Firstly, it is reassuring to know that there is a plan of any sorts this early before the 2015/16 Championship season begins. Reassuring in the sense that we won’t be jollying over to Italy, playing a pub side, beating them 16-0 and then playing each other seeing as the second opponents didn’t turn up. Reassuring that planning is the first requirement to avoiding that state known as “a shambles”; as Leeds fans we know those states quite well.
Uwe Rösler has gone on record as saying that he already has the core nucleus of a good side and that he is looking to strategically build upon this by bringing in some new players “but not many” as he looks to develop what he has. With this stated principle in mind, I have taken a look at what Rösler’s ‘Plan A’ might look like with what he has available to him at Leeds United at the moment. Yes I expect howls of derision to come my way over some of the choices I have made…please keep them nice though.
Rösler’s ‘Plan A’ – the 4-3-3
Rösler’s has already gone on record as saying that he prefers the 4-3-3 as his ‘go-to formation’ as he prefers to have high-intensity play pressing opponents high up the park. With this firmly in mind, the following is simply what he could put out on the park at the moment. I suppose I had better start defending myself before the shots are fired. Firstly, Sam Byram has shown that he is a very good right-sided midfield player for Leeds this season but he is also a better right back than Scott Wootton who performed admirably there last season. In a 4-3-3 he[Byram] would be ideal to bring those quick, marauding skills down the right flank in keeping with Rösler’s philosophy. Keeping with the right-side of the field, and bearing in mind we have no natural wingers (unless we decide to keep Nicky Ajose on the back of his successful loan deal at Bristol City), I have installed Souleymane Doukara as the makeshift right-sided attacker. I read on one forum that Doukara has all the skills to be a Championship Drogba but also many weaker areas meaning that he’ll not reach that plateau. Doukara is quick, powerful, can hold off defenders and can finish well. One of his major faults is that he ‘goes missing’ a lot and often drops too deep to try get things started. However, with Byram behind him, hopefully he wouldn’t need to drop as far back.
Switching to the left side of the field, yes I haven’t included Charlie Taylor which I understand paints a huge red target on me for everyone to shoot at. Right, Charlie Taylor is a great player, he really is but I think that Gaetano Berardi is a better defender, or at least showed himself to be as the 2014/15 Championship season wound to an end. Saying that, Taylor and Berardi would be equally interchangeable here at left back. Alex Mowatt in the advanced left attacking position is almost a no-brainer really. He ended the season with nine goals, has a boomstick of a left foot and I think he’d really benefit from playing higher up the pitch, in the redzone so-to-speak, in a more attack-focused Leeds United lineup.
The centre of the field though, that’s where Leeds fared badly under the flawed 4-4-2 Diamond imposed for the 2014 component of the 2014/15 season; we simply didn’t have the players to fulfill the roles required. We were bereft of bodies in the centre of the park, often over-run and with a central defensive pairing constantly under attack as midfield was swamped. The 4-2-3-1 formation that was used for most of 2015 solved that to a degree insomuch as the losses weren’t catastrophic. The 4-3-3 will solve some of those defensive frailties in that is provides a three-man screen in front of the centre of defence. Two players realistically pick themselves in Luke Murphy and Lewis Cook; Cook having a fantastic season until injury cut it short and Murphy was like Lazarus rising when the formation was changed at the start of 2015. The surprise though, which I know will create some degree of criticism is the inclusion of Italian Tommaso Bianchi, who is currently injured. Why? Well I think that Bianchi was played out of position as an out-and-out defensive midfielder at the start of last season, yet it was a role that he excelled in – making a team joint-second total of 83 tackles in just 24 appearances. Bianchi is also a good passer of the ball, a role that I think he is more naturally suited to. He completed 981 of the 1199 passes he attempted (82% accuracy) and also at a high volume of passing attempts per typical 90 minutes (55 attempts), a volume more suited to the type of game that Rösler’s philosophy seems to be.
All that is left is the back of the park and up top, central defence and the main striker role. In regard to the main striker, the focal point of the attack, then you can only go for Mirco Antenucci out of the current strikers on the books at Leeds. Antenucci scored 10 goals last season, the only player to get into double figures at Elland Road but suffered from an underperforming midfield that didn’t really provide a great deal of assists – the main five midfield players from last season only contributing seven assists across the season, yes just SEVEN assists. At the back, well that just leaves Liam Cooper and Giuseppe Bellusci as the central defensive pair seeing as they saw most of the game time last season and this also being supported by the fact that Leeds United haven’t yet entered the transfer market to supplant either of these players from a starting role. Of course, with the Leeds hierarchy saying that moves will be made in the transfer market, then you’d expect that certain ones of these positions would be open to change.
graphic courtesy of Lineup Builder