performances are a more solid and predictable foundation to build from. Felix isn’t going to get anywhere near this first team with performances like his of late.
But let’s not discuss this any further. Sheffield awaits.
Felix Wiedwald trying to come to claim a ball. pic.twitter.com/wcCWd8ckH1
— I Hate Leeds (@ihatelufc) October 24, 2017