It wasn't a good performance on Saturday, let's get that out of the way. Disjointed and not cohesive spring to mind when describing the fare that was displayed on the pitch. Despite having the majority of possession, despite out-passing Wigan and despite out-shooting them to the tune of 25 shots to 9; Leeds still managed to lose. With teams below them winning, we slid slowly closer to the mire called a 'relegation battle'; something a club in transition can easily do without. But, just how abject a performance was it when staring at the stark numbers from the game?
Player-wise, it wasn't as hard-working and industriously 'honest' performance as it was in the last game versus Nottingham Forest where Leeds came away with a deserved point from a 1-1 draw. The old and haunting inconsistencies were back again and boy did this show in the performance.
First of all, Marco Silvestri could do very little about either goal so blame cannot be laid at his door in that instance. He also maintained his impressive saves total, adding another 3 saves to his overall total bringing it up to 59 and 4th place in the Championship table for goalkeepers based on ‘saves made’. These 3 saves also placed him above his season metric of 2.57 saves per 90 minutes (p/90) and his 3 ‘saves per goal’ from today’s game is above his 1.79 p/90 rating for the season. Marco Silvestri’s continuing ability of a shot stopping keeper is evident in his 77% save rate (25 goals conceded from 109 opposition shots on target). After last week’s low distribution accuracy of 27%, it was refreshing to see that Silvestri was much more accurate with the ball at 67% today; this coming from 6 goals kicks, 4 throws and 4 kicked clearances. The 7 unsuccessful distribution attempts came from 3 errant goal kicks and 4 misplaced kicked clearances.
Whenever a team loses 2-0, the finger of blame is pointed at the defence and often doesn’t include blame of the team in front of them. It is safe to say that they did not perform to their best as a unit against a powder-puff Wigan attack boasting only 286 shots at goal with only 83 shots on target (SoTa) for 29% accuracy and with only 23 goals - a 27.70% conversion rate. Many Leeds fans are blaming the lack of consistency in the centre of defence as the ills of the team. Giuseppe Bellusci returned to the heart of the defence to partner Liam Cooper and ‘The Warrior’ showed some solid returns with his 6 successful tackles representing 27.30% of the teams total of 22 successful tackles. He also weighed in with 3 interceptions of opponent balls which is slightly above his p/90 return of 2.64 for the season.
Liam Cooper didn’t have another ‘mare’ of a game but he did fail in the only 2 tackles situations that he faced today; this means that for the season Cooper has a tackle success rate of only 44%. This maybe an area that Leeds may want to focus on when the ‘embargoed’ transfer window opens come January 1st. Of the other defenders, Sam Byram had a pretty quiet game with only his interceptions for the game (3) being above his p/90 return for the season of 2.13 interceptions. Stephen Warnock had another consistent game at left back winning 3 of the 4 tackle situations he found himself in (75% tackle success) which is above his season tackle success mark of 68% (51 tackles from 75 attempts).
Leeds players need to realise that the opposition goal is at the opposite end of the field to theirs and steer to ball in that direction – it’s called ‘forwards’. Leeds’ 5 deployed midfield players during the Wigan game, Bianchi and Mowatt being replaced at half time by Steve Morison and Rodolph Austin. These 5 between them only contributed 167 passing attempts from a team total of 428; these 167 passing attempts represent 39% of the team total. If the midfield is the ‘engine room’, well maybe this engine needs retuning a little. Lewis Cook’s forward (30) and backward (14) pass attempts were both around his season p/90 returns (30.25 and 13.51 respectively). Austin can be excused as he only played half a game; his second half return was consistent with his p/90 returns though if he had played the full game. Bianchi’s returns of 15 total pass attempts in the first half do not come close to his 56 average passes p/90; even if his output were doubled he’d only have around 30 passes for the game. Michael Tonge had a good 90 minutes and he made 63 pass attempts, completing 49 of them for 72% accuracy.
In fact, when looking at the urgency to get the ball into more forward positions, our most successful passers of the ball were: Sam Byram (33 forward passes played into the final third of the field – Wigan’s defensive zone), Stephen Warnock (28 forward passes into Wigan’s defensive zone) and Michael Tonge (26 passes into Wigan’s final third). This is a bugbear of mine; you can’t afford the luxury of a highly-rated Brazilian playmaker if he isn’t getting enough of the ball to play with. Yet again Leeds suffered with a limited volume of passes coming from the supposed ‘engine room’ of midfield and it’s a poor do when your full backs are responsible for 158 pass attempts between them; very nearly equalling the output of the whole of the midfield.
Leeds, as a team, outshot Wigan during the game to such a degree that they had their highest total shot ratio (TSR) of the season with a figure of 0.735 – meaning that they had 73.5% of the shooting opportunities. It was encouraging that Leeds also attempted 9 of these shots from inside the penalty area and 1 even inside the six-yard box. Of the 14 shots from outside the box, only 3 were on target (Bellusci, Austin and Cook) and requiring saves from the Wigan goalkeeper. However, of the 4 players who played up front during Saturday’s game, only Steve Morison had a shot on target requiring a save. This is the frustrating thing about Leeds United’s strikeforce in particular, but also the team in general; there really is no consistency to the shooting attempts they make or the number they get on target. Mirco Antenucci, Leeds’ top-scorer with 8 league goals has a p/90 shot total of 3 but today only had 1 that wasn’t on target. This seems to be a problem for the team as a whole, they don’t shoot in volume and, when they do (like today), the higher volume of shots tends not to lead to a higher volume of on-target shots. Antenucci has a non-penalty goals p/90 of .41 which equates to a goal every 220 minutes on average. With Leeds apparently already having agreed the signing of highly-regarded Italian Leonardo Pavoletti, who had a strike rate of 0.66 goals per 90 in Serie B last season – then they are obviously hoping that this will provide the goals to drag them out of the slump.
The thing is, you can’t fire a gun without the ammunition and that’s in short supply in the Leeds United armoury.