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Leeds United at Ipswich Town: Three takeaways from a plucky Portman Road performance

In accordance with the recent 'jolting' run of form, Leeds United escaped Suffolk with a hard-fought point.

Brighton & Hove Albion v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship
Is a return to the Kalvin/Ronaldo midfield what we’re missing? A point is a point, but there are problems to fix.
Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

This weekend, we witnessed another subdued away performance from Leeds United in what carried on February's slightly-faltering form.

After a 1-1 draw at Ipswich Town, Garry Monk and his charges headed back up the A1 on Saturday afternoon rather fortunate to have bagged the single point that keeps them above seventh-placed water.

Despite the nature of the 'victory' of a point away, it remains to be seen what it is, exactly, that seems to currently have the club in loose-fitting handcuffs...

Talking point 1: Too many players 'drifting'

Much of the problem with Leeds United’s consistency at the moment - or lack thereof - starts with the players themselves... (funny that, isn't it)?

The Pablo Hernandezes, Eunan O'Kanes and Ronaldo Vieiras of this side seem to have developed a love for rollercoasters - or at least that's what their performances would suggest.

Hernandez, in particular, appears to be the main culprit behind recent frustrations. He's either slicing defences open and terrorising opposition players for 90 minutes or struggling to retain possession and give Leeds any attacking impetus whatsoever.

One week he's the real deal and unplayable, the next he’s incredibly ineffective.

Hadi Sacko is another that falls into this trap. Similar to Hernandez, he can either be invaluable, or a hair-pulling position-waster.

If Leeds are to get out of this recent mini-'slump', (and yes, that's what we're in), then these key players need to start turning up every single week. Is a threat from the seventh spot, possibly falling out of the playoffs for a week, needed for them to realize what’s at stake? We’ll see.

Talking point 2: Midfield choices a constant dilemma for Monk

Managers all over the country, of course, have to make changes to adapt to their opposition - or maybe even through rest or rotation policies.

For Garry Monk, however, the Leeds midfield is proving to be a bit of a head-scratcher.

In Eunan O'Kane, he has (supposedly) a ball-playing, calming influence ahead of the back-four with experience in the run up to promotion. In Liam Bridcutt and Ronaldo Vieira, he has a tough-tackling pair who aren't afraid to get stuck in. In Kalvin Phillips, Monk has a sort of 'hybrid' of the two options.

All four of them appear to cover the bases for what would be needed of the '2' in a 4-2-3-1 formation that Monk likes. As James Mahoney wrote for us last week, it's the deployment and combination that's proving tricky.

I think that the chopping and changing of this area of the park is hindering chemistry and fluidity from one performance to the next.

Before Christmas, with O'Kane injured and Bridcutt in and out with niggles, Vieira and Phillips did fine in the former pair’s absences.

With a two-from-three choice upon Bridcutt's return, consistency and sharpness was higher, more prevalent. With a two-from-four choice however, it's not as easy.

No one knows anymore which combination Monk will elect on a game day. Of course, as I said, pre-match study and tactics will dictate this, I just think there may be too much tinkering going on. Maybe it’s time to pick two and stick with them.

In recent weeks, Leeds haven't won certain games purely because they've lost the midfield battle. No midfield... no service to Chris Wood... goals dry up.

Talking point 3: Defensively capable, in comparison

Last season (and the five before that), Leeds United lose that game on Saturday.

Easy. Guaranteed.

The difference? The defence was, on the whole, solid on Saturday. Minus the slack marking and unconvincing moment they switched off for Ipswich's goal, the back-four dealt with the pressure well.

While Leeds were overall lucky to escape with a point, it won't necessarily be a massive two-points dropped for Ipswich. Not like it would've been had we not seen out the win over Derby at Elland Road.

Did Ipswich deserve to win? Probably - but it wasn't a 'yes'.

It's been a recurring theme: Leeds haven't really been 'dominated' all over the park and robbed a point or three this season, at least not since August, and much of that is down to the defence and the solid unit it has become.

With Sol Bamba and Giuseppe Bellusci in the heart of that line, Leeds would be absolutely nowhere near the playoff positions this season - and Rob Green has undoubtedly been a revelation between the sticks as well, especially with his performances this month.

Not a great result, not a great effort, not a great performance. But one point beats zero, and a massive game against our blue-and-white mates from the south awaits us on Saturday.

It's alright though: the midfield yo-yo is currently on its way back up. MOT.