Once again the FA Cup rolls around and Leeds United don’t take it seriously. How many times must we under-estimate smaller sides and show them a disservice by selecting a totally rotated squad? It’s unusual. If Leeds aren’t taking it seriously, then say so before the fixture and we fans can manage our expectations. Without being told that it’s a competition Leeds simply don’t care about, we watch it expecting the club to attempt to win. Which I did. And win we didn’t.
Much like against Sutton last season, the team selection screamed “look at the lack of depth” ahead of properly entering the transfer window. The selection included Borthwick-Jackson at left back, Berardi (captain) at centre back partnering Shaughnessy, with Anita at right back. Midfield was in a flat-four was the lesser seen Klich alongside Phillips, with Cibicki and Sacko on the wings. Up front we had Lasogga and Grot.
The selection was clearly a combination of offering fringe players the opportunity to impress and making a statement about the limited quality outside of the first team. In earnest, it was a total shambles.
Berardi was the only player who could hold his head high, though it will haunt me until my dying day that he finally scored a senior goal in a meaningless game against Newport. He was ever-present as a marauding centre-back but his tenacious spirit and leadership couldn’t transform him into 10 other players. Klich and Phillips had a difficult game, with the ball often hoofed over their heads for Grot/Lasogga to lose. Anita was entirely outclassed by his League Two opponent, begging the question as to how he won a title in that position. Borthwick-Jackson looked slow, apathetic, incapable and utterly undeserving of a place at Leeds. Cibicki couldn’t make anything stick and Sacko was Sacko; a lot of running with no final product.
Thomas Christiansen had said that Leeds didn’t need more options in attack, as the squad he possessed is sufficient to get promoted. Having seen Lasogga and Grot enough times now, I wholeheartedly disagree.
Lasogga does have quality, but I struggle to abide by his lazy movement and selfish nature. Grot is woefully short of the quality required at this level, let alone the top end of the table. He’s young and he’s got huge physical ability, but he simply hasn’t learned how to apply it. Grot needs to be loaned out for a season or two, or at least cut his teeth in the development squad. The fact he’s often thrown onto the pitch with the first team is a problem because he’s simply not good enough. If Roofe gets injured then I think we’re going to have problems. Some might say it’s unkind to judge players based on a scrappy game on a rugby pitch in a competition the club simply weren’t taking seriously, but let me argue against that for a moment.
If you’re a professional footballer and you believe yourself deserving of a place in the first team – then you should be giving 100% effort to demonstrate your value. Too many players weren’t grafting. Equally, when you talk about the conditions, a friend plays amateur football with an ex-Premiership footballer and even on these ropey pitches, he says that it’s incredible how much better a top player is compared to everyone else. This difference in quality should be noticeable between Championship and League Two.
Another travesty of the day was deploying Samu Saiz onto a bobbly pitch; a game he was as likely to get his leg broken as he was anything constructive. True enough, he was soon dismissed for spitting, a crime that could see him miss 6 league games, which is another huge cost from a wasted game in the cup.
Thomas Christiansen is always coy when asked about signings because in reality it’s not his remit, but the party line from the club is that minimal activity is expected because January is a bad window to conduct activity and the squad is sufficient. It’s a shame, really, because the areas we know are weak are ones we knew needed investment in the Summer, so I don’t buy the argument that January is a bad time to strengthen when this is a situation you’ve created for yourself.
We still need to replace Wood’s goals and it’s impossible to argue that Grot and Lasogga achieve this (or Ekuban, but he’s perma-injured). Roofe is doing well but it’s obvious that without him, it’s very much rolling the dice. It’s good that Leeds are looking at signing a dedicated left-back, but there’s so much more needed for this squad to be genuinely competitive. We’ll only see in the coming days what happens, but I hope we’ve learned from the mistakes of last January. I really do.