Despite results in January, only two wins in five games, there was still an overwhelming feeling of positivity around the club. Come Saturday morning though a lot of Leeds fans were anxious wrecks, I mean what kind of sadist moves one of the biggest games of the season to 5.30pm? There was much said about the game being ‘must win’, it is certainly the biggest game we have played in since promotion back to the Championship, but was it really a ‘must win’? Having not won, worse than that lost, should we be worried?
Winning would have been a massive boost, we’d be top by six points with a little bit of momentum restored after winning two in a row. Had Norwich had lost they would have only had one win in the last five and I’m sure there would have been just as much soul searching in Norfolk as there is in West Yorkshire right now. Whilst losing, and so emphatically, is a massive knock what is more concerning is our recent form but what is important is the way we respond.
Aside from the Derby game we have not looked convincing for a couple of months. The comebacks against Blackburn and Aston Villa were inspired and amazing but hardly convincing, assured performances. We had to come from behind against Rotherham and haven’t won by more than a goal since the Bristol City game, and that was after they went down to ten men. All important, characterful wins but not hitting the highs of earlier in the season. Bielsa is clearly concerned about how clinical we are up front and recent defensive lapses but takes full responsibility…
If we take into account the fact that we were leading the Championship, to lose four games out of six is something we can’t ignore.
In every game we have difficulties to score goals. We usually create many chances and score few goals. The number of chances we need to score is worse than the teams at the bottom of the table. We were strong because we had a good defensive side but we have lost that now. We made avoidable mistakes and the consequences of these mistakes were goals. It’s hard for us to score goals and at the same time we have lost our defensive strength. You see that in the results.
In everything that happens to the team, the head coach is responsible. All the negative things that happen are the responsibility of the head coach. We have good players and skilful players but in the last few games I haven’t made the right choice. I think I am deeply responsible.
We can't say that the performance was satisfactory. We couldn't take advantage of the positive moments we created and as we lost the ball in front of our box we made it easier for the opponent to attack. We made mistakes and it was hard for us to neutralise the skill of the opponent. The combination of these aspects made it hard.
The stats backup the concerns of Beilsa and a large number of fans too, Leeds had 63% possession against Norwich and had 21 shots to Norwich’s 14. And that has been the pattern recently, if not all season. Leeds had as much of the game early on as Norwich with chances a plenty. But failing to convert any and conceding after poor errors gave Norwich the momentum which they took full advantage off. With defensive lapses creeping in the fact we need more chances to convert than other teams in the league is meaning what would have been wins or draws earlier in the season are now loses.
There are positives to take though, Leeds still dominate possession and number of chances in the majority of games. If they can convert more of those chances loses can be turned into victories and the answer to that problem may be near at hand. Patrick Bamford returned to first team action and scored within 30 minutes. Combines with Izzy Brown making his presence felt for the U23s they could both make a valuable impact during the remainder of the season. On Saturday’s EFL on Quest show, when asked if Leeds should hit the panic button ex Norwich striker Dean Ashton said...
Not at all. You don’t need to panic. They’ve got quality in the side, they’ve got character that they showed against Rotherham and you’re going to go through these little patches where you lose games. I think they’ll come back just as strong and they’ll be right up there because it’s going to go right to the wire. No team is going to run away with it.
Leeds responded well after the last thrashing they took, winning seven games in a row after losing 4-1 to West Brom in November, they need to bounce back in a similar way this time. Bielsa has taken full responsibility for the Norwich result, but like many this weekend was the first time I had really questioned his team selection and substitutions. It seems no coincidence that since Kalvin Phillips moved out of the defensive midfield role we have been weaker at the back and slower to break forward. Perhaps his move back to his midfield role could the impetus we need to get going again.
Saturday was humbling, we were second best after Norwich scored and they deserved the win. But this is a competitive league, every team has and will have their highs and lows. What matters is how we bounce back. Whilst Norwich have a fairly easy Norfolk derby Sheffield United have a tough away game against Aston Villa, a win for Leeds against Middlesbrough could put some distance between us and the Blades. If we lose, there will undoubtedly be a lot of worrying about a scrap in the play-offs but there is a long way to go yet and plenty more twists and turns to come.
Join the discussion in the Should We Be Worried? thread on our discussion forums.