After Saturday’s disappointing performance, which by no means was a poor result, it looks like this season has become all about trying, like last season, to make a positive finish to the season. Or perhaps making sure we stay in the football news at Bet Hut for the right reasons, not for off the field antics. In July, when predictions where made, being in the position we are in by February, probably would have been seen as a disappointment. I never really felt we had a realistic chance of the top 6, however, I did think we would be much closer to the top 6 than we have been for the last 4 seasons prior to this season. In reality our top 6 chances became unrealistic by the end of October/November.
After wins over Everton (even if it was pre season), the first 30 minutes of our game vs Burnley in terms of how we played and the electrifying start we made to that game (on the opening day) and of course the brilliant win at Derby. I found it even more surprising the pattern the season has followed for Leeds this season. We are not miles away from my initial prediction of 11th, however, it is now looking unlikely. I would also say if you look at the 8 objectives I spoke about in September. None of these have been achieved/ look likely to be achieved. However, that doesn’t mean 2016-2017, has to follow the same pattern here are 5 ways, I think 2016-2017 can be more successful.
1. Establish If We Have The Right Head Coach
Steve Evans has at times impressed me during his 23 games (so far) in charge. However, if you did an overall summary of Evans first 23 games, I would say results have been marginally below par and so have performances (way below par at times.) However, if I was the board (I may be wrong on this but I think Evans deal expires in June 2016 might be wrong on this one apologies In advance) I would meet with Steve this week and say to him, we have 15 games to go if you achieve 23 points from those 15, you will lead us into next season. And keep it that simple, this way Steve is in no doubt what he has to achieve to be at the club next season. If Steve does not achieve 23 points from 15 games then that suggests to me he is not the right coach. Steve needs time though at the moment.
2. Find the right style of football
It is difficult to explain the style we are playing under Steve, some games it seems possession based, some games it is about running at the opposition and getting the ball into the box and occasionally it has even been a case of long ball. I honestly don’t know our best style, however, when we find a style which suits us and allows wins us games deservedly (Hull (H), Wolves (A) and Bolton (A)), then we should stick to this style in my opinion. It would suggest to me the style we played with in those games was our best style.
3. Test things out
In terms of players and formations, Casper Sloth for example, has been playing well for the under 21’s and scoring goals (something we desperately need) why not give him a chance? I would also like to see Lee Erwin, Luke Murphy and Jordan Botaka plus any of our promising players from the academy given some chances between now and the end of the season. Lewis Coyle, could be a difficult one as with Berardi returning now/soon it will be difficult to give him many chances. However, I think (again could be wrong) Coyle can play at right midfield as well, so that could be a solution to giving Lewis Coyle more chances in the first team? Formation wise why not test out the 3-5-2, in my opinion we have the two best full backs in the league (Taylor and Berardi) so why not allow them to play as full backs? Other formations could be tested as well. If we find a player out of Sloth/Murphy/Erwin/Botaka/Coyle, who appears good enough to start next season it is one less risk we have to take on making another signing.
4. Develop an understanding between Alex Mowatt and Chris Wood
This is going to be very key in my opinion, with both nearing a return to the starting 11 (from what I have read.) Allowing Alex Mowatt and Chris Wood to develop a good understanding is key, especially if we are going to keep using the 4-2-3-1. As I would imagine, Mowatt would be playing as a number 10 and would be playing just behind Chris Wood. The reason I think it is key between these 2 players is, that they are our 2 most likely goal sources at the moment as far as I am concerned. Alex Mowatt, as we all probably know by now can shoot from distance and has scored some incredible goals from distance. Chris Wood, is a goal scorer when he gets chances (something Alex Mowatt can provide him with) and creates chances for others and links up well with the midfield (something which can help Alex Mowatt to get the ball in the right area for him to have more long range shots.)
So, surely it is important for these 2 players to play as close to each other as possible. We have seen Arsenal, with Ozil and Giroud have great success with developing the link between their best number 10 and Centre Forward. Wood is a championship version of Giroud in my opinion, with his link up play and ability to create chances. And even at Chelsea with Lampard and Drogba. I am not comparing Mowatt with Ozil and Lampard or Wood with Giroud or Drogba. However, at Championship level I feel the 2 of them definitely have the potential to become one of the most feared combinations in the league.
5. Start planning now for the summer and identify areas to strengthen
Signing Liam Bridcutt permanently is going to be crucial in my view (he has been absolutely exceptional since signing on loan, he is a brilliant tackler, a leader, has plenty of experience at this level and is unbelievably calm on the ball.) Attributes which are very very useful in the championship. Keeping Charlie Taylor (the best left back in the league and our best crosser of the ball in my opinion, our version of Luke Shaw would be a perfect description), Cook, Mowatt and Wood is also vital for next season. At the moment I would say our areas to strengthen our at centre back, on both wings and maybe add another striker as well if we plan to play 2 up front, this could change but at the moment that’s 4 areas where we need to strengthen. At centre back, Bellusci has been brilliant over the last few weeks and has improved this season.
Cooper has also improved form wise, however, he still makes occasional mistakes during games sadly and Sol Bamba has lost a lot of form this season. So maybe we need a new centre back, with Bellusci/Cooper and maybe even Bamba (if his form improves) competing for a place next to the new signing. In terms of wingers this season, I haven’t been at all convinced sadly by any of them at the moment. Dallas, has managed quite a few assists, however, has struggled for consistency all season and I can only think of 3 excellent performances (Huddersfield, Hull and Wolves) during his 30+ appearances, with the rest being mostly average performances sadly. Botaka, has impressed at times, however, I am unsure how many goals or assists he could really manage for Leeds, as I said he needs to be given a chance, however. Carayol, has done ok but has been inconsistent, he does seem to be able to get goals, however, I think he needs to do a little bit more for us to make the move permanent. Personally, I think we need to sign 2 wingers who are experienced at championship level and have a track record of scoring goals or making assists (or both).
The modern winger appears to be expected to score goals now, hence, the criticism Eden Hazard and Memphis Depay have received this season. Chris Wood has done well this season, however, Antenucci/Doukara/Erwin have struggled to impress or take advantage of the various chances Wood creates this season in my opinion. So maybe we need to sign an extra back up striker/ a striker who can play up front alongside Chris Wood. This could all change, however, and if the players I have criticised find form during the last 15 games, my opinion will probably change.
Thanks for reading the article, Please feel free to comment on:
What you thought about the article? Or if there are any other points you would add to the 5 I have made?