Editor’s Note: Since Leeds is on a three match losing streak, some things need to change. So we’re suggesting some changes. Yesterday we said that Ronaldo Vieira needs to start. Check back all this week for more opinions from us about some “changes” that we’d like to see.
Leeds United is currently on a three match losing streak and has now lost four of its last five Championship matches. And while the team was riding high, destroying all in its path earlier in the season, as the days have gotten shorter with the approach of autumn, so has the challenge facing Thomas Christiansen.
Talented teams always start out with a bang, but well-coached and well-prepared teams are ones that can overcome obstacles in their path. And while talent has driven a lot of the early success of the team, some cracks are starting to appear in lineup that Christiansen has been using.
Pablo Hernandez was almost universally considered to be a shoo-in at the attacking midfielder position at the beginning of the year, and with good reason. Hernandez was a known quantity and had performed well for the team last season, although he did start to wear down near the end of the season.
And then Samu Saiz had that game against Port Vale.
Once it became apparent that Saiz was going to force his way into the starting lineup, Christiansen had a dilemma on his hands: Two of his best players play the same position. Christiansen’s solution? He moved Hernandez to left wing, opposite Gjanni Alioski and inserted Saiz at the central attacking spot. Simple, eh?
no, true. But he's stuck to his guns to his cost on occasions (thinking of Millwall away especially. Although Leeds always lose there)— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) October 16, 2017
However, for as many matches as it worked, it’s now not working at all. Millwall exposed the defensive vulnerabilities that arise out of playing Hernandez on the wing by overloading their right side, having their right back and right winger/midfielder go bombing down the pitch and shredding the Leeds defense. Ipswich Town and Cardiff City also seemed to get the memo and honestly, Sheffield Wednesday didn’t even have to bother. Neither Saiz nor Hernandez are especially good at playing defence, and opposing teams have exploited it and the offence that is generated by having both Saiz and Hernandez on the pitch is no longer worth the price that the team has paid defensively.
So why not start Stuart Dallas? Kemar Roofe hasn’t exactly grabbed one of the winger spots and made it his own, and while Alioski is left-footed, he’s clearly more comfortable on the right side, where he can cut in and get a shot off at the keeper. Stuart Dallas is a right-footed left winger, dovetails well with Alioski on the other flank. Dallas has played well the times he has gotten onto the pitch, and he’s responsible enough defensively to fill in at left back when the team needs to attack.
Dallas is not as creative as Hernandez, but he can score goals and unlike Hernandez, he can play some defence. He’d be a better fit than Kemar Roofe, who really isn’t a winger and the other candidates aren’t exactly tested. Pawel Cibicki can allegedly play on the wing, but we haven’t seen him. Madger Gomes has looked good at times during preseason and during the Cup matches, but asking him to come up and start in the Championship might be a bit much. Dallas has been playing well for Leeds and he’s been playing well for Northern Ireland. There is no reason that he should only get a few minutes here and there and only gets to start in Cup matches. He needs to get a start to see what he can do for the team.
Stuart Dallas needs to start if for no other reason that it might stop the goals from leaking in from the left-hand side and he’ll provide more defence. Saiz and Lasogga should be able to create enough for a goal or two, and if not, well, hey, maybe Dallas can pop up and get a goal. But right now, playing two attacking midfielders isn’t working, so a true “winger” needs to be brought in to the lineup.