We’ve had a week to lick our wounds and argue on Twitter, so it’s only right we anticipate tomorrow’s unexpectedly high-profile clash with Bristol City through the lens of tactical changes. It’s clear that TC needs to shift tactic and presumably formation too in order to right the obvious wrongs that several teams have now cheerfully exploited. When Berardi cautiously told LUTV that he wished for fans to make more positive noises, it’s clear how toxic negativity can really be.
It’s easy to forget that Leeds are still 6th and that a good result tomorrow will make us focus on upward trajectory rather than the perilous fall that awaits us if we lose our footing. Though let me be clear; our objectively excellent league position is no excuse or justification for utterly sub-standard, soulless, gutless and shamefully fragile performances in the last 3-4 games. Fans are right to be upset at the relative ease with which beatable sides have steam-rolled Leeds United of late. We should be annoyed in spite of our league position – because you simply don’t retain a place in the playoffs without being consistently good.
So what does this mean for the weekend? Well, hopefully it means a different tactical system. As I wrote last time out, if you attend an interview and present a dossier of tactical changes you’d have made to turn around poor games in the previous campaign, it’s only right that we expect the same level of insight and proactive management when you’re in the role. In lieu of a sequence of results so bad it harks back to a time when Steve Evans was a swollen mass in the dugout, fist-pumping ill-deserved equalisers and employing Toumani Diagouraga to pass the ball sideways as many times as possible within 90 minutes.
Without the ability to read TC’s mind, social media has been awash with frenzied conjecture as to what system Leeds might employ tomorrow. The most common (and least likely) view is that Leeds will play a 3-4-1-2 kind of formation, with 3 central defenders, wing-backs, two in central midfield, a CAM and two up-top. While this seems to be a desirable thing from most, I don’t see how it solves many of our problems – namely, the fact that we’re losing control in the middle of the park.
An alternative thought is to play a 4-3-2-1 formation, though you either lose the width or lose the CAMs. Therein lies the first real challenge TC must face – which aspect do you sacrifice in order to achieve greater rigidity?
To play 3 at the back do you employ Pennington, Cooper and Jansson (as natural CB’s), meaning that Berardi and Ayling drop to the bench (when both have been playing well). To pack more bodies into midfield you either need to sacrifice width or the CAM role – which essentially means you’re needing to choose between Alioski and Saiz. Unless you play Alioski at full-back meaning Ayling/Dallas are overlooked at right/left respectively.
Who gets picked in central midfield? If you play 3 in the middle it seems obvious that you’d employ Eunan O’Kane, Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira, though given the dip in form of Kalvin maybe someone else should get the nod. But Klich hasn’t seemed ready yet. Do you put Shaughnessy in there as a more static “disruptor”, knowing he has looked good in defence and has played in midfield for Reading? Do you put Anita in his preferred role of defensive midfielder? These are all entirely valid questions.
What would I do? Let me show you.
I would entertain 3 at the back, purely to see if it works. But then based on TC’s latest interview, I don’t imagine we’ll see anything of the sort:
Christiansen says only Ekuban out of contention this weekend. Isn’t hinting at a big switch in personnel/formation. #lufc
— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) October 20, 2017
Otherwise, if we stick to the formation we’ve been working with so far this season, this is what I’d be doing:
So we’ll see. All I care about is 3 points.