Darko days as winter draws in

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Dave Hockaday – 70 days

Brian Clough – 44 days

Darko Milanic – 32 days

You really do have to feel sorry for Darko Milanic and the way that he has been treated by Leeds United over the course of 32 days and 6 games in charge. What we learned about Darko Milanic may be very little; what we learned about Massimo Cellino is much, much more.

Milanic’s appointment had a flurry of fans rushing for Wikipedia to search for him. Manager at Maribor in Slovenia, winning Championships, managing a team in the Champions League etc then getting a job at Sturm Graz all leads to a pretty decent resume with which to approach prospective employers. Not so at Leeds; to manage here you need a suit hewn from darkest obsidian and with the faeces-deflecting qualities of Teflon mixed with the fire-resistant qualities of asbestos. Why? Well when the fan’s turned up to full, the faeces is flying and you are under fire then that suit is your only protection from the messy fallout.

6 games is all it took to sack, sorry ‘part company with‘, Leeds United’s second manager of the season. 3 draws (0-0 vs Reading, 1-1 vs Sheffield Wednesday, 0-0 vs Norwich) and 3 losses (2-0 vs Brentford, 2-1 vs Rotherham, 2-1 vs Wolves) and a return of a mere 3 points from 18 was Darko’s downfall. The search for Leeds’ 3rd, yes 3rd, manager of the season seems to have already been sorted and, according to Radio Leeds’ Leeds pundit Adam Pope’s Twitter feed…it’s Neil Redfearn at the helm. One thing’s for certain, Redfearn had better perform like he did in his first spell in between Hockaday and Milanic (3 wins and 1 draw in 4 games – 10 points from 12 available) or else show some other miraculous qualities or he, himself, will be ready for Cellino’s axe.

The question that I have is this;  should Redfearn, after a bad stream of results, prod Cellino’s impatience button and get sacked/parted company with…who will want to manage Leeds United – big club or not.

Cellino’s ‘recruitment and retention’ policy reminds me of the tale from whence the definition of the word decimation comes from. The Roman Army of old used to punish capital offences, such as desertion or mutiny, by having groups of 10 soldiers choose lots; the 10th soldier dying at the hands of his colleagues. Now it is generally taken to mean ‘the removal of a part of something by ruthless means’.

Doesn’t that simply sum up the way that Cellino goes about his business up in LS11.

Thrown to the Wolves and rent asunder

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Wolves arrived at Elland Road in 4th place and faced a Leeds team lucky to be in 15th place following a sequence of 3 draws and a loss in their last four games. The game started quietly with both teams looking to gain the ascendancy and the early break. An early ball from Gaetano Berardi found Mirco Antenucci who was flagged offside by the referee’s assistant. Leeds were employed a much closer marking system than in previous games, closing down the Wolves players and denying them time on the ball. On 5 minutes, a Bianchi chipped pass over the Wolves defence proved a little too strong for the charging Morison. A few minutes later, Bianchi was caught out on the touchline and was rescued by Giuseppe Bellusci; both players were guilty of ball-watching and a quick throw nearly caught them out and Bellusci had to concede a corner. Wolves were passing much better than Leeds and had the better of the opening 10 minutes’ exchanges. On 12 minutes, a Mowatt pass from Antenucci led to a corner which was quickly cleared. A minute later, Steve Morison fired a hard, low cross into the Wolverhampton area and Alex Mowatt hit a shot into the side netting. Leeds were having much more of the possession and on 18 minutes this had telling results. Mowatt received the ball in the Leeds half and his quick look up noticed Steve Morison free on the right. Mowatt played a long, cross-field ball which was controlled well by Morison with his right foot. Morison turned the ball back inside to Mirco Antenucci who made one touch before driving it through the legs of a defender and beyond the despairing dive of Carl Ikeme in Wolverhampton’s goal. Leeds really should have made it 2-0 on 24 minutes when Morison received a pass from Antenucci and turned it inside for an unmarked Alex Mowatt to scuff his shot directly at the Wolves ‘keeper. The rest of the first half was a pretty much similar affair of half chances and neat and tidy passes with one highlight being a Bianchi pass on 39 minutes leading to a Mirco Antenucci shot that Carl Ikeme turned away from goal. The half finished 1-0 to Leeds.

Wolves looked much the brighter team at the start of the second half and started to take the game to Leeds. Wolves were committing men to the attack and, at times Leeds struggled to repel the Wolverhampton attackers. It was backs-to-the-wall stuff really and Wolves were definitely the better of the two teams. Leeds were, most times, content to stand off Wolves which, in turn, allowed them time on the ball. The first sign of danger for Leeds came in the 59th minute when a Wolves free kick from the right resulted in a glancing header from Wolves striker Nouha Dicko which Marco Silvestri acrobatically pushed around his right-hand post. Leeds’ inability to press Wolves when they were in possession of the ball came to haunt them in the 66th minute when a throw from the right touchline was played into the Leeds box, deflecting off the hapless Giuseppe Bellusci into the path of James Henry who lashed it hard into the high right of Marco Silvestri’s goal. Buoyed by this goal, Wolves committed more men forward and still Leeds sat off them which allowed the ball to be worked towards the Leeds goalmouth with alarming regularity. The killer goal from Wolves in the 85th minute highlighted the difference between the two teams, the ability of players able to make intelligent passes and combine this with quick movement. Wolves’ Dutchman Rajiv van la Parra received the ball, turning it inside for Dicko whose square ball beyond Marco Silvestri left Leon Clarke with the simplest of tap-ins. With 4 added minutes, Leeds attempted to pile forward and take whatever chances were on offer; Paraguayan U20 international Brian Montenegro being brought into the mix for his Leeds debut. However, there was to be no fairytale finish for Leeds and, despite some industry, the game petered out into yet another disappointing loss.

Wolves 1

Another game where Leeds were out-muscled, out-fought and eventually outplayed by the opposition. Leeds only had 40% of the games total passes as the Wolves central midfield duo of Kevin McDonald (84 passes – 90% accuracy) and Lee Evans (76 passes – 76% accuracy) easily took control of the centre of the park and allowed the visitors to build up their attacking platform. A telling figure is when you consider the target area for passes made into the final/opponent’s third of the field; Wolves made 405 such intended passes against Leeds’ 221 such intended passes – Wolves making 89% more passes into what can be considered the ‘attacking third’ of the field. Wolves also made 79% more cross attempts than Leeds did (34 to 19)  and had a vastly superior shot accuracy (50% – 9 from 18) that Leeds did (23% – 3 from 13); the latter showing that you have to work the keeper if you want to have scoring opportunities.

The moral of the story – when you are living off scraps you need to be fight for what falls your way; Leeds didn’t do that in the second 45 of this game.

Wolves 2

Marco Silvestri was, yet again, largely solid at the back and a reassuring sight for Leeds United fans. Of the 6 shots on target by Norwich, Silvestri saved 3 of them with an SPG rating of 3.00; his distribution accuracy was markedly up on Saturday compared to Tuesday’s game vs Norwich (62% compared to 43%). The 4 saves made by Silvestri keeps him as the #1 ranked goalkeeper in the Championship when it comes to saves made (44) and it often seems an Herculean effort that he is keeping Leeds in games that, realistically, they have no right to be in.

Wolves 3

The Leeds defensive unit had to stand up to severe pressure from the Wolves team on Saturday, especially after half time as Wolves poured forward in, often, relentless fashion. The returning Stephen Warnock put in another solid display, confounding those ‘Facebook critics’ calling for the axe to fall on him. He had 5 (71%) of the defensive units 7 tackles; these 5 tackles being above his per 90 metric for ‘tackles won’ of 2.59. To round off a good evening, Warnock also had 48 passes with 35 of these being classed as ‘short passes’ and the pass distribution being 28 targeted to the ‘final third of the pitch’. The rest of the Leeds United defensive unit looked accomplished in the first half; less so in the second. They allowed the Wolverhampton players onto them, mainly in the second half, largely standing off of them and allowing them time on the ball/to shoot.

Wolves 4

Wolves 5

Leeds were largely fighting a defensive battle and this showed as the team were out-passed by 562 passes to 373; Leeds having barely 40% of the passing possession. As a midfield unit, they only passed the ball 139 times – 37% of team total passes. Of the midfield passes by all 6 midfield players who took part in the game, 82 passes (59%) had a ‘target zone’ of the ‘final third’ of the field, at least showing the Leeds midfield attempted to play balls into the opposition’s defensive area. At times overwhelmed, the Leeds midfield did, however, battle for the ball with the midfield players contributing a total of 12 of the teams 29 tackles, a return of 41% of the team’s total tackles. To put it bluntly, Leeds’ midfield underperformed in today’s game with only youngster Lewis Cook showing anything approaching per 90 averages for the season. Total pass attempts-wise: Tommaso Bianchi returned only 22 pass attempts (per 90 return 57 pass attempts), Alex Mowatt returned only 24 pass attempts (per 90 return 46.39 pass attempts) and only Lewis Cook emerged with some glory recording 46 pass attempts (per 90 return 48 pass attempts). On the whole, it was a game that Leeds’ midfield would more than likely prefer to forget.

Additional statistic from WhoScored.com’s ‘Chalkboard’

Wolves 6

Leeds took the lead thanks to Mirco Antenucci’s 4th goal of the season after good link up play involving his strike partner for the day Steve Morison. Both strikers worked hard on what was a frustrating day for them chances-wise with Leeds only having 12 total shooting opportunities – 8 of these coming in the opening 45 minutes. Of these 8 first half shots 4 were by the strikers; 2 by Mirco Antenucci (goal and blocked shot) and 2 by Steve Morison (saved and blocked shot). This has been Leeds’ weakness all season, an inability to get the ball to the strikers in order for them to rattle off shots at goal. When they do take shots, Antenucci is the most accurate of Leeds’ strikeforce at 53% accuracy (from 25 shots). Somehow, and quickly, Leeds’ midfield quartet really do need to start feeding the front two with shooting opportunities.

Saturday was not a very good day for Leeds United; they failed to learn from mistakes of standing off attacking players at Rotherham and were duly punished. Leeds coach Darko Milanič paid the ultimate price after this game, sacked by Massimo Cellino a mere 6 games and 32 days into his coaching tenure.

Friday Night Lights…out, Leeds undone by Rotherham

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Leeds team vs Rotherham 17th October 2014

GK Silvestri

LB Warnock DC Pearce DC Bellusci RB Berardi

DM Bianchi

CM Cook            CM Mowatt

CM Austin

ST Antenucci ST Doukara

Subs S Taylor, Cooper, Byram, Sloth, Sharp, Morison, Adryan

A proverbial games of two halves and a smash and grab to get the points. The industry and neatness of Leeds’ first half performance, their dominance of possession was undone by a weak and ineffective second 45 minutes. Leeds began brightly, stringing together a succession of passes and starving Rotherham of the ball. Such was Leeds’ dominance during the opening phases of play that, after 15 minutes of play, they’d had 67% possession and Rotherham were feeding from scraps. Leeds had more of the ball and deservedly went in front in the 29th minute thanks to Mirco Antenucci’s 3rd goal of the campaign. The hardworking Souleymane Doukara collected the ball from midfield and played a delightful through ball beyond the Rotherham back four for Mirco Antenucci to run onto. Looking to play for offside, the Rotherham defenders were caught flat-footed and Antenucci cut a right-footed shot across Rotherham goalkeeper Adam Collin and it nestled into the bottom right corner of Collins’ goal. This sparked Rotherham into action and between the 30th and 40th minutes 49% of the play was in Leeds’ third of the field. A surging Antenucci run to the byeline in the 44th minute and subsequent cutback led to Doukara attempting an audacious, if mistimed overhead kick. This ended the first half with a 1-0 lead for Leeds.

Rotherham must have had a proper roasting at half time because they came out fired up and intent on creating Leeds problems. In the opening 5 minutes of the second half Rotherham harried and chased every ball and, when in possession, asked questions of Leeds’ players. During these opening 5 minutes, 66% of the action was in the Leeds final third of the field. The pressure Rotherham were applying soon told and, after a parried save by Leeds’ goalkeeper Marco Silvestri, they scored a 57th minute equaliser thanks to Alex Revell’s follow up tap in. Leeds’ efforts hadn’t as much gone ‘off the boil’ as had simply gone tepid and lukewarm. They hung off Rotherham whenever they had the ball and allowed them both time and space to dictate play. The 62nd minute gave Leeds’ travelling fans what they had been waiting 12 games for in that Milanič brought Brazilian playmaker Adryan into the fray for his full Championship debut. Rotherham also made a substitution at the same time, bringing on their record signing Jonson Clarke-Harris, a prescient introduction as 3 minutes later he hit a thunderous shot that moved about as it zipped through the air and plopped itself in the bottom right of Marco Silvestri’s goal. Adryan showed in 28 minutes just what Leeds fans had been salivating over: he was fleet of foot and dribbled the ball both into and out of challenges – his 3 dribbles (all successfully completed) resulted in Adryan having 3 shots, one on target. He was also 100% successful in his passing (89% being forward of his position when receiving the ball) and one pass to Mirco Antenucci, in the 83rd minute, resulted in a stinging shot from the latter that was palmed onto the post by Rotherham ‘keeper Collin. This represented the last meaningful action of the game and Leeds United must strike down another in the ‘dragging defeat from the jaws of victory’ column.

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Marco Silvestri again kept Leeds in a game where they experienced a torrid second half. When called upon, he was solid in his duties with 7 saves being made against the 2 goals scored (a SPG rating of 3.50) and his distribution accuracy was good at 61% (3 accurate goal kicks, 7 accurate throws and 12 accurate kicks from hand/clearances). Silvestri also showed good hands in claiming 1 catch (100% claim rate) and 3 punches. He was slightly to blame for the first goal after ‘palming out’ a shot into the path of Alex Revell who scored Rotherham’s first goal. However, no fault can be attributed to the second goal scored by Jonson Clark-Harris which was another great strike that moved through the air and deceived Marco Silvestri.

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In short, it wasn’t the most accomplished of displays by the Leeds back four, especially in the second half where they stood off Rotherham too much and granted them time on the ball. Gaetano Berardi reverted to his more natural right back position as opposed to the left back position he played against Sheffield Wednesday. He had a tidy if unspectacular game with most of his returns for the game coming in negatively under his per 90 metric for the season; the one positive being he lost only 1 tackle in the game as opposed to his per 90 lost tackles of 3.33. Jason Pearce was the busiest of the Leeds United defensive unit with 15 clearances (vs. 7.33 per 90) whilst the returning Stephen Warnock showed why Leeds were lacking his consistency with above per 90 returns in ‘blocks’ (2 vs. per 90 return of 0.42) and ‘clearances’ (11 vs per 90 return of 5.30). Giuseppe Bellusci didn’t have the best of games with all his game returns being negatives when compared to his per 90 metrics for the season.

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Solid and spectacular, at times, in the opening 45 minutes and abjectly woeful, at times, in the closing 45 minutes basically sums up the performance of the Leeds United midfield in Friday’s game. At the half, Leeds’ midfield was in total control, starving Rotherham of possession (61% – 39%) and allowing the strikers to feed from some quality ball. The story of the second half was different, very different and not in a ‘good different’ way either. Whilst Leeds’ possession remained high (68% – 32%), the activity wasn’t really of much worth. Alex Mowatt stood out as the best of a mediocre bunch tonight with his 4 ‘chances’ (vs. a per 90 of 2.38), 5 dribbles and his combined total of 55 passes (slightly above his per 90 return of 50.12) being in contrast to the ‘middling’ displays from his fellow starting midfield players. Saying that, 17 year old England Youth international Lewis Cook (who played for Leeds’ U18 when only 13) was also not afraid to take on the opposition with him also undertaking 5 dribbles. This game also marked the much-anticipated, long-awaited debut of Leeds’ highly-rated Brazilian youngster Adryan. adryan-tavares1-e1334847604356

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What Leeds had been waiting for, Darko Milanič duly delivered on 62 minutes with the introduction of Adryan Oliveira Tavares to Championship football. What was obvious from the start was that his quick feet and close ball control will undoubtedly get him out of trouble in the Championship. He also wasn’t fazed by having to run at defenders with his total of 3 dribbles resulting in 3 shots, 1 on target. He was also 100% successful with his 9 passes and had a Pass FBR of 0.89 meaning that he favoured passing forwards of his starting position 89% of the time. All-in-all, it was an encouraging 28 minutes and gave Leeds fans something to look forward to in future games.

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Leeds’ movement over the first 45 minutes was a joy to behold at times with both Souleymane Doukara and Mirco Antenucci being full of running. A through ball from Doukara to Antenucci on 30 minutes led to the latter drifting wide to the right before steering a right-footed shot across the keeper to the bottom right of the goal. That really was the highlight of the Leeds performance upfront – the rest being rather lacklustre in its nature.

It wasn’t exactly a Friday night to remember – it wasn’t good being a Leeds United fan.

 

 

Bees Sting halts Leeds’ Revival

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Leeds team vs Brentford 27th September 2014
GK Silvestri
LB Warnock DC Pearce DC Bellusci RB Byram
DM Cook
CM Bianchi CM Austin
CM Mowatt
ST Antenucci ST Doukara
Subs S Taylor, Cooper, Wootton, Tonge, Sloth, Morison, Murphy
Leeds United arrive at Brentford’s Griffin Park buoyed by two consecutive big wins and a run of 4 undefeated games. However, Brentford will run out of the tunnel on the receiving end of two consecutive heavy defeats: 4-0 to Middlesbrough and a 3-0 reversal to Norwich at home. Leeds have been playing some impressive football over the last two games (a 3-0 defeat of Huddersfield and a 3-1 away win against Bournemouth) and, finally, it seemed that the Leeds team of foreign imports, Cellino’s legiona stranieri, were finally achieving that legendary ‘gelling’ status. Over the last 5 games, Leeds’ recent form has them placed as the 4th best team in the Championship (10 points from the 15 available) and they find themselves in 12th place, a mere 2 points from the promotion playoff places. Brentford’s form over the last 5 Championship games finds then ranked 13th (with a 7 point return from the available 15) and in 14th place in the league table with 11 points.

Today’s game should see two evenly matched teams scrap it out for the 3 points on offer; there really isn’t much to separate the team over their performances this season. In their 8 games apiece Brentford have scored 9 goals to Leeds’ 10, they have conceded 13 to Leeds’ 10, pass completion accuracy is very even with Brentford completing 78% of passes to Leeds’ pass completion rate of 79%. One area where Brentford are in the ascendency is in the number of ‘chances created’ with 83 to Leeds’ 55. To this end, it could all come down to the performance of individual players such as Alex Pritchard and Alan Judge for Brentford and Tommaso Bianchi and Mirko Antenucci for Leeds United.

Leeds were like the Borg in ‘Star Trek – Next Generations’ in that they were functioning drones but without the collectivism of the ‘hive mind’. To say they were poor is a fair and pretty honourable way to describe Saturday’s performance against Brentford; shocking has been discussed as another term…other more unsavoury ones too. Leeds United fans have been served a feast of goals of late topped off with some champagne football. Saturday’s ‘feast’ was mouldy bread and served with 3a.m. back-washed nightclub lager football; it wasn’t pretty.

The opening exchanges were pretty frantic and it was a proverbial cut n’ thrust of end-to-end stuff and led to Rodolph ‘RA4’ Austin having the game’s first shot on target. Following that effort it was all Brentford and if it hadn’t have been for the heroics of Leeds’ ‘keeper Marco Silvestri then Leeds could as well have been back on the team charabanc and back up the M1 by half-time. Brentford began to dominate in terms of chances and Silvestri saved from Alex Pritchard and then followed this up with a great double save in the 23rd minute after saving Alan Judge’s free kick and then Moses Odubajo’s follow up. In the 28th minute Brentford were awarded a penalty as a result of a Jason Pearce foul but James Tarkowski’s effort ended up closer to the car park at the back of the stand than to the net.

Scant moments later Silvestri again proved to be Leeds’ saviour with a superb save keeping out ex-Leeds’ midfielder Jonathan Douglas’ goal bound header. As the first half drew to a close, Alex Mowatt forced another save from Brentford’s ‘keeper David Button. Within mere moments though, Brentford’s Spanish-born striker Jota showed great feet and smashed the ball into the roof of the Leeds goal. Leeds are used to being behind and some see us as a ‘second half team’.

We are, we lost that as well. It all started so well in the second 45 with Leeds actually looking more threatening in the final third. Both Jason Pearce and Mirko Antenucci had had pretty decent efforts on goal; Button making a great stop to deny a goalbound Pearce header and Antenucci’s shot went agonisingly over the bar. Silvestri again sprawled to be Leeds’ saviour stopping Brentford striker Andy Gray’s shot and then followed this up moments later with another stop from a Gray header which he pushed around the post. The moment that turned a winnable-ish game into the mouldy backwash lager result mentioned earlier came in the 78th minute when a quick free kick left Brentford full-back Alan McCormack with no options other than to lash it for goal, the power of his shot takng the ball past Silvestri. Leeds’ substitute Casper Sloth might have gotten a few crumbs of comfort but his shot was fractionally wide.

Not much to say really except that it wasn’t good to be a Leeds fan on Saturday.

Brent 1

Silvestri kept Leeds in the game today, no doubt about it. His 7 saves in this game at a return of 3.50 saves per goal underlined his worth; this going alongside 69% distribution success. Silvestri’s 7 saves brought his season total to 25 (4th ranked in Championship) at an average of 2.78 goals per game and against a goals to saves ratio of 0.33 meaning that he saves around 67% of goal bound efforts. His distribution accuracy was massively better than the previous weeks with 69% (vs. 43%) and came from 9 goal kicks, 4 throws, 12 kicks from back passes. The distance on his set kicks dropped a little with distances being goal kicks gaining 52metres; there were no accurate kicks from hand but Silvestri’s 1 errant kick of this ilk gained 64 metres.

Brent 2

Despite conceding 2 goals, the defence didn’t fare massively badly gaining 152 of Leeds’ 198 ‘performance’ points on the Squawka site. Stephen Warnock again made 5 interceptions of opposition passes, as did the returning Sam Byram; both player’s interception returns of 5 each places them above their per 90 metrics for this statistic (Warnock per 90 3.91 and Byram 2.62). Furthermore, their ‘clearances’ both placed them above their per 90 rating in this category: Warnock’s 5 above his per 90 figure of 4.62 and Byram’s 10 way beyond his per 90 return of 5.24. With these two playing in the full-back positions it does seem that they are quick to anticipate and cut out opponent passes.

Brent 3

Tommaso Bianchi didn’t exactly light up the game on Saturday but maintained in 7th place ranking in the Avg PG category of passing with 60.9 average passes per game. Bianchi’s contribution is added to when you consider the following: his long ball accuracy was 50% (3 from 6), he made 3 effective clearances and had a 50% tackle success rate (2 from 4). The rest of the Leeds United midfield were tidy in their passing with Mowatt returning 94% accuracy from 35 passing attempts, Cook returning 82% from his 50 passes and RA4 Austin returning a disappointing 79% from his 53 pass attempts.

Brent 4

To be brutally honest, the Leeds United strike force didn’t ‘strike’ as much as appear ‘on strike’. Creating only 2 chances over the course of the 90 minutes would hardly engender the greatest of confidence in a Leeds fan. But, on the bright side at least they didn’t get injured and are in a position to redeem themselves at Elland Road come 1st October against a Reading side no playing too shabbily at the moment and finding themselves in 1th place in Championship – 2 places above Leeds.

Today, it is not quite so good being a Leeds United fan.

Terriers tamed and leashed. Leeds kept the Dogs out.

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Leeds team vs Huddersfield 20th  September 2014

GK Silvestri

LB Warnock DC Pearce DC Bellusci RB Berardi

DM Cook

CM Bianchi            CM Austin

CM Sloth

ST Antenucci ST Doukara

Subs S Taylor, Cooper, Byram, Tonge, Adryan, Morison, Sloth

Hudds team

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lance-Corporal Jack Jones used to say in ‘Dad’s Army’ two memorable catchphrases in “Don’t panic, don’t panic!” and “They don’t like it up ‘em!”

Seems Leeds United have adopted that mantra lock, stock and barrel. A more calm, considered and, at times, creative approach had seen them enter this game on the back of a 3 match unbeaten streak with a draw against Birmingham (1-1) being the meat in a win sandwich with Bolton (1-0) and Bournemouth (3-1) providing the bread either side.

Huddersfield Town arrived to face a Leeds United team buoyed by a 3-1 win in their last game and with 3 goals that would grace any footballing stage; not one ounce of scrappiness, flukiness or luckybounciness in them. All three goals were crafted from an essential set of ingredients involving creativity and vision amongst others.

They also came face-to-face with an in-form keeper in Marco Silvestre. Leeds’ fans like Silvestre for the seeming reliability he brings between the timbers. He has made 18 ‘saves’ or stops in his 7 games thus far this season but it is his form over the 3-match ‘BTeam Sandwich’ (Bolton-Birmingham-Bournemouth) that is particularly eye-catching. He is averaging 5 saves per game, 7.50 saves per goal, 2.67 successful catches per game (100% claim rate) and 1.33 successful punched clearances per game (100% success rate).

The Leeds United defence, of late, has been less ‘paper’ and more ‘rock’ in that it has looked a little more secure. After shipping 8 goals in their first 4 games at an average of 2.00 GpG (goals per game), the Leeds defence has conceded only 2 goals in their last 3 fixtures for a return of 0.67 GpG. This could be due to a number of things but the ‘defensive four’ seem more assured and settled and, more importantly perhaps, less prone for calamitous actions. When looking at expected ‘defensive situations’ (interceptions, clearances and blocks’), two players stand out: Stephen Warnock and Giuseppe Bellusci. Stephen Warnock leads all of Leeds’ defensive players in the ‘interception’ category with a return of 3.58 per 90 whilst Giuseppe Bellusci leads the other two categories (‘clearances’ and ‘blocks’) with returns of 11.60 and 1.93 per 90 respectively.

The Leeds United midfield quartet really brought their ‘A’ game in the fixture against Bournemouth and impressive it was. Controlled passing, creative incision through the implementation of passes in the deepest depths of Bournemouth’s defensive third and more chances created than at any point in other games this season. I write in a little more depth about the match-up elsewhere, feel free to read.

But, how was all this reflected with regard to today’s fixture?

After a bright opening from both teams, the game took on the proverbial end-to-end mantle. Leeds shaded the opening exchanges with Mirco Antenucci having a shot blocked and Huddersfield having to rely on the legs of Alex Smithies when a poor backpass meant Casper Sloth was through on goal. Leeds continued to press and fantastic hustling from Mirco Antenucci led to an attempted clearance landing at the feet of Rodolph Austin who lashed it into the net. Leeds were settled and looking comfortable, solid and organised. More neat passing and interplay between Giuseppe Bellusci and Gaetano Berardi down the right flank was pretty typical of Leeds’ growing confidence. Leeds almost doubled the lead on 38 minutes when a ball played beyond the defence landed in the stride of the rapid Antenucci and only a leaden first touch denied him a shooting opportunity. This ‘denial’ was to last a smidgeon over 7 minutes before Huddersfield found themselves going in 2-0 down at the break. Bellusci romped forward and drew Smithies before deftly chipping over him, his shot unfortunately coming back off the crossbar. It landed at the feet of Mirco Antenucci who simply smashed the ball in.

The second half started off pretty quietly with the Huddersfield showing more urgency. One run from Rodolph Austin had him surging into the area only to be denied by a glut of defenders. On 60 minutes, Austin played a neat reverse pass that had Souleymane Doukara through on goal and Alex Smithies had to save with his legs – Doukara being flagged for a marginal offside. The Leeds United passing was much more crisp and decisive than it was at the start of the season; they were in total control at times. On 65 minutes the Leeds fans began chanting “You’re going down, we’re going up.” Leeds were playing with a level of confidence that was, at times, bordering on panache and flair with even Austin pirouetting like CR7 out of an attempted challenge. A mere 4 minutes later, on 69 minutes, the crowd were lifted by another goal; Austin playing Doukara through on goal and this time he finished emphatically. An ecstatic celebration from the big forward, where he removed his shirt, led to a booking. Leeds continued to drive forward and neat interplay between the impressive Austin and Casper Sloth led to Doukara having a curling shot on target that sailed just over the crossbar. The only blemish on the Leeds performance was a 73rd minute dismissal for Leeds’ right back Gaetano Berardi when he slid in on a Huddersfield player and earned a second yellow card. On 89 minutes, Mirco Antenucci set off on another high-octane halfway line sprint towards goal and his shot wsas tipped onto the outside of the post by Alex Smithies. There was still time, on 90 minutes, for yet more showboating from Rodolph ‘RA4’ Austin wo drew a free kick from a defender with a series of stepovers. The game ended with Leeds still pressing for a 4th goal.

So, under Coach-not-to-be Redfearn, Leeds United have been performing so well that the Catholic Church are sending over an emissary from The Vatican City to investigate what is happening down at Elland Road. Whatever is happening, it’s working: 4 games, 3 wins, a draw and 8 goals scored.

 

Life is good for Leeds fans.

Hudds1

Marco Silvestri simply had one of those days at the office where he was a virtual observer, such was the lack of anything to do All he did all game was make 2 catches with 100% claim success. His distribution accuracy was marginally better than the previous weeks with 43% (4 goal kicks, 2 throws, 4 kicks from back passes) but the distance on his set kicks dropped a little with distances being goal kicks gaining 54metres (down from 63 metres last game); there were no kicks from hand as Silvestri chose to throw out instead.

Hudds2

The Leeds defence had another good game and all the starting four were dependable, especially Gaetano Berardi who was dependable for another red card although this time his tackle took only the legs and not the throat. Stephen Warnock made 5 interceptions of opposition passes, Giuseppe Bellusci 6 interceptions and Jason Pearce 5 interceptions which is above their per 90 metrics for interceptions of 3.77, 3.25 and 2.12 respectively. As a unit, Leeds United’s defence were largely unsuccessful in tackle situations with the defensive four having a tackle success ratio of 0.36, meaning that they were only 36% successful in tackle situations.

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The four starting midfield players combined well in this game and were highly effective in the middle of the park. Tommaso Bianchi regained 2 places in the WhoScored passing rankings, based on his Avg P score with his total tonight being 81 attempted passes (91% completion – 76 completed passes) and he now sits in 7th place with 61.4 average passes per game. Bianchi’s contribution stands out more when you consider the following: his long ball accuracy was 75% (6 from 8), he made 1 interception, 2 effective clearances and had a 70% tackle success rate (7 from 10). Rodolph Austin also had a good game and is showing good consistency over recent games; in this game he recorded 2 chances provided for others, a direct assist and a goal. Over the last 4 games, Leeds’ midfield has come into games more and have begun competing more on equal terms with their opponents.

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Again, it was Mirco Antenucci who lit up the pitch with a solid and at times spectacular display. He was again tidy with his passing play (24 completions – 80% accuracy overall). He also had 4 shots which is above his per 90 metric of 2.25 shots, (2 on target) and scored one goal where he ran in support of the galloping Giuseppe Bellusci and slammed home the rebound from Bellusci’s deft lob that cannoned back from the crossbar. Souleymayne Doukara was played up-front alongside Mirco Antenucci in his usual ‘striking’ role and finished off the scoring

This 3-0 victory moved Leeds up to 11th place in the Championship table with Redfearn now having a return of 10 points from a possible 12. The promotion dream gathers momentum. However, rumours are that Redfearn’s time as caretaker coach/manager/bloke in charge is at an end with Leeds allegedly on the cusp of signing Sturm Graz’s Slovenian manager Darko Milanič in the not-too-distant future.

Today, it is still good being a Leeds United fan.

Leeds finally take a bite of the Cherries.

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Leeds United team vs Bournemouth 16th September 2014

Capture

Goals

“Oh, woe is me,

T’ have seen what I have seen, see what I see!”

In Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’, Ophelia utters the above words in regards to Hamlet. Fast forward a few centuries and these could well be the words on the lips of many a Leeds United fan; there are 39 more episodes where ‘woe’ could become even more apparent too. By the season’s end Leeds could easily have gone through a whole host of managers at this rate. Could Shakepeare’s Ophelia really be a Leeds fan in disguise?

To say that Leeds weren’t “at the races” is an understatement; the runners and riders had packed up by the time we arrived – the paddock was empty…and still we were our own worst enemy in the first half. It seems that the old adage of football being a ‘game of two halves’ is going to prove to be Leeds’ lucky charm this season…as long as we go behind first that is. The way that Leeds replied was the biggest comeback since Lazarus rose from his bed, cured by the Lord Jesus.

Oh, Ophelia, if you’d only have waited until the second half.

Leeds were like the British Army at Rourke’s Drift in the opening exchanges; hopelessly outnumbered and woefully over-run. Therefore, it was no surprise that they fell behind to a Bournemouth goal on 7 minutes scored by Andrew Surman. The ‘tale of the tape’ after 12 minutes told you everything you needed to know about the game up until that point [Bournemouth stats first]: passing was even-Stevens 74%-75%, crosses 9-1 and shots 5-1. Just after that, in the 14th minute, Silvestre was called upon to make a fantastic save, tipping away a good shot from Bournemouth’s Matt Ritchie. He followed that up with a double stop in the 25th minute to really keep Leeds United in the game. At half time, Leeds couldn’t have bought a win if they were on sale at a vastly reduced price; we were that poor.

The second half started much the same as the first but Leeds didn’t seem as ‘rabbit-in-the-headlights’ as they were at the start of the first 45. The defence, whilst harried, didn’t seem as paper thin as they were in the first half. However, again, on 62 minutes the impressive Marco Silvestre was called on to keep Leeds in the game with yet another stop, this time from a Ryan Fraser shot. Then, shortly afterwards, the fun began.

Leeds had been getting their proverbial ‘eye in’ and were coming into the game more with neater passing proving to be more successful. On 67 minutes the impressive Tommaso Bianchi slipped a ball beyond the Bournemouth backline to the powerfully-built Souleymane Doukara. At first it looked like he was going away from goal at the right side of the 18 yard box but a vicious right-foot shot, across the ‘keeper Lee Camp, nestled into the bottom left corner. At 1-1, Leeds would realistically have bought the draw but it wasn’t to be; their £1.6 million signing from Calcio Catania, Guiseppe ‘the Warrior’ Bellusci had other ideas.

A foul resulted in a free kick around 28 yards from goal in the 82nd minute – normally safe territory when defending against a centre back more used to booting centre  forwards than sweetly striking the ball. When I saw him standing over the ball my initial thoughts were “Just don’t put it in the car park!” A short run up, short back lift of the right leg and the ball zipped…into the top left corner; the ‘keeper done up like a kipper. That goal galvanised Leeds who really were in the ascendency now. Fans were anticipating another goal; just to make things that little bit safer.

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They had to wait exactly 8 minutes. Receiving the ball just outside the Leeds United box, Souleymane Doukara began to run, looked up and spotted the hard-working and rapid Mirco Antenucci who set off on a run. Doukara played the ball through and Antenucci, whose perfectly-timed run beat the offside trap, galloped nearly half the length of the field before coolly firing across the keeper with his right foot into the left-hand side of the goal.

It’s been a long time coming, it really has but, watching that Leeds United performance, has really made me wonder whether it could all be coming together. There wasn’t anything ‘scrappy’ about any of the goals; not simple tap-ins or scrambled efforts inside a packed box where the ball is bouncing around like a wayward pinball. Despite being starved of possession (Leeds had 39% of the play), despite being outgunned (19 shots to 11 shots) and despite being outpassed (543 to 357), Leeds United came away with an improbable victory that really wasn’t on the cards after 45 minutes.

Neil Redfearn stands currently unbeaten as Leeds’ caretaker manager with a record of 3 games, 2 wins, 1 draw with the 7 points from his games in charge moving Leeds up to 13th in the Championship table.

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Marco Silvestre performed heroics in the Leeds United goal to keep Leeds in the game, at times, and to help deliver a very welcome 3 points. Over the course of the night he made 5 saves, proving himself to be a goalkeeper that can be relied upon in ‘shot situations’. His distribution accuracy was marginally better than the previous weeks with 37% (2 throws, 4 kicks from back passes) but the distance on his set kicks remain of a consistent length with distances being goal kicks gaining 63 metres and from hand a distance of 62 metres.

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Again the Leeds United defence, after a shaky start, showed signs of them becoming a more solid and dependable unit. The usually dependable Stephen Warnock had one of his quieter games but again, Giuseppe ‘the Warrior’ Bellusci was the star of the back four. He weighed in with 4 interceptions and 12 clearances but it was his sweetly-struck free kick that was the talking point of the evening. From just shy of 30 yards, Bellusci hit a right-footed shot that zipped goalwards and lodged itself into the top left corner. As a defensive unit, the 5 players used on Saturday totalled 91 ‘performance points’ (Squawka) with Bellusci and Stephen Warnock again leading the way with 43 and 33 points respectively.

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The four starting midfield players were largely starved of the ball in this game as Leeds only had 45% of the possession and had an actual passing ratio of 0.40, recording 364 passes to the 543 recorded by their opponents Bournemouth. Tommaso Bianchi dropped 2 places in the WhoScored passing rankings, based on his Avg P score with his total tonight being 39 passes (90% completion) and he now sits in 9th place with 58.2 average passes per game. I’ve bemoaned the lack of any ‘thrust’ from the Leeds United midfield thus far this season where creativity has been sacrificed for neatness and volume of passing; tonight you couldn’t say that. and had an actual passing ratio of 0.40, recording 364 passes to the 543 recorded by their opponents Bournemouth. e top left coThe 4 players who formed the midfield against Bournemouth contributed 8 passes that resulted in shooting chances and also weighed in with 2 assists. The 8 chances created by the midfield 4 tonight represents 57% of the chances these 4 players have created all season. That fact alone illustrates what a stand-out performance they achieved in this particular game compared to the previous 6 games. Further to this, and I nearly fainted watching it, Tommaso Bianchi played a through ball, yes a through ball, to Souleymane Doukara that split the defence and led to Doukara’s well-taken goal.

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Billy Sharp’s contribution was hindered somewhat by the ineffectiveness of Leeds’ play in the opening 60 minutes. This was summed up by an attempted pass from Rodolph Austin that wasn’t just aimed to Sharp’s feet but took him off them such was the ferocity of the pass. Again, it was Mirko Antenucci that had fans and commentators alike purring with satisfaction. Not only was he dropping back to defend but he was again tidy with his passing play (20 completions – 80% accuracy overall). He also had 2 shots, (both on target) and scored one goal where he ran fully 40 metres, leaving the defenders for dead before firing across the keeper to the left-hand corner. Souleymayne Doukara was included both in the midfield write-up and in the table here as he usually plays as a striker but tonight played as a very advanced attacking midfield player at the head of a ‘diamond four’ formation.

After this victory, Leeds rocket 6 places up to 13th place in the Championship table with Redfearn now having a return of 7 points from a possible 9. This, is the stuff of promotion dreams.

Today, it is good to be a Leeds United fan.

Leeds United’s midfield: more ‘stutter’ than knife through butter.

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Without doubt, the Leeds United midfield can be characterised as being so devoid of a cutting edge that it’d be like a surgeon trying to open up a patient using a spatula. Simply put, the Leeds midfield, as deployed this season, are lacking that final ball; the ‘killer ball‘ played beyond and through defences. However, it’s not all ‘doom and gloom’; what we have this season is much, much better than what we had last season. At least this season has seen an attempt to actually pass the ball; next up is surely where to pass it to.

It’s all ‘too pretty‘; it’s all too ‘tiki taka toe poke‘ – it’s simply functional and not creative. It’s a bit like chinos and a pair of deck shoes; functional and pretty but a bit ‘meh‘. Where’s the flair? Where’s the creativity? When it comes down to it, fashionably ripped jeans are a whole sight nicer to sport than chinos.

The Leeds passing game is…well the safe option; a bit like chinos for middle-aged men.

One of the first things that I wrote in advance of the Championship 2014/15 Season was a series of articles called ‘Squared Pegs into Round Holes – How Leeds United should line up next season’; it was in part 3 that I looked at the midfield in detail. Last season the ‘chino Midfield’ was lowly ranked in the passing game based on Average passes per game (AvgP): Austin 37 AvgP (79th ranked), Tonge 34.1 AvgP (115th ranked), Mowatt 31.4 AvgP (143rd ranked) and Murphy 30.1 AvgP (154th ranked); rankings are from WhoScored. Allied to those rankings is the actual passing accuracy of each player: Austin 77.6%, Tonge 83.8%, Mowatt 79.6% and Murphy 72.1%. It was obvious that, in order for the Leeds midfield to improve, it had to up the volume of passing in general.

That has happened, well the increase in volume of passes has, and that should be recognised. This year, after 6 games, Leeds have 2 midfield players in the top 40 with regards to AvgP in Tommaso Bianchi (10th ranked 60.6 passes with 83.6% accuracy) and Rodolph Austin (34th ranked 52 passes with 83.5% accuracy); both sets of figures showing an increase in both output and accuracy. Yet, as Shakespeare said,

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

The ‘rot’ in the state of Leeds is simply that, whilst they are pulling on more fashionable lower attire than beige chinos, Leeds’ midfield aren’t wearing them with ‘swagger‘. This can be evidenced by the fact that in 6 games thus far this season, NOT one Leeds United player has attempted a through ball behind and beyond the opponent’s defensive line. Not one. An interesting observation can be drawn by looking at each players’ individual passing contribution during the first half of the Birmingham game (13.09.2014).

Leeds United – midfield players’ passing first 45 minutes (vs. Birmingham – graphics from Squawka)

45 minutes – both teams’ passing statistics

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Birmingham (left – attacking up); Leeds (right – attacking down)

Sloth – 45 minutes passing

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Mowatt – 45 minutes passing

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Bianchi – 45 minutes passing

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Cook – 45 minutes passing

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What is obvious from the graphics is that, whilst the passing is accurate between all Leeds midfield players in their ‘midfield third’, the majority of such passes are lateral passes to players in the ‘build up’. What also stands out and throbs like a blind cobbler’s thumb is the lack of hardly ANY Leeds midfield balls being played in and around the Birmingham area; there are some but very few. No passes are played into the Birmingham area from the final third of the field by any Leeds midfield player and only ONE pass, from Tommaso Bianchi, resulted in a shooting chance yet this ball was more accurate than incisive (see above graphic, yellow arrow).

As I said at the head of this article, it’s all about incision; it’s all about creativity. It’s less about Primark beige chinos and more about your Ettiene Ozeki torn jeans with rhinestones. It’s about flair rather than the negativity, yet attractiveness, of neat triangles of tiki taka toe pokery passing. Something needs to be added to the increased volume and accuracy of passing – could the reputedly mercurial talents of Brazilian wonderkind Adryan be the answer?

A lesson in Art; drawing the Blues.

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Leeds team vs Birmingham 13th September 2014
Leeds-B'ham 4-4-2 diamond

 

 

 

 

 

 

Subs S Taylor, Cooper , C Taylor, Tonge, Adryan, Doukara, Austin

International break is finally over and the business end of football returns this Saturday with Leeds having the benefit of a 12.15 kick-off, live on Sky Sports, against Birmingham. On paper, you have 2 very similar, and mediocre teams scrabbling around at the murky lower end of the Championship table. Almost equal in every category such as goals scored (Birmingham 4/Leeds 3), goals conceded (Birmingham 9/Leeds 8) and shot accuracy (Birmingham 37%/Leeds 34%) etc.; there is only a noticeable difference in passing accuracy (Birmingham 67%/Leeds 79%) and shots taken (Birmingham 52/Leeds 36). Both of these ‘skewed’ figures are important in the grand scheme of things because a.) if you don’t take enough shooting opportunities, you’ll not score enough goals and b.) passing leads to chances leads to goals…or so the theories go.

There was one enforced change to the starting XI with Swiss international Gaetano Berardi replacing the suspended Sam Byram in the right back position. On the substitutes’ bench Leeds saw the first appearance of Brazilian ‘wonderkid’ Adryan and the return of Rodolph Austin from injury. No two differing players could you imagine in the polar opposites of Adryan and Austin: flair against steel, beauty pitted against the beast.
The match started with Leeds showing some neat and patient passing and build up play in the first few minutes. As the half wore on, Birmingham came into the game more and posed more questions of Leeds, helped somewhat by Leeds’ inability to close players down thus giving them enough time on the ball to choose their passes and, at times, even settle down for a brew. On 12 minutes Leeds did something that momentarily stopped time; they tried a through ball – you heard it here, a through ball. The Leeds passing was, well, erm, ‘pretty’ in that it was tiki taka toe poke rather than hoof ball but like’ a Prom date, it was attractive to look at, promised a lot but gave you very little in return.

It was Leeds’ willingness to let Birmingham have enough time on the ball that led to them taking the lead. The ball was played to the left of the Leeds United penalty area and was played in by Brek Shea to Wes Thomas who took one touch and lashed it across Marco Silvestre in the Leeds’ goal and into the top corner. Then, as a result of the ferocity of the shot, there was a 7 minute delay whilst the Birmingham ground staff remembered their Scout training in knot tying as they struggled to replace a broken stanchion. Up until half time, Birmingham were using the ball well to pose questions for which Leeds had no answers apart from “durrrh”.

After the break, Leeds played much better, a vast improvement over the first phase of play. They were still playing the fanciness of tiki taka toe poke but there was a touch more purpose to their play; in fact there was more urgency across the whole team in general. In fact, in the 56th minute, Leeds had one of those rarities, for them, of a shot on target from Alex Mowatt and one that forced a save from the Birmingham goalkeeper Randolph. On 62 minutes, Leeds made a double substitution with Sharp and Sloth departing to make way for the entrances of Doukara and Austin. There wasn’t as much a seismic change in style of play from Leeds but there were subtle changes such as Austin and Doukara using their strength to run at Birmingham’s defenders and to pose them problems. After a few ‘half chances’, a swung-in cross from Tommaso Bianchi was headed out badly by Birmingham to Alex Mowatt who held off a defender, worked the ball into the box before switching it to his left foot and slotting it, across the Birmingham keeper, Darren Randolph, and into the bottom right corner. After that it was the proverbially clichéd ‘end-to-end’ stuff with both teams having decent chances but the game finally ended in a more than fair 1-1 draw.

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Source: Squawka.com

Source Squawka.com and WhoScored.com
The defensive unit, as a whole, looked much more composed than of late, Bellusci again showing just why he’s called ‘the warrior’. Continuing his impressive partnership with Jason Pearce in the middle, the gave an element of solidity to what has been, at times, a pretty weak and unsettled back four. They, again, combined for a high number of clearances totalling 23 between them (Bellusci with 14 had just shy of 50% of the team’s total clearances). The only ‘low point’ for Bellusci was the ease in which he was turned by Wes Thomas for Birmingham’s goal. It was also good to see Swiss international Gaetano Berardi in a Leeds shirt after his 3 game suspension for the WWE-style two-footed waist high tackle against Accrington Stanley that earned him a straight red card.

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Source: Squawka.com

To say that Leeds’ midfield was abjectly under-performing during the first 45 minutes is a little more polite than what I thought when I watched the game. I wrote a piece elsewhere that looked at just how each of the midfield players performed. It was the same old, same old levelled at them: the passing was accurate and neat but lacked any cutting thrust – all tiki taka toe pokery and no end product. However, over the course of the 90 minutes, Leeds as a team combined for a total of 528 passes with the 5 players who played in the Leeds midfield combining for 210 (40%) of these passes (WhoScored.com). Of the passes Leeds completed, 442 (83%) were classed as ‘short passes’, 68 (12%) were classed as ‘long balls’ and a low 18 (3%) were classed as ‘crosses’. Leeds held a ‘pass ratio’ of 0.60 over Birmingham, meaning that Leeds had 60% of the passing opportunities in the game – this showing a better control of possession, if not use of the ball. What was impressive is the continued solid play of Tommaso Bianchi who contributed 71 successful passes (83% accurate) and this is good enough to see him rise to be 7th ranked Championship midfielder based on average passes per game. All that Leeds United fans are hoping, wishing, clamouring for now is the first team debut of Adryan, the Brazilian wonderkind from Flamengo.

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Source Squakwa.com

It was another forgetful day at the office for the Leeds United front two with neither Billy Sharp nor Mirco Antenucci registering a shot on target during the 90 minutes; Souleymane Doukara fared no better when coming on as a 62nd minute substitute. However, both Antenucci and Doukara did, at least, contribute in terms of chances created for others with 2 and 1 chances created respectively. Furthermore, Antenucci and Doukara also showed good link up play intentions with Antenucci completing 24 passes and Doukara 12 passes to team mates.
So, Neil Redfearn has had two undefeated games in charge that have garnered 4 points. At this rate we’ll be safe by Christmas and then the charge for the Premiership can really begin.
Next up Bournemouth on Tuesday 16th September – let’s hope Leeds can pop the Cherries.

Will it all come down to an embargo?

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Everybody hates us – we don’t care!

The above is a phrase that resonates with every Leeds United fan; being the insular and parochial supporters that we are. The hatred from outside strengthens us and makes us feel more like a ‘family’: ‘us’ against ‘them’; ‘man’ against ‘the suits etc.

Leeds United fans though were shaken out of their usual ‘transfer window malaise’ by shocking events; Leeds actually bringing in players with terms such as ‘promising youngster’, ’emerging talent’ and ‘starlet’ and also included the loan-to-buy arrival of Brazilian youngster Adryan from Flamengo via Cagliari; see my earlier article for more on him. It buoyed the spirits somewhat to see others like Zan Benedicic coming in from such footballing giants as AC Milan. Leeds fans were not used to such luxuries, it was like going to the Ambassador’s gatherings in the Ferrero Rocher advertisements and being given first choice of the chocolates.

Trouble is, life is never simple up in Beeston, Leeds LS11.

News emerged today, from YEP’s Phil Hay column ‘Leeds United: Cellino buys now, plans for tomorrow’, that the manic transfer activity during the summer transfer window, which closed at 11pm on Monday 1st September, had an ulterior motive. it seems that this 15 player stockpiling was necessary ‘planning aforethought’ due to the financial situation at Elland Road. Cellino took over and restructured the debts that Leeds had in his 75% takeover of the club. This mountainous debt included month-to-month running lossesof over £1 million! Totalled up, these debts were running far beyond the annual £8 million that Championship clubs are permitted to lose; only £5 million of that being direct input from owners or shareholder losses.

Cellino took to bringing in players with wild abandon flailing around in the transfer market like a drowning man clinging to flotsam and jetsam in the ocean; 15 in total being his final list of purchases which brings United’s squad to 34 players. This large total includes 9 forwards and 6 centre backs…come to think of it, a welcome change from signing guys who played like Flotsam and Jetsam. Cellino had to make some hard financial decisions: Thorp Arch was closed, former players were not re-employed in their former match day hospitality duties and players were asked to bring packed lunches in their own ‘snap boxes’. The local Greggs saw a pretty substantial rise in the sale of sausage rolls and sausage, bean and cheese pasties before Paddy Kenny left the club.

In his article, Hay argues that Cellino has basically stockpiled players in advance of an expected transfer embargo from the breaking of Financial Fair Play regulations. He states in his article, “Clubs that fail to comply will be subject to a transfer embargo,” the governing body states. “This embargo will come in to force ahead of the subsequent transfer window beginning on January 1, 2015.”

Expectations are that there will be more than Leeds United punished in this way.

My question would be: what about Premier League teams in debt? What about your Manchester Uniteds? What about your Manchester Citys? It will also be interesting to see what happens to Blackburn Rovers FC; a Championship club reputedly in dire financial straits themselves.

A little touch of Samba salsa in LS11

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A memory that lodges deep in the ‘juvenile’ section of my psyche is of the battered and bruised underdog Rocky Balboa clinging to the top rope in victory and crying out for his wife in an act of eternal gratitude.

“Adrian. Adriaaaaaaaaan!”

Fast forward to 2014, another bruised and battered underdog, in the form of Leeds United are pinning their hopes of similar salvation and gratitude.

“Adryan. Adryaaaaaaaaan!”

The question remains, who is Adryan Oliveira Tavares and what is it that he can bring to the hustle and bustle of the Championship?

When it was rumoured that Leeds were in the process of signing. ‘Samba star’ there was initial confusion; would it be someone from ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ or would it be the arrival of a Brazilian saviour. To be fair, after the Roque Junior escapade, Leeds’ fans were hoping for sequins and sparkles but there is a genuine buzz of anticipation surrounding the signing of Adryan.

As with life as a Leeds United fan, this loan-to-buy option for Adryan wasn’t an easy affair. Adryan started his career in Brazil playing for top side Flamengo (insert date of seasons etc) before being transferred to Italian side Cagliari in (enter date). Enter Il Capo Cellino who, having prior knowledge of Adryan from his days as Cagliari owner, decided that he needed him up in the cosmopolitan area of Beeston LS11′. After much wrangling and negotiation, between clubs, player, agents, directors etc. Adryan signed for Leeds towards the end of the Summer Transfer window and has been given the Leeds’ #9 shirt from the recently departed Matt Smith who was sold on transfer deadline day to Fulham.

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Source: soccerway.com

You don’t get to play for Brazilian side Flamengo at the age of 18 without having something about you. In the 2012 team he played alongside players such as Ronaldinho, Kléberson and Vagner-Love and, overall, it was his most productive season with 3 goals and 4 assists; the goals coming at a rate of 1 per 694 minutes and an assists/goals ratio of 1.75.

Not only is Adryan a first team player with 1840 minutes under his footballing belt but he is also a member of the Brazilian national side, representing Brazil at junior level for the U17 group; winning the 2011 Sudamericano U17 tournament and coming 4th in the Mexico 2011 U17 World Cup.

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Correction – the 2011 Sudamericano App should read 8 not 5

Source: soccerway.com

Adryan finished that International season at U17 level highly regarded by many; indeed, he finished the 2011 U17 World Cup in Mexico as 3rd highest scorer (5 goals) in a Brazil U17 team that finished in 4th place in the tournament. In the 3rd/4th place game against Germany, which Brazil U17s lost 4-3, Adryan scored 2 goals and provided 1 assist. In that U17 team he played alongside such players as Marquinhos (now of Paris St Germain) and Lucas Piazon (now of Eintracht Frankfurt). During his 2011 International season for Brazil U17s; Adryan showed the kind of flair and skill set that has Leeds fans drooling with anticipation of his Championship debut after the current international break. During this time, Adryan scored 8 goals at the rate of 1 per 157 minutes and with an assist/goals ratio of 0.50.

So, as a Leeds fan myself, I join the long queues of the expectant and await the appearance of Adryan Oliveira Tavares in the famous white of Leeds United where, hopefully, his 2011 form will be replicated and that he will ‘rip apart’ the Championship and provide that ‘spark’ to ignite Cellino’s il rivoluzioni gloriosa and the charge towards the top of the Championship table.

Just don’t bring Roque Junior back with you Adryan.