Leeds United were riding the crest of a wave entering in to the game yesterday against rivals Millwall at the New Den. 90 minutes later they were struggling in the foaming surf, easily defeated.
As far as the game itself, Leeds were out-thought and out-fought with Millwall rampant in front of their home fans and were easily a match, and beyond, for Leeds United on the day. The omens were bad from before even the first whistle was sounded, the Lions being a so-called ‘bogey team’ for the Whites.
Bogeys or not, the only thing that Leeds United fans were left picking were their brains as to how their side, who had been in imperious form in their first seven games, were schooled by a side well below them.
But picked apart Leeds United were, no amount of proselytising about what might have been will change that – nor should it.
Here’s five things Leeds United fans would have learned from the Millwall loss.
1. Humility: I’ll light the blue touch-paper and back away quite sharpish. That loss, not the manner of it – just the loss, was the best thing that could have happened to us as Leeds fans. The loss cuts through all the waffle, all the social media bravado and all the braggadocio that comes with both playing well, and being top of the table. In a way it is a leveller, something that brings us all back down to ground and makes us look at things in a different way. No longer can we be over-confident, no longer can we think that we’ll blitzkrieg others teams and slap them out of the way. It is a loss, it likely won’t be our only one of this season.
2. Manner of the loss: There’s no need to beat about the bush, we were found out and punished. It was the same team as usual, the team that had driven Leeds United to the summit of the Sky Bet Championship – barring the absence of Liam Cooper. That wasn’t the reason for the loss, not even a part of the reason. Millwall executed the perfect gameplan by constantly chasing and harassing Leeds, spreading it wide. In a way, Leeds were ‘Leeds-ed’ as they had the tables turned on them. It was a loss, it should become a learning experience and we all need to move on to Ipswich.
3. Not many came out of the game with glory: That much is definitely true, apart from keeper Felix Wiedwald who at least had something to do in this game rather than pitch his deckchair and lean back nonchalantly against his post. In a way there could be no heroes from this game for the Whites. Yes they defended manfully at times, but Leeds United were playing to a Millwall tune and they were the ones being made to dance. It was Wiedwald who kept the score respectable, as Millwall’s strategy saw them cutting through their visitors like the proverbial hot knife through butter.
4. It can’t get much worse, hopefully: As performances go, it was dire and beyond the last scrapings of an empty barrel. As the Bible so plainly states ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’ and that was Saturday’s game. What Leeds did to Burton Albion the week before was turned upon then. Burton will never play as badly as that again this season, neither will Leeds United. That performance against Millwall was a baseline measure beyond baselines, surely not one that will be revisited this season.
5. Thomas Christiansen isn’t afraid to make changes: 0-0 at half-time and taking the kind of battering that gets boxing bouts stopped to save the guy on the receiving end of the pummelling, you would expect Christiansen to let Leeds United’s starting XI attempt to ride out the storm and get a foothold. Not so. Knowing things weren’t working as well as planned, the Leeds United boss brought off Ezgjan Alioski and Pablo Hernández and brought on Stuart Dallas and Kemar Roofe. At least that showed that he was aware things were going to pot – he even threw man-hulk Jay-Roy Grot on with just over 15 to go in place of the silkiness of Samu Saiz.
With Leeds United facing Premier League Burnley in the Carabao Cup early next week, and with some of these players expected to feature, it will be interesting to see how the Whites bounce back from Millwall.