An away fixture against a side not only above us in the league but unbeaten at home wouldn’t be top of my wish-list, especially when we’re on a run of 3 consecutive defeats. With social media awash with tactical insight and rampant displeasure, it created a volatile environment in which TC was under pressure. The suggestion was that a shift in formation was the most likely solution to our obvious woes, but it’s hard to experiment with new systems against a side who have been notoriously difficult to beat.
I often refer to Leicester’s title-winning season as an exercise in desire; they won games because they wanted it more than the sides they came up against. They weren’t better than their peers on a man-for-man basis, but 11 people fighting longer and harder than the other 11 will win more than they lose. This applies to us this season too. Leeds have lost games not entirely because of a formation or a tactical system, but because the desire started to wane. Whether that’s through complacency, arrogance, fatigue or something else, it was obvious.
The way Leeds stormed out of the stocks against Bristol City was testament to the desire that had found its way back into their heads and hearts. Asserting ourselves on them with a slightly more combative squad (Phillips, O’Kane and Vieira making up a midfield 3, with Kalvin pushed further forwards – sacrificing some of the flair offered by Hernandez) worked, as we pulled their back-line into twists.
Saiz scored a deflected goal after a clever back-heel from Lasogga. Minutes later a slick breakaway resulted in a perfectly weighted through-ball from O’Kane to Alioski, who split their back-line running through on goal. A flurry of bodies lay before the ball, which rolled recklessly back to Saiz who lifted it into the net. The Spanish wizard was a yard short of sealing his hat-trick when a ball fired across the area was just just beyond his outstretched leg. Leeds secured the win from a Kalvin Phillips corner being beautifully weighted onto Lasogga’s head at the near post, who glanced the ball into the goal.
Lasogga was good value for his goal, too, having worked tirelessly for the team. He, like most others, looked a totally different entity than he did against Reading. The extra yard of effort, the extra tenacity, the competition for the second ball, it was all better. From everyone.
The biggest mistake of the day came from Matty Taylor who took issue with an attempted challenge made by handsome Swiss madman Gaetano Berardi. In leaping to his feet and storming towards the adonis of a left-back it was like watching a harmless chicken dance into the lion enclosure. “Don’t peck at the lion’s tail, Mr Chicken, because it’ll end badly”. End badly it did, as Matty Taylor stamped towards Berardi in a confrontational manner, his face was met with the Swiss lunatic’s face, and when an entirely stoppable force meets an entirely unbreakable object, the stoppable force will drop to the turf clutching its face.
Taylor rolled around the grass like he had taken a cricket ball to a very delicate area between the legs, his teammates swarmed around the solitary Leeds player. Fortunately Liam Cooper sprinted into the fray to prevent Berardi from beating the entire Bristol City squad to death, while chaos ensued. Berardi removed a single boot, presumably to use as a force multiplier in the upcoming melee, while Jansson attempted to fight the entire Bristol bench. A red card for each culprit seemed an unusually symmetrical solution to the problem.
Annoyingly, Berardi will now be suspended for a few games but comparisons to Cooper’s careless incident against Cardiff is unfounded. Berardi was dismissed on the 80th minute when Leeds were 3 goals up. Cooper was dismissed at half time when Leeds were trailing 2-0. Very different situations. Not that I endorse violent conduct, but the impact of the action matters hugely and Berardi’s did us no harm.
And on we go. Leicester City on Tuesday and yet another difficult league game on Friday against the Blades – another side above us. Then Derby. Then Brentford. This is one relentless run of games and if we can perform against those sides like we did against Bristol, then the dream is very much alive.