Leeds United

Leeds United and 5 things we learned vs Preston

It was a performance that was definitely needed as a much improved Leeds United side swept aside, albeit with heavy doses of good fortune at times, a very decent Preston side by 3-0 at Elland Road.

The 3-0 victory and three points were more than welcome as the Whites aimed to nail down their place in the play-off picture,  a picture that is looking more certain as United broke the 70 point barrier to end the day on 72 points – just two points shy of the 17-season average of 74 points that has seen 6th place in the Championship secured.

Goals from Kemar Roofe, Pablo Hernández and Souleymane Doukara were the headline points of the day, but the performance Leeds put on as a team was something else that needs considering.

Five things that we learned about Leeds United vs Preston.

1. Leeds are resilient and can shrug off disappointment

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Leeds suffered disappointment after the international break against Reading and Brentford. Two defeats, two ‘nilled’ away games and two abject performances were enough elements to get some Leeds fans worried. However, yesterday against Preston proved one thing about Leeds United, and it is an important thing – the Whites are resilient and can put on a performance when needed.

There was movement, there was crispness of passing, but, more importantly, there was a much more positive outlook from a Leeds side that didn’t disappoint in front of 31,000+ fans on their return to Elland Road.

2. Pablo Hernández found his groove again

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There have been some fans quite vocal about Leeds’ diminutive Spaniard suffering a loss of form and some slide in consistency. The tricks, flicks, flair and nutmegs are all still there but the other parts of his game have been said to be on the wane somewhat.

Not yesterday against Preston, where Hernández had it all back in spades.

He attempted 45 passes, completing 30 of them (68% accuracy), but more importantly two of his passes led to chances for others in the Leeds United side. Another key aspect of his passing was that 32 of his 45 attempts (71%) of his passes were played into the final third of the field – with 22 (49%) played forward of where he received the ball. This showed a much more attacking side of Hernández’s play and was important in helping drive Leeds forward.

3. Luke Ayling, and Berardi. Pontus Jansson, Kyle Bartley

It says a lot when Gaetano Berardi can play at left-back and keep out of the side a player with the skill and potential that Charlie Taylor possesses. But keeping him out he is, and he is a vital part of a Leeds United back four that has served the side more than well enough over the 41 games of the season so far.

Against Preston they combined for 12 tackles (with Berardi and Bartley tied on five each), 10 interceptions (Jansson leading the way with four), 36 clearances (Bartley topping out on 18), five blocks (Ayling with three) and winning 16 aerial duels (Bartley with eight) – the unit putting together 79 defensive actions.

Whilst goals at the other end of the pitch are important, stopping them going in is vitally important; goals might win games, but they say that defences win championships. Whilst that may be a little out of reach for the Whites now, it should be enough to secure a play-off place.

4. Kemar Roofe shouldn’t be slated but praised

Youngster Roofe arrived at Elland Road as this season’s marquee buy – a fee rumoured to be in the region of £3 million hanging round his neck like a millstone. 17 League Two goals convinced Leeds to splash the cash on the 24-year-old, who actually scored 25 across all competitions in Oxford’s 2015/16 campaign.

Whilst he hasn’t hit those heady heights, Roofe has fired when given the opportunity at Elland Road. He’s made 36 appearances (22 starts) and averaged nearly 55 minutes per appearance – scoring three times and laying on six assists for teammates.

There are some that have slated Roofe for his performances, but equally there are those who have praised him for what he brings to the side, that level of trickery and threat that singles him out as an ideal player to play off of Chris Wood who occupies the lone striker role at Elland Road.

Yesterday against Preston, Roofe had two successful dribbles, took three shots, scored one goal and laid on Pablo Hernández’s goal on a plate. Roofe’s goal itself showed just what movement and quick-thinking the former West Brom youth player can bring to Leeds United – a quick one-two into space and there was only one place the ball was ending up.

5. Rob Green is as important at the back as Chris Wood is up top

Observers go on about just how important Chris Wood’s 24 Sky Bet Championship goals have been to Leeds United and where they’d be languishing without them. However, equally important is the performance of Leeds United’s #1 Rob Green who is as equally adept at stopping them going in at one end as Wood is at scoring at the other.

Over the course of the season so far, Rob Green is the Sky Bet Championship’s eighth-ranked shot-stopper with 96 saves since the season began. Since the turn of the year, Green has made 47 stops, moving him up to fifth in the Championship’s shot-stopping keeper ranking. Move the calendar forward a month, since the start of February Green has risen to the top of the save rankings with 42 stops over 13 games – an average of 3.2 saves per game.

It is this consistency that was shown yesterday in the match against Preston with Green putting on another fine display of shot-stopping with six saves, four of these inside the six-yard box. As he has been proving all season, Rob Green has quickly become an important, nay indispensable member of the play-off challenging Leeds United side this season.

Stats used for Rob Green piece: Squawka.com
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