It might have been only a pre-season game but new Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa treated it as more than just a friendly kick-a-round on a Sunday afternoon.
The Argentinian took his usual 15 down to Roots Hall to face League One Southend on a hot, sunny day where breaks in play led to water being taken on like at a city marathon.
It wasn’t the most fluent of displays from both sides, the game showing that both Leeds United and Southend have plenty of tweaks to make ahead of their respective 2018/19 campaigns getting underway.
In a nutshell it was a game of endeavour and industry with neither side really having an advantage over the other. It was Southend who opened the scoring with Harry Leenon (20′ – below) soaring unmarked to plant a firm header past youngster Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the Leeds goal.
— Southend United (@SUFCRootsHall) July 22, 2018
On 34 minutes Leeds United were level when right-back Luke Ayling (below) turned in his second goal in pre-season to bring the Whites level. A neat one-two with Adam Forshaw saw roving defender Ayling presented with a sight of goal, his right-footed shot placed like a striker in the bottom corner.
The game opened up in the second half, both sides having opportunities to nick the win. However, a 1-1 draw was a fair result on a hot day and a result that both sides contributed to.
Here’s five things that today taught Leeds United fans about their side.
1. There is a system developing: Forget the level of the opposition, although don’t dismiss that Southend gave Leeds a real game today. It was during that tussle that fans were able to see elements of a system being implemented and beginning to work. Last season Leeds United stuttered and spluttered to get the ball downfield from their own half when opponent play broke down. Today they were able to do this much better, not quite with panache and aplomb but there was a smoother attacking transition.
2. Tyler Roberts – he lives: Leeds United fans got to see Roberts running around on the field today. This helped to dispel rumours that he was a figment of the imagination, an element from the Matrix or some other corporeal anomaly. He came on just after the hour mark, replacing Laurens De Bock and put himself about a bit with some good movement into space.
3. Laurens De Bock looking better: De Bock started well at Leeds United, had a mare of a game, got injured and then his season ended. There were whisperings that he wasn’t thought highly of in Bielsa’s opinions and possibly heading out of the club. However, in the last two friendly games that he’s featured in, he’s shown glimpses of what United need. He was more that willing to gallop forward down the left, overlapping Gianni Alioski and providing options. He was also willing to sling the ball into dangerous areas of the box. All-in-all, he played well enough to give Marcelo Bielsa something to think about.
4. Defensively it’s not there…yet: Yes the Whites have played so far without Swedish World Cup defender Pontus Jansson – it shows. Without Jansson Leeds have had to rely on the presence of Liam Cooper as seemingly the first team squad’s only recognised centre-back. The absence of Jansson was made more apparent when Southend’s Harry Lennon had all the time in the world to leap, unmarked, like a salmon to head in The Shrimper’s goal in today’s 1-1 draw. Like I said, not there yet but hopefully arriving soon.
5. Luke Ayling – that is all!: Nothing more really needs to be said – just the words Luke Ayling will suffice. I was actually tempted to leave it just like that, abrupt as it was. However, that would do an injustice to the man. A right-back by trade, Luke Ayling had that urge to get forward today against Southend. In fact, his goal saw him advance through midfield almost like a #10, swap passes with Adam Forshaw and then steer a striker’s shot into the bottom corner and out of the keeper’s reach. I say ‘steer’ because I had visions of Rudi Austin rampaging forward, getting to the edge of the box and his shot then setting off car alarms two car parks over. Suffice to say, Ayling had a stormer – no one will disagree.