Leeds United is like a managerial conveyor belt, a bit like one of those luggage belts at the airport. You watch the first bag go round on it’s lonely journey, it disappears behind the hanging rubber flaps…then a different bag comes out altogether. This bag then starts it…you get the picture!
That’s really pretty much the situation up at Leeds United when it comes to managers, or at least it was. Four managers last season, if you count McDermott being in charge before the season kicked off. Then there were the social experiments of Massimo Cellino in employing Diamond Dave and Dazzling Darko, who came to Elland Road less well known than Juan Goytisolo and Francisco Pavon and left pretty much lickety-split soon after arriving. Neil Redfearn saw out the gap between Dave and Darko, then from Darko to the rest of the season. Even that went sour when Redders’ contract was run down amidst some controversy with Madcap Massimo calling his mana…head coach “weak” and “a baby” in press interviews.
Redfearn then went by the wayside and in came Uwe Rosler…and that is where Leeds United’s 2015 review begins. Whereas Charles Dickens had his ‘Tale of Two Cities’, Leeds United had their ‘2015 of Two Halves.
Part 1 – The Rosler Yea…Months
It all started of so promising for Uwe Rosler who rode the white charger of hope into Elland Road. He promised an attacking brand of football filling in the shell of a 4-3-3 formation – heavy metal football for a bear-pit Elland Road crowd. It all started so promising.
The pre-season was organised, a tour against quality, Bundesliga opposition under the command of Rosler rather than a tour to Italy facing pub-standard opposition and a shirts-and-bibs match between two Leeds teams with a dip in a running river as a sideshow.
Even though Leeds lost both games against German opposition, the displays were much more reassuring than the ones leading into Diamond Dave Hockaday’s reign at Elland Road. We showed that we could more than match a very strong Burnley side in the season’s opening game, a 1-1 draw in which Mirco Antenucci scored a left-footed worldie. That game set Leeds on an ‘unbeaten’ run of six games, five draws and a powerful win over a good Derby side.
An away win against Milton Keynes Dons (2-1) merely served as punctuation to three successive losses against Middlesbrough (3-0), against Birmingham (2-0) and against Brighton (2-1). The above three defeats sounded the death knell for Rosler and his time at Elland Road, Massimo Cellino calling down the managerial axe on the German’s time in LS11.
Rosler’s record at Elland Road (Points% is %age of games where Leeds have gained points)
P11, W2, D5, L4, F10, A15, GD -5, PTS 11, Points p/game 1.00, Win% 36.36%, Points% 63.6%, Goals p/game 0.91, Goals conc. p/game 1.36 – Table position 18th
Steve Evans – defies the odds and sees 2016
The appointment of Steve Evans as head coach of Leeds United was a genuine WTF moment of 2015. A man reviled by many and mocked by similar amounts had just been appointed as the man in charge of the playing affairs of Leeds United.vAs with anything Leeds United, a Marmite-type divide opened up containing two camps: the pro-Evans ‘love-in’ group and the anti-Evans ‘burn him’ group.
Those crying to “give him time” we’re shouted down by the “he’s not the man for the job” group. Slowly but surely, Evans seems to be bring the two groups together; filling the pro-Evans group with members of the once-Evans hate mob. The players seem to be responding more to his promptings and ‘arm round the shoulder’ approach.
The football has changed too. Rosler promised a ‘heavy metal’ approach similar to Jurgen Klopp’s ‘gegen fußball’ approach; instead Leeds fans got ‘glam rock’ football. Evans ditched the idea of 4-3-3, which we didn’t really have the personnel for and promised a return to 4-4-2 which has now evolved into a hybrid 4-1-4-1 approach with a defensive midfielder protecting the centre backs. Evans has also made sure that United’s players press opponents, which has tightened things up playing-wise.
There have been low points, none as profound as the Blackburn home game where Leeds played like a team for 84 minutes, they just didn’t in the opening six. But there have been high points too – the first half dismantling of a very good Hull City side which gave Leeds a 2-0 half-time lead that could easily have been double that. Most importantly, Steve Evans has seen out the longest term of any manager/head coach appointed by Massimo Cellino to start afresh at Elland Road.
Evans’ record at Elland Road (Points% is %age of games where Leeds have gained points)
P13, W5, D5, L3, F15, A12, GD +3, PTS 20, Points p/game 1.54, Win% 38.46%, Points% 76.9%, Goals p/game 1.15, Goals conc. p/game 0.92 – Table position 9th
The numbers don’t really give you an exact science, not at all. You can’t pore over them and come up with a definitive ‘Evans Effect’. What you can do is say that Evans has definitely improved the fortunes of a Leeds United side that Rosler left in 18th and that, in 13 games, Evans has created a team with points good enough to be placed 9th in a comparative League table.
Has Evans ‘cracked it’? Likely not yet but there are a couple of things worth noting: Leeds are playing better football and aren’t as painful to watch.