Darko Milanic gave himself possibly one of the worst starts imaginable in his first game in charge. Brentford having shipped seven in their last two games, ran the show against Leeds with embarrassing ease at times on Saturday. Lets not forget their ‘newbie’ status in the Championship, and of course Leeds form going into the game. To all but the most negative pundits this one had the look of a three pointer for Leeds.
And yet. Leeds did what they’ve been doing for four seasons now. They took an eminently winnable game and completely lost control of it.
Players previously on form (stand up Rodolph Austin and Lewis Cook) looked completely off the pace, and at times out of their depth. They weren’t alone Antenucci and Doukara did little to dig out chances for themselves either.
Milanic may well have sounded like he was trotting out clichés, but it was indeed good for him to see this Leeds performance, because by crikey he needs to stop them doing this. 2 and 3 game runs are great, but let’s not lose sight of our objective here – getting promoted. We need to be putting together 9 and 10 game runs, and Leeds just seem incapable of that.
The issue of width has again popped up. Leeds had little to show in the formation deployed on Saturday. Byram and Warnock were the wide men to all intents and purposes, and certainly the former of the two seems to be a lot less ‘buccaneering’ in his runs forward these days. Bianchi, Mowatt, Cook and Austin are not wingers, nor are our two front men. But this formation did work well in the previous 3 games so pinpointing the issue for Milanic is going to be critical here.
There seemed to be a good deal of consternation over the usage of Murphy and Tonge as subs, when many of the Leeds faithful wanted to see Sharp and Adryan even featuring on the bench, I’d tend to agree with that sentiment, Leeds aren’t necessarily lacking width, when I’ve watched some of their worst displays (take your pick),it’s the lack of invention that kills them. A player like Mowatt creates width with his range of passing when he’s on his game, likewise Cook, namely they find space with their passing out wide for strikers to run on to.
Leeds play well in a 4-3-3 because of this, but there does need to be that creative outlet. Hockaday, paralysed by his fear of failure, no doubt plumped for a solid sideways passing midfield of Tonge, Murphy and Austin, Bianchi the odd man out and none of them really pressing the opposition back line. Milanic’s use of Tonge and Murphy belies an understandable caution not to make matters worse when you’re 2-0 down. That said why not throw on Benedicic or Adryan? Or Sharp? (because none were on the bench..) Why on earth did Morison get the nod over Sharp? Those are questions only the manager can answer. Redfearn reintroduced Cook and Mowatt (to great effect) but lets not completely do down Milanic here, horses for courses, neither player was doing well on Saturday and there needed to be a change in approach.
I fully expect to see a different Leeds when we line up against Reading. Milanic will have had a full week to review his best players by that point, and has already iterated his intention to entertain and attack. He has a good range of players here (well documented) but it was interesting that he identified the midfield as letting him down, when Leeds fail they do so here. This is perhaps where we will see our style change.
Lets not forget we have really yet to see what Benedicic, Adryan, Sharp and Ajose have to offer in real terms, a new man at the helm may well mean a genuinely new start, with accompanying bumps and delays. Good Luck Darko.
Reporter – Matthew Brown – Bolton