clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Leeds United's lack of quality width might keep them from the Premier League

New, comment

It's been a long-standing problem for Leeds, and despite new additions, it's beginning to resurface with a vengeance.

Liverpool v Leeds United - EFL Cup Quarter-Final
Hadi Sacko can create a spark - when he's not being wasteful.
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Long gone are the glory days of Harry Kewell, Aaron Lennon, James Milner and Lee Bowyer at Leeds United.

Yes, I'm well aware that there are many names of yesteryear that you could also throw into the mix, but I'm not one to pretend to know too much about something before my time.

Anyway, the fact that all of these names are in the past - and by some distant past at that - is a real issue.

Pace, power, skill, dead ball delivery, crossing ability, final ball, ability to score goals...the list goes on, and while there have been players coming through Elland Road in the last little while to show potential, none have really ticked off every aspect of what we need in our side.

Another poor transfer market, lack of game-changing ability

Currently, Garry Monk has an awful lot of options out wide.

The transfer window, and Leeds' performance in it, can be discussed and scrutinised in a debate all on it's own for some time. What we needed, what we didn't need, who we needed, who should've gone...

But if our social media community is anything to go by, there was a rather overwhelming consensus of what our weaknesses and shortcomings were, and how they needed to be addressed.

While I will try to refrain from going into the politics of it all, Monk didn't exactly hide behind a script when pressed for answers on deals from the media. He grew increasingly frustrated and made it known. On the whole, he wanted certain players, and it seems as though the board didn't agree.

However, one area we didn't expect to strengthen was the wide options.

Deadline day saw Modou Barrow and Alfonso Pedraza join Stuart Dallas, Souleymane Doukara, Kemar Roofe and Hadi Sacko as Monk's wide assets.

Six wingers for two positions. The additions gave Monk lots of depth at the position... but the quality? Yet to be determined, and I'm not entirely convinced.

The most alarming thing for me at the moment is the rotation policy. I don't think this is necessarily Monk's fault, it's more the fact that there isn't really anyone jumping around with their hand up justifying to be picked every week.

More to the point, when Monk may typically look to his bench to change things; be that protecting a lead or chasing an equaliser, it doesn't exactly inspire me.

I don't think at any point this season have I said to myself, "Oh it's okay, we have him on the bench, he'll come on and make a difference".

Minus perhaps Pablo Hernandez - should he not start a game - Leeds simply don't have anyone they can call upon to bring a new lease of life to the game... a go-to hero.

When we fall behind, I rarely feel confident we'll get back into it, purely because of that fact. We have no game-changer.

'Rotation policy' illustrates obvious issue for Monk

So far in February, Leeds have played five games. In those five games, Monk has started with five different options out wide.

Dallas has four starts, Sacko three - Doukara, Pedraza and Roofe each have one.

In comparison, Newcastle United have also played five games this month thus far, but Rafael Benitez has used the same two players on the flanks for them all.

Matt Ritchie and Yoan Gouffran have five starts each in five games.

At Brighton, it's a similar scenario, with Anthony Knockaert starting all five of their February matches partnering either Jamie Murphy (3) or Solly March (2) on the flanks.

Huddersfield Town, same thing. Elias Kachunga has started all five of the Terriers' February games, while Ryan Van La Parra has four starts, with Joe Lolley deputising on one occasion.

There's a pattern developing here...

Monk has used twice as many combinations on the wing as the top-three sides...in as few as five matches.

The proof is in the pudding. He is not convinced, happy, or satisfied with the quality in those positions, and is forced to trying something new until it clicks.

Of course, the more frequent the change in personnel, the harder it becomes and the longer it takes for partnerships to form.

If it wasn't for the finishing ability of Chris Wood and his goals, or the vision and delivery from Hernandez, then Leeds would be struggling for goals... big time.

The stats don't lie

While that stat, fact or figure isn't always fool-proof on its own, it often starts to shine through when it's shown in performances on the pitch.

We're all well aware of Wood's terrific exploits up front for the club this season, but concern lies in the gulf between him and the rest of the side in the goals column.

After Wood, Doukara (somehow?) follows with five strikes. Behind him, we have Kyle Bartley and Hernandez on four. Pontus Jansson rounds off the top five on three goals.

So, let's just put that into perspective, shall we? Only one of our six wingers feature in the top five scorers at the club?

Of course, Pedraza and Barrow can't really be taken into consideration following their late arrivals. But for the others...? Not good enough.

What makes it worse, is that - Doukara aside - our two centre-halves have scored more goals than the other three full-season wingers combined.

Bartley and Jansson combine for seven strikes, while Dallas, Sacko and Roofe can only manage to two apiece.

Simply not good enough.

Meanwhile, the aforementioned Ritchie and Gouffran have netted 13 times between them for the Magpies.

"But it's not only about goals for wingers!" I hear you cry...

Assists are of course important, too. Of the 45 goals scored in the league by Leeds United this season, 33 have had assists attributed to them.

However, only a third of those, 11, have been from those four who began the season at Elland Road... Roofe leads that pack on five.

While it's not always about the numbers game, the facts are pretty damning. You can't hide from those figures.

How does it change?

Well ultimately, the main panic in the transfer window was the lack of cover for Wood should, god forbid, he pick up an injury.

It was always going to be a difficult issues to tackle. Wood cant be dropped, and no one good enough would want to sit on the bench - a catch-22.

I think the acquisitions were rather a 'panic move' to give fans confidence that there was something being done and there was a plan in place. Were they the players Monk wanted? Probably not, but who knows? Will they be the players to boost results for the run-in? Potentially, hopefully.

Either way, Wood can't always do it on his own. One way or another, the wingers - Pedraza and Barrow specifically - will need to step to the mark, and soon.

It's obvious to me that Monk isn't happy with those he's able to pick from, otherwise there wouldn't be any need for all the changes, would there?

To that end, he needs to bite the bullet and pick the same two players week-in-week-out. Give Pedraza a chance, give Barrow a go from the off. Why not?

They'll be under pressure though...no one wants to be another Jimmy Kebe or Adryan, do they? MOT.