Rumour has it that after the dire run-out against Brentford that only 2 players were safe for selection for the Boro Game this weekend. Samuel Saiz and Ronaldo Vieira.. Make no mistake with The Sunday Mirror reporting that Thomas Christiansen is circling the plughole, with Radrizzani ready to strike should he fail at home to Boro and away at Wolves – it’s make or break time… Our manager – and his squad really do need to pull something special out of the bag if we are to reignite our rapidly fading hopes of promotion.
After 3 years of Massimo Cellino many Leeds fans had got used to the hire and fire cycle, but to his credit Andrea Radrizzani hasn’t conformed to type. Hes backed his manager and squad regularly, but let’s not forget hes by his own admission put £200m into the purchase of Leeds United. Hes bought Elland Road, hes given sensible length contracts to key players, and hes invested in the squad. He means business – the last thing then that he wants is failure, be that 3 more years in the second flight, or worse relegation to league one.
Leeds United’s performances have been dire in the extreme over the last 6 weeks, it cant have been easy viewing for our new owner, so it seems too Christiansen has had enough of his teams outputs – but what can he do…. Let’s examine his options…
Wholesale Change to the First XI
This would seem a risky option on the face of it. It would entail a mixture of a small number of the current first team, but heavy drawdown on our reserves and U23’s. He could now conceivably put Peacock-Farrell in Goal, having returned from his loan. In Defence, it could be an opportunity for Cameron Borthwick-Jackson to stake a claim, for Shaughnessy to partner Jansson, but past that options are limited for different personnel, youre still looking at one from Ayling, Anita or Berardi..
In Midfield there are more options, Klich could partner Vieira and subject to injury Dallas could play on the left wing, with Cibicki on the right, up front we’re again limited, Lasogga is really our only target man – but anyone who saw the Brentford game saw a player at odds with himself, perhaps it’s time for Kemar Roofe to start there in a more central role, or even with Hernandez behind him – how about Saiz as a deeper lying striker – he would cause serious problems running at any defence from there – Sheringham Style…
There are other surprises that could be sprung here though, when you consider whether Sacko might get a run out or even one of the U23’s, Temenuzkhov or Gomes seem to be settling in – but it may be too soon for them both? What does stand out when Christiansen makes noises about only 2 players being safe for the next game (allegedly) is the total lack of depth we have in two key areas – defence and attack. It concerns me that we seem to be looking add yet more attacking midfielders if the papers are to be believed (Jones – Coventry, Cochrane – Hearts, Jozwiak – Lech Poznan)…
Verdict – As appealing as this seems its more likely that some players will up their game in training and make the cut for Saturday, and indeed raise their game against their former boss. But I expect the likes of Roofe, Dallas, Klich and Cibicki to get a run out, likewise Borthwick-Jackson.
A major Change of tactics
Big criticisms have been made pretty much universally of Christiansens `lack of a plan B’ hes stuck to variations of 4-3-2-1, drafting in Vieira seemed to breathe new life into this formation and prompted him to stick with it for a further 3 games.. It clearly isn’t working, either the players aren’t coping with it, or opposition teams are working it out far too easily, or more likely a mixture of both.
Genuinely putting more bodies in the centre of the park to provide cover for our defence seems obvious now – players like Vurnon Anita, and Conor Shaughnessy seem tailor made for a role sat in front of a back two, cutting out attacks early and redistributing the ball effectively – neither has actually played in this (their favoured) position, this season with both undertaking defensive duties – with some success it has to be said at times. Perhaps bolstering this area would make us that bit more solid. Feeding out from the centre to genuine wingmen like Dallas, or even Sacko might be just the ticket. Certainly a more mobile Striker like Roofe would fit the bill in that set up too?
As per suggestion 1, it’d be mouthwatering to see Saiz in his proper No 10 role a deep lying striker, where he seems to play his most effective football. Using Hernandez and Alioski as impact subs after 70 minutes would be a lot for most championship teams to take.
Christiansen could of course adopt a more traditional 4-4-2 using many of these players – they’d be used to it – and understand how to counter Monks tactics through that. It could be that simple is best here?
Verdict – This to me seems the most likely route Christiansen will take as opposed to wholesale changes to his squad. He put great emphasis on his ability to change it up at his interview – and he has to be seen to be able to walk the talk now. I’d say a 4-5-1 is more likely than a 4-4-2 though – he simply won’t want to lose and will park that bus if Boro come at Leeds – which they will.
A Change of roles for players
Christiansen has already been forced into this once – playing Dallas at Left Back against Leicester – it didn’t really work, but we already have plenty of players out of position. Berardi is a right back, Anita a Central midfielder, Roofe a centre forward, even Shaughnessy is a converted midfielder playing ant centre half.
Perhaps its time for horses for courses here. We’re accused non-stop of a lack of aggression, instead of stranding Berardi out of position – why not play him where hes most comfortable to replace an out of sorts Ayling? Why not add some steel to midfield with Anita? Why not let Roofe off the leash up front – he scored 5 didn’t he when we did that last for a couple of games – but he lost his place to Lasogga.
The biggest challenge when you make changes is whether or not you persist with them. What if Leeds do for example go to 4-4-2 – and the team plays well but narrowly loses? Do we persist with that? And start winning again in 2-3 games – that’s the challenge of Christiansens position, he doesn’t seem to have time to make major changes..
Verdict – With Ayling out of sorts and a dire turnout from Lasogga – its not unreasonable to see the likes of Berardi and Roofe getting the nod on Saturday, its unlikely however given the parlous nature of Christiansens position that he will take too many risks..
Reporter | Matthew Brown-Bolton