Felix Wiedwald was almost completely unknown to fans of Leeds United when the big German keeper made the switch from Werder Bremen last summer. He didn’t have the best goals against average in the league during his starts in the Bundesliga, but most fans were willing to at least give him the benefit of the doubt, as the whole team was poor in front of him. Still, most fans were surprised to see a keeper brought in, with Rob Green being a rock between the pipes during the 2016-17 season.
At first, Wiedwald played pretty well. Despite looking a little shaky against Bolton Wanderers during the first match of the season, Leeds kept a six game league clean sheet streak, landing the team on top of the table. He made a number of good saves, and did wonders passing the ball out of the back, putting Leeds on the break whenever he got the ball and released the wingers and fullbacks down the flank on the attack.
And then the match at Millwall happened. The South London club figured out how to crack Wiedwald and Leeds never looked nearly as comfortable at the back the rest of the season. Wiedwald had a horror showing against Sheffield Wednesday in October, but the whole team did. He was benched in favour of Andy Lonergan, but after Lonergan had his own nightmare performance against Brentford, Wiedwald was recalled to be the starter for the match at Barnsley FC.
And once again, Wiedwald played pretty well for about six weeks or so, and then like the rest of the team, his performances fell off a cliff, leading him to once again being benched, this time for good. After a number of extremely awful mistakes against Middlesbrough, Bailey Peacock-Farrell was brought in as the starter and the young Northern Ireland keeper never looked back, grabbing the starting job and dispatching the German to the a place outside of the bench.
Season Grade: D
Wiedwald was not an adequate replacement for Green, and while it’s easy to look back and see that as a mistake, you could at least understand where Victor Orta and Thomas Christiansen were coming from. They wanted to play the ball on the floor and have a keeper that could play with the ball at his feet and do more than just punt the ball down the pitch. Unfortunately, while Wiedwald could play decently with the ball at his feet and with distribution, once teams cracked the “system” there didn’t seem to be a plan B for him. Despite having the fourth best clean-sheet percentage in the Championship among regular starters, his errors all too often prevented him from being an effective goalkeeper. And while his 12 clean sheets in 28 matches was impressive, don’t forget that half of them came in the first seven matches of the season.
There hasn’t been very many rumours about if Wiedwald is departing Leeds during the summer transfer window, but at this point it would be a surprise to see him on the squad when next season starts.