After the heroics of the 'Siege of the Riverside'; Leeds United have fallen from grace with a spectacular bump and hit every bad luck boulder along the way. Easily beaten by Brighton and now clinically taken apart by a classy Watford side. Forget the "ifs" and "onlys" (we'll likely have them on loan next season though); we were beaten by the better team. Up next it's another high-flying side in Ipswich in what will no-doubt prove to be another tough one.
Number-wise, the game was pretty close but the telling difference was in the difference in touches and passes between the two teams. Watford (675) had 19% more touches of the ball than Leeds (567), but it was the difference translated in the number of passes that was key. Watford (498) had 28.70% more passes than Leeds had (387) so they dominated this area of the game, forcing Leeds to defend and backtrack for long periods of the game. We kept up in terms of shots, we matched them for shots on target, we matched them for saves and beat their number of tackles; we couldn't match them as a team.
Ok, I think every Leeds United fan agrees that Silvestri cannot save EVERY shot taken by the opposition; not every game is a Middlesbrough. His distribution accuracy was average, 47% of his efforts finding his own teammates, these coming from: 3 accurate goal kicks, 1 accurate kick from hand, 3 accurate throws and 10 accurate kicked clearances/passes. You can also throw another 3 saves into the hat as Silvestri consolidated his #2 ranking for saves in the Championship with 119 saves (8 in the 6-yard box/68 inside the area/43 outside the area); he is also the joint #1 keeper for saved shots inside the 6-yard box (8 saves). Leeds will need their defence to become more solid at the back in order not to leave him exposed as they did in this game, saying that he is a more than competent shot-stopper as the returns show.
Defensively, it was individual mini-stumbles that were Leeds' downfall; they were 'defensively useless' over the whole of the game. In picking up on the errors, the eye fails to see the stop that Bamba put on to deny Vydra a shooting opportunity or the 13 passes won by the Leeds United back four against the 1 tackle lost - a success rate of 92.85% when winning tackle situations. Sol Bamba again led the way with a monstrous 8 tackles (100% success rate) which gives him 24 tackles for his 'season' so far; his 8 returned tackles this game being above his per 90 average of 3.4 successful tackles. He also showed good awareness to make 6 interceptions of Watford passes; these giving him 34 since he arrived at the club which have come at a per 90 minute return of 4.6 interceptions per game. Charlie Taylor also had a keen awareness in intercepting Watford ball, having 5 interceptions which brought his season total to 34 (a per 90 minute average of 3.3 interceptions). That is not to take anything away from Liam Cooper and Scott Wootton who are both adding to what, despite the last two defeats, is looking a more solid unit. In order to plug the leaking gaps, the central/defensive midfielders need to step up to the plate and make a more consistent and solid contribution.
Leeds' midfield looked good, in parts but bloody terrible in others. When Leeds were in the ascendency and taking the game to Watford, the Leeds United midfield looked imperious; snarling of mouth and full of attacking intent - the deployed midfield took 8 of Leeds' 11 shots at goal on the day; they were also tenacious in the tackle. Of Leeds' 30 tackle attempts, the midfield contributed 15 attempts and were successful in 14 of these. Rodoplh Austin made 5 from 5 tackles (vs an average of 3.2 completed tackles per 90) and Luke Murphy made 4 from 4 tackles (vs a average of 3.1 completed tackles per 90). However, whilst being 'up for it' in the tackle, Leeds' midfield were sorely lacking in the ability to mark tightly, harry opposition players or stem the flow of opponent attacks. What is more worrying in my eyes, is the lack of creativity in the middle of the park over the duration of the season. I'll not elaborate on it here, it's not the right forum, but from our 'recognised midfielders' (I don't mean strikers playing in a makeshift role), they have only created or fashioned 9 assists between them all season. Sam Byram has been a bit of a revelation with his high-octane approach down the right flank, a ball-playing midfielder with an ability to run and defenders and scare them witless. His passing attempts on Saturday showed his intent; 33 (63%) of his passes were of a forward direction from where he received the ball and his play set up 3 shot assists for fellow Leeds players.
Billy Sharp apart, nothing can really be said about the Leeds attack due to the limited amount of exposure that they had to the game (Antenucci getting 12 minutes and Edgar Çani only 6 minutes). Billy Sharp took his goal well, he was there in the right place at the right time, but he is not an out-and-out lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 system that leaves him sorely exposed up the field.
It wasn't a good day to be writing about Leeds United; defeats very rarely, nay never, are easy to put into words. What was more galling is that we really did look as though we had this one in the bag at one point.