There was a painful sense of inevitability around Thomas Christiansen’s job status come the end of Saturday’s hammering by Cardiff. Similar to that of Simon Grayson after a home thumping by Birmingham, there just felt like there was no way back.
The 4-1 defeat at the hands of Warnock’s Cardiff was an odd one. Personally I didn’t think we were appalling (although some of our defending for the goals was criminal) and at the very least we should have been level before Cardiff got their second goal but it was the same old failings for Leeds, unable to convert chances into goals, gifting opportunities to the opposition and a fatal lack of discipline.
Without doubt, Christiansen has been let down by those above him and those who played for him. As we have previously published, Orta and the board have supplied Christiansen with some good players and a lot of average ones. And those players who have taken to the pitch have been culpable of some moments of madness (Saiz v Newport and O’Kane v Ipswich just two examples of ill-discipline) which have effectively derailed our season.
I don’t think the board should have spoken so openly about how they believe this squad is good enough for the top six, whilst we have a team who are more than capable of being competitive in this division, to say we should be in the top six without fail is madness. If anything Christiansen has fallen victim of a magnificent start to the season which saw Leeds top the Championship for a short while, there’s nowhere to go but down from there…
Injuries, suspensions and dodgy recruitment have cost Christiansen but to say that’s the only reason he lost his job would be wrong. Unfortunately, we were found out tactically and havn’t really worked out a plan B on how to counter it. In my mind, Millwall were the first team to work us out; a strong, physical team how bullied us out of the Den that day, what was worrying was we all knew what to expect, even Christiansen but he rather bullishly stuck to what had worked in games before. History will tell you that you need to be adaptable and willing to change things if you are to survive in this league. Another toothless display away to Sheffield Wednesday followed (a team who were low on confidence themselves) and fans were starting to worry about our displays, at the time it seemed rather premature but it was the manner of these defeats that stuck in the mind, we have seen enough of Leeds over the last decade or so to know weaknesses and our open formation, particularly away from home looked far too shaky. Also, our points gained ratio when going behind was terrible, something mentally wasn’t quite right and that might be where out poor discipline record stemmed from.
In fairness to Christiansen, I do think he tried to change things. There was more effort in trying to be compact in midfield to stop team overrunning us and naturally this had an effect on our attacking efforts that seemed so fluid at the start of the season. But as we have previously mentioned, the red cards started to come, individual mistakes were costing us goals and the points were drying up. Since Leeds claimed a come-from-behind victory away at Burton, the performances just haven’t been there and the quality of the squad has been found wanting, especially in attack. Yet it wouldn’t be until midway through the second half on Saturday 3rd when Christiansen took off Lassoga had some fans finally had enough.
That game was a strange one; a poor referee who let a combative side like Cardiff get away with far too much yet we found ourselves on the end of the only red card decision of the game. I don’t think Cardiff were actually that good, it was clear to see their game plan yet we couldn’t stand up to it, the game was lost on our inability to defend our own penalty area and being unable to deal with an obvious threat aerial. It seemed the perfect game to summarise Christiansen’s tenure; a poor start, costly red card, a hint of a fightback that was put down by late goals.
I can’t help but think Christiansen will be a better coach abroad as some of the football we did play was very good and you could see what he was trying to do in implementing a style. But for one reason or another, the board are now left scurrying for a replacement who will have the difficult job of ensuring Leeds’ season doesn’t end with a whimper.