Leeds United suffered a beating today at the hands of Nottingham Forest at the City Ground making it 2 losses in a row for the Mighty Whites. A poor performance in the first half saw a woeful back pass from Adam Forshaw gift Nottingham Forest an early 1-0 lead through Jack Colback and a deserved straight red card for Kalvin Philips, just before half time, left Leeds with an almighty mountain to climb in the second half. A spirited fightback after the break saw Leeds draw level and then go one ahead thanks to Jack Clarke and Gjanni Alioski. However, Forest regrouped and equalised through Colback, claiming his second goal of the match. Goals from “Man of the Match” Daryl Murphy and Ben Osborn condemned the 10 men of Leeds to a 4-2 defeat. Here are 3 things we learned about Leeds Utd after today’s encounter with Forest.
Our Central Midfielders are exhausted
Adam Forshaw and Mateusz Klich looked absolutely shattered throughout the match today and cannot be expected to continue to be effective in midfield without some period of rest. Both men have looked jaded in the last number of games but, at Forest, their degree of fatigue was glaringly obvious to any independent observer. Forshaw was at fault for the first goal, continued to be sloppy in distribution and was easily turned for Forest’s fourth goal. Klich, once again, failed to grab the game by the scruff of the neck and was unable to dictate the play and influence proceedings like he did so well during the early part of the season. Forshaw’s recent performances indicate a mental fatigue as was highlighted by his poor ball to Bailey Peacock-Farrell which led to Forest’s first goal whereas Klich just looks plain physically goosed. It’s overwhelmingly clear that he misses the energy of Kalvin Philips beside him on the park. Being in a Marcelo Bielsa team is incredibly demanding on all players but being a midfielder in a Bielsa team is bordering on torture. Especially in the Championship. There are so many games. There is no winter break. And Leeds Utd don’t have the quality in reserve at present to address this worrying reality and to give the boys a break.
Leeds Utd are seriously missing their captain, Liam Cooper
Liam Cooper, often derided by some, has proven to be a huge loss, maybe even the biggest loss to Leeds Utd this season. Before he got injured he was playing very well. He was organising the defence with authority, coped admirably when forced into playing with different central partners and was popping up to score some crucial goals. It’s only in his absence Leeds Utd fans can really see now how important he is to the team. However, the most valuable attribute Cooper possesses is his ability to lead. To be a captain. The squad picked him again this season to be their leader on the park which must demonstate how highly his fellow professionals think of him. Luke Ayling looks more comfortable when Cooper plays. Bailey Peacock-Farrell seems more confident when Cooper is in front of him. And, furthermore, Cooper’s unavailability has led to a tangible strain on the midfield as Kalvin Philips continues to be utilised at centre-back. Bielsa will have to get his thinking cap on now, big time, with today’s red card for Philips eroding his defensive and midfield options even further.
Jack Clarke is ready to start
Jack Clarke, as Leeds fans have become accustomed to, came on for Jack Harrison at half-time during today’s duel with Forest. He grabbed an equalising goal and was dangerous throughout the second half. While Harrison was a little better today he still lacked quality with his delivery and Clarke looks to be a better footballer all round. Therefore, Clarke needs to start. Marcelo Bielsa must be admired for his mature management of Clarke to date as he has, steadily and sensibly, introduced him to first team football and avoided putting the 18 year old in at the deep end too prematurely. However, Clarke is now ready to start. He has passed his exams. He’s made the grade. Certainly, he might not be used for the full 90 minutes yet but he has demonstrated in 45 minutes again today how important he can be for the team. If a winger is not brought in to the club this month, Clarke’s involvement will need to be ramped up as Leeds attempt to address the current blip in form.