As far as performances go, Leeds United’s cupboard is laid more bare than that of Mother Hubbard – such is their recent run of losses.
A shocking trio of away performances against first Millwall, then Cardiff and lastly Sheffield Wednesday were only given a veneer of respectability with a squeaked 3-2 win at Elland Road against Mick McCarthy’s Ipswich Town side. Like a punch-drunk, on the brink of knocked-out boxer, the international break came as a welcome bell for Leeds United.
Saturday brings with it the return of football and it is to Elland Road that the Whites return for a home game against Jaap Stam’s Reading side. United enter the game in a slightly disappointing 5th place in the league table for a game against the Royals who are somewhat languishing in a lowly 20th place on just nine points – just one win in their last six games.
On paper, the disparity of placings in the table, when allied to Leeds’ early season sparkle and fizz, should indicate nothing other than a win for the Whites at home. However, when you take into account the level of Leeds’ last few performances, the quality of the said ‘paper’ is that made and distributed by Andrex.
Wrongs to rights in a turnaround performance
‘Two wrongs don’t make a right’ goes the old adage – that can be extended even further when you take into account the Whites Hillsborough surrender in the last game before the international break. It is home turf that greets United on their return and 30,000-plus Leeds United fans will be expecting something served up better than what they have been dining out on of late.
Easily found out after bright starts, even more easily pegged back when on the back-foot, Leeds United have not put in the prettiest of performances over recent games. If it was a beauty contest, then Leeds United would not even have been at the races never mind in with a chance of winning any accolades.
Defensively, the Whites need to batten down the hatches and rediscover that form that saw them only concede two in their opening seven games in this season’s Sky Bet Championship campaign – both of those in the opening game against Bolton Wanderers. This strength has been undermined by the recent rash of defeats where their once impregnable defence has been left looking rather more like a pepperpot.
Midfield too, let’s not forget that once-shining engine room dulled as opponents swarm, press and harass the very thing that once drove Leeds United forward to such an extent that they hit the summit of the league – briefly. Now they sit in 5th, yet Leeds are still within touching distance of the summit. They’ll not climb again unless they redress the damage done by a misfiring midfield whose lack of production over those recent disaster games had a touch of 2014/15 about it.
Offensively, going forward, Leeds have an array of talent that should be able to open up any side like a ripe tomato – you only have to look a the performances against Burton, Sunderland and Nottingham Forest to see that. Imperious was a word that would sum up the Whites over their opening half-a-dozen games, they really were that good. Like the Zulu warriors in the eponymous film, wave-after-wave of them just kept piling in to the opposition.
But with Leeds United themselves over-run, the offensive output dwindled to next to nothing – the Whites fighting a rearguard battle, playing a game on the retreat and dancing to their opponents chosen tune. The biggest thing United need to do is put the whole jig-saw back together, attack from the back and drive forwards. They need to utilise the midfield, spread the ball out wide and turn opponents around and on their heels.
If not, it could be another long day in front of an unforgiving, sell-out Elland Road crowd for Leeds United tomorrow.