Leeds United carried on from where they left off in 2016 with a wonderful second half performance to see off a struggling Rotherham United side by the score of 3-0. Kyle Bartley’s header and a brace from Chris Wood were enough to take the spoils and the bragging rights in Monday’s Yorkshire derby.
Garry Monk will be impressed with his team’s mentality to come out after a poor first half and dismantle the Millers. Here's my three major talking points from the game...
Talking Point 1: Don’t fix something that isn’t broken
The first half was poor for a couple of reasons. However, I think the major reason for the lacklustre first half was Garry Monk’s choice of formation. I was surprised when the XI was released as it didn’t look like Leeds were going to set up in the 4-2-3-1 formation we have all become accustomed to this season.
Instead, the team set up 4-1-3-2. I am personally a fan of attacking football - especially against teams who are struggling for confidence, but the success we have had so far this year has been built on 4-2-3-1.
The biggest problem for me was, due to Bridcutt being the only player in the centre of the park, it meant that there was a big gap between the defensive players and the attacking ones. We therefore had Hernandez dropping deeper to cover and collect the ball, and he struggled with his distribution from the deeper position.
The formation seemed to be in place for us to score goals but, if it wasn’t the Leeds defence and the lack of quality within the Rotherham team, we could have been 2 or 3 down ourselves going in at half-time.
The decision to introduce Vieira and revert to the 4-2-3-1 highlighted the importance of us sticking to the usual, successful formation. The movement, the one touch passing, the high intensity and the ability to suffocate teams completely returned in the second half - the first half was completely forgotten as we totally ran riot throughout the half.
Twenty minutes gone. Team looks set up to score 10 but haven't really threatened yet. Rotherham closest to a goal. 0-0. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) January 2, 2017
(whispers… Ronaldo Vieira has made an enormous difference in this second half…)— Through It All LIVE (@ThruItAllLIVE) January 2, 2017
Stick with the 4-2-3-1, Garry. It works.
Talking Point 2: Kyle Bartley’s head is incredibly important
For me and for a lot of the Leeds faithful, Kyle Bartley's defensive performances this season have been the foundation of our success. However, his ability in the air has also helped us immensely.
On three separate occasions this season, Bartley’s head has changed a game and the end result. Against Blackburn in September, we looked like we were heading for a single point, but Bartley’s headed goal changed the result and, in my opinion, our whole season. Just the other week, against Brentford in a lacklustre performance, Bartley’s late header gave us the points.
Yesterday’s performance was different from those: after Bartley scored, we went on to to score 2 more goals, so he might not get the credit Chris Wood did after his brace. But Bartley’s goal early in the second half was the catalyst for the turnaround.
We needed a goal early in the second half just to take the wind out of Rotherham and re-establish ourselves... and Kyle Bartley delivered.
He also put in another stellar defensive performance as he made a wonderful tackle in the first half when Rotherham were through on goal. We all love Pontus Jansson, but we need to sign Bartley as well and keep Bartsson together for as many years as possible.
Talking Point 3: Chris Wood is Good
His first goal was a wonderful goal for many reasons, but what stood out for me was his ability to score that goal whilst the Rotherham defender was pretending to be John Cena and trying to wrestle him to the pitch (in the box at that). He was able to hold off the advancement of the Rotherham defender, still control the ball... and then score a goal like that... poetry in motion.
What I absolutely love about Wood is his ability to peel off defenders, and the second goal demonstrates that beautifully. The goal required great work from Kemar Roofe, but you can just see the movement by Wood to find the space, and he does it time and time again. His awareness in the box is second-to-none in the division, and he showed yesterday how much of an important cog he is in this Leeds United machine.
(whispers… Chris Wood is good at football, don’t tell anybody)— Through It All LIVE (@ThruItAllLIVE) January 2, 2017
Before we wrap this up, quick shout out to Luke Ayling: he was sublime again yesterday. He did everything right and for the whole 90 minutes worked his socks off. Even with goals for Bartley and Wood, Ayling wins my Man of the Match.
Overall, that was a very satisfying result. The games are usually banana skins for Leeds, but we showed in the second half the quality we possess and cemented our promotion credentials with another outstanding victory. MOT.