Just two weeks ago, Leeds United defeated the side currently leading the Championship. Victory over Brighton & Hove Albion was the very best result we have seen from Garry Monk’s Leeds United. Tuesday’s performance against Brentford will never be confused with such a highlight.
United suffered a second league defeat in just four days, as two early goals gave Brentford a 2-0 victory at Griffin Park. The performance was as bleak as the scoreline represents. The hosts started the better, converted their dominance into scoreboard pressure and Leeds were helplessly doomed to another empty away trip.
The result sees United nestled into fifth on the Championship table, only five points clear of a charging Fulham in seventh. The play-offs are still on the agenda, although Saturday’s fixture against Preston is now legitimately the biggest game of the season.
Before we start the prognosticating to the weekend, here are three takeaways from Tuesday night.
Talking point 1: Where are the goals?
United didn't look like scoring on Tuesday night, despite playing against a side with absolutely nothing to play for as the season draws down. The same problem was evident against Reading on Saturday and many other big games this season.
We all know how amazing Chris Wood has been. There is nothing left for the big Kiwi to prove. He has singlehandedly carried our front line and spearheaded a side contending for the play-offs. But where is the help?
Wood is on track to play more minutes this season than any other in his professional career. Combine that with the added responsibility of playing for his country every international break and it is only fair to ask whether he is wearing down. With six fixtures left in the season, Monk needs to find some attacking impetus from the depths of his squad to help out Wood.
In the eleven games United has played against fellow top seven sides (Brighton, Newcastle, Reading, Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham), United has only scored three goals from players not named Chris Wood. And of that, one was an own goal at Fulham and another was a penalty scored by Souleymane Doukara late against Reading back in December.
That leaves one Marcus Antonsson strike as the only time United has scored against a play-off contender in open play. Yann Kermorgant may be the name we all love to hate, but he isn't completely wrong.
Talking point 2: Midfield needs a lift
This is nothing new. Many, including our own James Mahoney, have highlighted the importance of United winning the midfield battles in big games throughout the season.
Once again on Tuesday night, a well organised opposition controlled the centre of the park and dictated 90 minutes of football. If our fortunes are to turn around, it must start in the middle of the pitch.
Talking point 3: Can we blame the international break?
United have been flat after the international break and this is nothing new. Leeds continued their streak of losing the first game after the international break on Saturday against Reading, and continued their malaise yesterday against Brentford.
The 180 minutes of football United have put forth this week ranks among the worst we have seen all season. The squad has been sloppy and devoid of inspiration. Brentford and Reading are both in the top half of the table, although the quality of the opposition doesn’t excuse how United has played.
Leeds need a lift if they dream of punctuating this season with the ultimate success. Maybe this will come with repetitive football, maybe? But it sure seems like rest is not the answer to anything at Elland Road this season.
After the Brighton victory, I wrote that it was almost impossible to find any negatives from that performance. The past four days has been the complete opposite. United’s attack has evaporated and the defensive backbone which has carried the team all season looks worn out.
But the sky isn't falling just yet. Monk’s men still control their fate and are one strong performance away from stabilising everything. This Saturday against Preston provides that opportunity and a pressure packed Elland Road awaits.
Leeds' final 6 games...— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) April 4, 2017
Six cup finals. #LUFC #MOT pic.twitter.com/QKchlV5A15