If Leeds United aren’t in crisis right now, this will do until the crisis actually comes. The club has lost four matches in a row and lost seven out of nine matches in the league. The club is bleeding points, the head coach is talking about how he’s battling for his job, and the chairman has already had to give the dreaded “vote of confidence.”
One of the biggest question marks going into the season was the experience of Thomas Christiansen at this level of football. He had done well at the Cypriot league with APOEL, but would that translate to the Championship, a league where there are almost no “minnows,” the talent levels are pretty even, and the grueling schedule forces managers to rely on depth more than almost any other league. The other part of the long Championship season is that while winning cures all ills, playing for a draw is often incredibly important, as while teams may not be able to win them all, grabbing draws and limiting the losses can get a team into the playoffs or more.
FA confirms a three-match ban for Berardi. Misses Leicester, Sheffield United, Derby County games.https://t.co/vodxl3cl2N— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) October 23, 2017
While some of the problems with the Leeds United defence this season has been forced upon Christiansen because of injury and suspension, there is a sense that Christiansen is unwilling to have the team close out matches, even if the team is in the lead. Leeds had a few close matches that they were able to ride out. Against Birmingham City, for example, although the team did not play well, they were able to get a late goal to cement the victory. Even against Ipswich Town and Bolton Wanderers, Leeds were able to score three goals to overcome the opponent’s goal scoring.
The problem with believing that the team can always come back and score a goal or two late to nick a match is that it prevents the team from holding onto a draw. Leeds has not drawn a match since the third league match of the season, after two scoreless home draws against Preston North End and Fulham. And while, yes, you get three points for a win, and only one point for a draw, teams aren’t going to win every match in this league, not with 46 matches plus Cup competitions. Right now, Leeds will be playing, AT MINIMUM, 51 matches this season with the four League Cup matches plus at least once FA Cup match in addition to the 46 Championship matches.
Late in matches, Christiansen always tries to go for the winner. Always. And while it might not get you manager of the month award nominations, going for draws will get you promoted in this league. Looking at four different matches during the current bad run of form, basically since the Cardiff City loss, there were four different opportunities for Leeds to grab a draw instead of giving up a late goal that resulted in a loss.
GOAL! Leeds United 0-1 READING - Modou Barrow (84)— Matchday Live (@talksportmdl) October 14, 2017
Against Reading FC, Leeds United allowed a late, late goal to Barrow after Luke Ayling was caught out of position, allowing Mo Barrow to streak into an open position in the 85th minute and Pontus Jansson was not able to get back in time to recover.
The match against Sheffield United featured an almost carbon-copy goal, as David Brooks once again found space in behind Luke Ayling who was again caught up the pitch in an attacking position in the 81st minute.
Against Derby County, Leeds gave up a late penalty after Hadi Sacko “fouled” a Derby player in the general area of the box. But again, Leeds had given up a goal in the 72nd minute after pressing up the pitch as the team pressed for an insurance goal.
Brentford was able to grab a winner after a free kick was given up by Leeds late in the match, in the 85th minute. And while Lonergan really should have had the free kick, the point is still that Leeds gave up a free-kick in a dangerous position late, late in the match while they were pressing up the pitch for a win.
Christiansen saying that Caleb Ekuban is Leeds' only absentee. "The rest are all fit." #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) September 22, 2017
Christiansen has never subbed a defender on the pitch unless he’s been forced to by injury. Never. He’s subbed off Ayling, once, and brought on another defender, but TC has never taken a winger or a midfielder off and brought on a defender. The most “defensive” move he’s made has been to bring on Liam Bridcutt in the League Cup match against Newport County after Leeds were way up. At first, it was understandable because of the lack of defensive options on the bench, but the club is more-or-less fully fit right now.
Christiansen needs to sometimes decide to kill off the match, throw on a defender, and hold what the team has, even at home. And while the team is desperate for a win right now, would anyone have been upset with a draw against Brentford, since Leeds hadn’t won at Griffin Park since 1950?
If Leeds hadn’t been pressing up the pitch for a winner, if another defender had been brought onto the pitch for those four games listed above, would the club still be in crisis? Leeds would have four more points in the table, leaving the club in 5th place with 27 points, still in the playoff positions. And while two wins and four draws in nine might still be bad, it’s not nearly as bad as seven losses in nine matches. A draw would at least stop the bleeding, and prevent the panic that seems to be setting in at the club.