Rome wasn't built in a day as the old saying goes, so Leeds fans expecting a Barcelona-esque performance with the new 5 man midfield formation were going to be sorely disappointed. That's what next week's game is, where our chastised first XI regulars return and play like Messi and Co and rip Birmingham to shreds. Maybe.
Saturday's game at Bolton was more of a 'bedding in' exercise and a prelude to greatness. Perhaps.
Marco Silvestri’s distribution accuracy was again see-sawing between ‘acceptable’ (57% accuracy last week) and ‘’borderline unacceptable’ (35% accuracy this week) but playing in a lashing Lancashire gale wouldn’t have helped. When called upon, he again showed composure making 4 punches and again maintaining a 100% claim success with 3 catches. One thing that is perhaps worrying is his tendency to punch clearances rather than catch them; the penalty decision against Leeds coming as a result of a punched clearance that didn’t make sufficient distance. He also made 1 save that moves his season save total up to 65 which moved him up to #3 ranked keeper in terms of ‘saves’ in the Championship. His value to Leeds will be more important across the season but his ability as a shot-stopping keeper is highlighted by his 81% save rate of shots from open play (22 goals conceded from 118 opponent shots on target).
In tackle situations, Leeds weren’t particularly successful only completing 33% of the tackle situations that they found themselves involved in (3 successful from 9 attempts). With the exception of the injured Stephen Warnock (2.62 tackles per 90, 2.87 interceptions per 90), under the newly imposed 4-2-3-1 formation this is likely to be the first choice back four. As a unit they looked much more secure and confident which could have been a result of a more packed midfield offering more protection. I’d like to take the last point in this section and congratulate Charlie Taylor for a solid first 90 minutes for the first team; 4 interceptions, 2 blocks and 7 clearances being more than efficient during Saturday’s performance.
It was interesting to see how a packed, essentially 5 man, midfield would cope first time in the Championship this season and, in all honesty, it wasn’t a bad showing at all. Sam Byram had a good game on the right flank of the midfield 3 making 27 pass attempts and creating 2 shot attempts for fellow Leeds players; he also had 2 shot attempts which were both on target. Lewis Cook also had a good game and was at the heart of a lot of the Leeds attacking with 58% (15 from 26 passes) of his passes having a target zone of the final/attacking third of the field. Lewis Cook’s passing also generated 3 shot assists for teammates; he also had 1 shot of his own which was on target. On his return to the starting line-up, Luke Murphy also had a solid game, making 39 passing attempts and completing 24 of these for a rather disappointing passing accuracy of 61.50% for the match. What is impressive is that Murphy was always trying to get Leeds on the front foot; 87% of his passes (34 from 39) were played in a direction forward of where he received the ball.
Tenacity was also evident in the way that the Leeds United midfield dealt with tackle situations that they faced. Of the 13 tackles attempted by 3 Leeds midfielders, they completed 11 successful tackles meaning they were 84.60% successful in winning tackles. Luke Murphy completed 3 of 4 tackles he faced (75%), Rodolph Austin completed 4 of 5 tackles he faced (80%) and Sam Byram completed 4 of 4 tackles he faced (100%). Leeds fans have been crying out for a more tenacious and combative midfield and this goes someway to addressing this issue. Next step increasingly productive passing and more creativity.
Employing a lone striker always isolates the man at the top of the park. Steve Morison didn’t have a bad game at all. He held the ball up well and his physicality always seemed to unsettle Bolton’s centre halves. However, despite his aerial prowess, he had one on target headed chance saved by Bolton’s Andy Lonergan, it is hard to see Morison as a consistent lone striker should Leeds employ the 4-2-3-1 with regularity.
It was refreshing to see that Leeds didn't buckle under pressure of opponents having more of the ball (559 Bolton touches to 460 Leeds touches - Bolton having 21% more touches of the ball), but actually looked largely composed and at times dangerous. The new formation allowed us to pack the midfield, forcing Bolton to battle through it rather than allowing teams to march imperiously through it like Derby did at their iPro Stadium. It will be interesting to see this formation deployed with a quicker striker able to take advantage of a more regular supply of ball and also with more creativity at the pinnacle of the advanced 'midfield three' such as that provided by Adryan who had a decent game there against Sunderland.
All in-text statistics are derived from WhoScored.com data