Last night’s disappointing result against Ipswich was Leeds’ first defeat of the season, and was also probably their poorest performance so far as well. Considering Leeds have been involved in 7 league games now and have had five draws and one win, through a last minute winner, no one should be surprised they have eventually come undone. The positive spin is that in seven matches there has been a maximum of one goal between the two sides, which shows Leeds are more structured and are competing in every game they participate in. But is this structure affecting the midfield and its ability to get forward and contribute on the score sheet?
There have been two strikers heavily involved so far for the Whites. Chris Wood has started all seven league games so far, often up front on his own. The powerful New Zealander has three goals to his name, most memorably the last minute stunner to win the match at Derby. Coming into the club with a fair amount of pressure due to his transfer fee, a return of three in seven should be considered a good start. As a team we are not creating too many chances, which means Wood has been fairly clinical in terms of chances to goals. Offering us a real physical threat against opposition centre halves and showing his potency in front of goal, Wood should continue to develop as the season goes on and will be pleased with his start at the club.
Similarly, Mirco Antenucci has also had a good goal scoring start to the season. In fact, Antenucci also has 3 goals in the league despite only starting two of the seven league games. The 31 year old has often been used as an impact sub by Uwe Rosler and Italian has had a positive impact in just about every game he has been involved in. The quality of his goals has been very good and it seems to be a dilemma for Rosler at the minute as to how he gets Antenucci in the team without disrupting his much valued structure and formation.
So overall, the two strikers that have been used by Rosler have both started well. To really sum up three goals each in seven games, if they both were available for the whole forty six league games and kept up that rate they would score about twenty goals each. Not many teams could boast a front line with that record. However, this is very unlikely to be the case all season and this is why I have highlighted midfield goals as a real concern.
To be successful in this league, Leeds must hope their midfielders can start to contribute scoring goals for the team. There have largely been six midfield players used this term, excluding Kalvin Phillips who is very inexperienced and unlikely to have a big role moving forward this season. Of the six the only one who has scored is probably the one midfielder we have who should not be tasked with scoring goals.
Tom Adeyemi has made a solid start to his Leeds career and scored a very good goal at Derby to open the scoring and open his account for the club. However, Adeyemi has been brought in to the club as a holding midfield player, someone who offers a physical presence in midfield and to act as a defensive shield. This should enable the midfielders in front of him to flourish and be able to get forward when appropriate. For these reasons Adeyemi will probably not get too many chances to get goals for Leeds and will not be relied upon or expected to do so.
The five midfielders who have largely played in front of Adeyemi have been; Byram, Mowatt, Dallas, Cook and Murphy. Amount of goals between them so far? Zero. This is an area of Leeds’ start that has been a major problem in my opinion. That list of five is all capable of scoring goals from midfield. The reason for the five of them so far firing blanks could be a mixture of form, quality and finding their way back to fitness but it is something that needs to be addressed.
Rosler sees his formation of more of a 4-3-3 than 4-5-1, which shows that the wingers both play high up the pitch. These two have been Dallas and Byram in all but one of the league games so far. Dallas has been lively and has had the most chances of any midfield player to open his account, but seems to have lacked composure in front of goal. Sam Byram’s form has been disappointing this season so far and hopefully he can knuckle down now the transfer window has closed and find his goal scoring touch. Playing wide in a 4-3-3 both of these players should be looking to add goals to their game to make Leeds a much more dangerous side.
The three central midfield players in Cook, Murphy and Mowatt all have the quality to score goals from midfield. Luke Murphy missed the start of the season through injury and has been eased back in to team, largely from the bench so far. Lewis Cook has been very good in most of Leeds’ games so far when he has been available, and to be fair he did score against Doncaster in the League Cup before being sent off. But this was his first ever senior goal and being a regular in the team this is something he must kick on from. The England youth international shows fantastic energy and drives forward from midfield well and should hopefully add goals to his game as the season goes on.
The last of the five to mention is Alex Mowatt. He probably has the most expectancy on his shoulders to add goals from midfield. The academy graduate was expected by many to kick on this season and continue his good form from the last campaign in which he scored nine league goals, many of which were important goals and also goals of high quality. A twenty yard strike across the keeper seemed to be trademark Mowatt but he has had a very quiet start to the season and his goal threat has disserted him thus far.
In truth, we are only seven league games in so it could well be that the midfielders contribute goals in the coming weeks to ease the burden on Wood and Antenucci. It is too early to tell if the lack of goals is a coincidence and just a lack of form, or whether it has anything to do with Leeds’ tactical approach and Rosler’s desire for a more structured shape. But after seven games that have all either been drawn or decided by one goal, a couple of goals from midfield could have greatly improved early season results and swung a couple of tight matches Leeds’ way.