Riding high with a three match winning streak, the Leeds bandwagon was filling to the brim as the club made its way to face the Saddlers Saturday morning. With hopes and dreams flourishing the hearty Leeds followers vision of a return to glory was snapped back to a painful reality as they fell 1-0 to Walsall.
Going straight to the chase, the match was "decided" with a simple header from a soaring Troy Deeney who headed in Sofiene Zaaboub behind Casper Ankergren to the delight of the home fans. Leeds mustered little offensive threat through the balance of the half as Walsall was comfortably in control. Ten minutes after the break, Simon Grayson searched for attacking inspiration and called upon Robert Snodgrass and Luciano Becchio with Jonny Howson to follow with twenty minutes remaining. However there was little to note other than a last gasp header by the Argentine maestro and the match concluded with a 1-0 defeat.
To call this result a "surprise" would be misleading as like the predictability of the Leeds tactical approach is mind numbing. While Simon Grayson has made some short-term loans to shore up the defending aspect of play, they perplexing given the length of the loans and are diametrically opposed to the overall talent of the squad. While the club visited briefly with a more attacking approach under Gary McAllister, it was a briefest of stops and in-truth it didn't "embody" attacking play and needed a few crucial adjustments.
Ultimately the "deciding" factor of this match and virtually all others Leeds has fallen in, is that they play with little pace, slow decision making, a commitment to attack and are more concerned with losing. There is a uncomfortable spot in writing of a teams play somewhere between review and condemnation but simply put this is not a team with a spirit of a winner.
Unfortunately this as been implicitly been supported by management through tactical decisions and continues to this day. Leeds has in the past been troubled in the defending aspect because they have allowed clubs to push forward. Almost an obvious comment but their lack of aggression has allowed clubs to be at ease and after curtailing Leeds attacking plan of pushing forward in the channel to the outside the box, where the attack then slows for the ultimate crossing bash into the box, they can go forward. Leeds opposition can virtually, no actually predict the play and once understanding how to play them, it really isn't too difficult. In other terms, the "book is out" on Leeds and while there isn't another club in League One with the talent, a well laid out plan can defeat them.
How Leeds ability to change the course isn't such a difficult hurdle to cross. They need to go on the attack, push pace, ball distribution and movement without the ball. All have been sorely lacking from the start of the year including their early Carling Cup victories but if they don't adjust, book your dates for League One action next year.
Unfortunately with the present plan of attack it is very clear the club is experiencing a classic case of managers wanting to make their mark on the club. Simon Grayson's choices in the transfer market and tactical play reflect a lack of understanding the existing talent and imparting his style on the club. While that approach is only natural prior to the start of a campaign to do so mid-year raises a red flag if promotion is the true goal or more of a power struggle of who leads the team.
As noted previously, the impact of this is far-reaching and unlike any other clubs in League One. Leeds is packed with young talent but as the club becomes firmly rooted in the third division, young talent is unlikely to stay on and look for brighter pastures. Leeds must take a new found approach and realize they must fight for promotion as if they are fighting for survival. This cannot be done with a mindset of "not losing" but a vicious assault of attack, attack, attack.