Leeds United went into the offseason last year expecting some change given the way the team slid down the table, exiting the playoff places in rather humbling fashion. Fans expected that the defence would change, with the loan deal for Kyle Bartley expiring and Charlie Taylor’s AWOL performance against Wigan Athletic. Perhaps fans even thought that the midfield and wingers might change, as the team could have been interested in bringing in new players to replace Hadi Sacko and Stuart Dallas, and perhaps a new striker to take the pressure off of Chris Wood, who was the leading scorer in the division last year. The last position, however, that fans expected change at was goalkeeper as Rob Green was solid as a rock during the season, even as the team folded around him in the last few months of the season.
So when the rumors came out that the team was interested in Werder Bremen goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald, it was kind of surprising. Maybe he was brought in as insurance or to replace Marco Silvestri, fans thought, but certainly not to replace Green between the sticks, right? If the team had wanted to get a new keeper, surely Brighton & Hove Albion’s David Stockdale would have been the option, not some German that gave up a ton of goals in the Bundesliga? Even after Silvestri left to go back to Italy to join Serie A side Hellas Verona, most assumed that Green was still the first choice keeper.
Yes, tough call on the face of it but expecting it to be Wiedwald as started game v Oxford and played the 90— Lee Sobot (@LeeSobotYEP) August 3, 2017
The first indication that Wiedwald had sealed the starting job for the season really came during the friendly against Oxford United a week before the season began. Most observers of the club figured that Christiansen would use the same lineup against Oxford as he was planning to against Bolton, even if he sort of denied that he was doing that. So when Wiedwald started the final preseason match, fans and pundits alike really took the idea that Green would start the season on the bench, making all those rumors about Green wanting out suddenly make so much more sense.
Of course, to add fuel to the fire, while Wiedwald did start against Bolton Wanderers, he had a rather uninspiring start to his Leeds career, looking shaky against crosses and set pieces. In our player grades, Jack Robshaw gave Wiedwald a 5, and for many fans it might have seemed generous. After all, Bolton scored on a corner where Wiedwald failed to get within six yards of the ball as it headed to the back post, and there was a series earlier in the first half where the Wiedwald failed to punch the ball clear and it the ball seemed to ping back and forth between the two teams until Leeds finally cleared the ball past the touchline.
Wiedwald is in the team for his composure with ball at his feet and his distribution.— jamie Bridge (@jamiebridge1) August 6, 2017
What Wiedwald does possess that Rob Green doesn’t, however, seems to be the ability to start the play from the back, distributing the ball by throwing the ball out to the fullbacks and centrebacks and building the attack on the ground, rather than simply hoofing the ball up the pitch towards Chris Wood. Now while this may be a stylistic difference in play between Christiansen and Garry Monk, it remains to be seen if Green is able to play that way or not. If Green goes out and simply hoofs the ball up the pitch every time he gets it, Green may be reduced to a bench and/or cup role at the club. However, if Green goes out and does a passable job at distributing the ball while getting a clean sheet and being the dominate keeper on crosses and set pieces like we know he can, maybe he gets the nod against Preston on the weekend.
It’s hard to believe that Rob Green could have a season like he did last year and still lose his starting role, but if Christiansen prefers the way that Wiedwald plays as a “sweeper-keeper” type of role, than Green’s role as a starting keeper at the club appear to be numbered, even if Green is better at dealing with crosses and set pieces. If Green does go out and have an all-world clean sheet against Port Vale while moving the ball decently, however, maybe he gets the nod against Preston instead. Stay tuned.