Leeds team vs Middlesbrough 16thth August 2014
RB Byram DC Pearce DC Cooper LB Warnock
MC Murphy MC Bianchi
ST Doukara ST Sharp
Subs: S Taylor, C Taylor, Wooton, Cook, Tonge, Smith, Poleon
Harold Wilson, ex-Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is reputed to have said, “A week’s a long time in Politics.” Looking back at Leeds United’s abject failure against Millwall in their opening game of the Championship 2014/15 campaign, you’d be forgiven in thinking that Leeds would be on a downward spiral of such epic proportions that they’d reach rock bottom in super-quick time and, more-than-likely, pass the Devil himself on the way. However, fast forward 7 days, via a mixed 2-1 victory over Accrington Stanley in the Capital One Cup, and with 8 of the very same players who tasted defeat at Millwall and Leeds come away with a 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough.
Marco Silvestre had a busier game today against Middlesbrough than he did against Millwall last week, despite not conceding today. When called upon to exhibit his goalkeeping duties, he was what most Leeds’ fans want from their #1; he was solid and dependable. Silvestre’s distribution accuracy today (measured where the ball reaches an intended team-mate) was lower at 48% accuracy than it was during the defeat to Millwall (66% accurate); he was accurate on all 3 of his throws to team-mates with an average throw distribution of 21 metres. Another positive that Marco Silvestre can take from today’s game is that he was 100% successful on the 3 catches he chose to make.
In today’s game, Steven Warnock was again Leeds United’s most capable defender. Building on last week’s ‘overall’ and ‘defensive’ scores of 18.02 and 22.35 respectively (sourced from Squawka.com), Warnock achieved even better ratings for today’s game of 57.77 (overall performance) and 61.75 (defensive). He showed an increase over last week’s production across all categories making more interceptions this game with 6 (last game 5), making a blocked shot attempt this game (last game 0) and making 8 clearances this game (last game 5). In fact, Warnock’s interception average of 5.5 per game over the opening 2 games ranks him as the highest rated defender in this category (WhoScored.com) .
Perhaps the biggest turnaround, again based on Squawka.com ratings), is that achieved by Leeds’ captain Jason Pearce. Last week’s performance, in the opening game against Millwall, could be termed a ‘howler’, some may even say a ‘nightmare’ of a performance. Pearce managed only meagre ‘overall’ and ‘defensive’ scores of -15.35 and -2.70 respectively; yes negative ratings! However, come this week’s better performance and Jason Pearce’s ratings ‘skyrocket’ with his ‘overall’ rating going up to 42.28 for today’s game (an improvement of 57.63) and his ‘defensive’ rating rising to 49.34 (an improvement of 52.04). By glancing at the above table, and comparing the cumulative totals with those from today’s game against Middlesbrough, it is clear to see that improved ‘interception’ and ‘blocked shots’ totals have contributed to Jason Pearce’s improved rating this week. A caveat that may be worrying for Leeds’ fans is that he (Jason Pearce) only wins 37.50% of his aerial duels; a low total for a centre back.
Leeds’ midfield still seems to possess one glaringly obvious weakness when taking into consideration the wishes of Coach Hockaday to play ‘passing football’; they don’t pass often enough. The Leeds player with the most passes attempted this season is Rodolph Austin (116 attempted passes – 92 completed – success rate 79%) which is good enough to place him as 15th ranked midfield player when taking into account average passes per game (AvgP) of 59; these figures being taken from WhoScored.com. What is of interest is this; seeing as Leeds had a low pass frequency from their midfield last season, how do they fare when compared to players this season over the course of the first two games when looking at their AvgP.
Considering Coach Hockaday wishes Leeds United to be a ‘passing team’, the figures in the above table do not make fantastic reading for Hockaday’s team debriefs come Monday morning. It is quite stark in the glaring weaknesses it shows; Leeds United midfield players don’t attempt anywhere near enough passes per game and not with anywhere near enough accuracy. It is also worth noting that both Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers have 2 midfield players in the top 10 Championship midfield players ranked on their Avg P totals. Fulham have Scott Parker (ranked 1st with 92.5 Avg P – 87% success) and Emerson Hyndman (ranked 7th with 70 Avg P – 90% success) whilst Wolverhampton have Kevin McDonald (ranked 2nd with 83 Avg P – 84.3% success) and Lee Evan (ranked 3rd with 79 Avg P – 86.1% success); surely these are the figures that Coach Hockaday will want to encourage in a ‘passing first’ team. It is also worth noting that both Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers defenders rank in the top 10 for Avg P as well
Leeds started today’s game with a 4-1-2-1-2 Diamond formation with Billy Sharp and Souleymane Doukara starting ‘up top’ in the main two striker positions. There’s not a lot that can really be read into the figures from today’s game. Sharp and Doukara both created a single chance each with their play. It is worth noting however that it was Poleon’s neat layoff from a pin-point Murphy pass that led to Michael Tonge’s shot and ultimately Billy Sharp’s ‘tap-in’ goal from the spilled shot. It would be nice to see Doukara replicating the form that brought him 2 goals midweek against Accrington Stanley but hopefully that will come as he becomes more acclimatised to the Championship game.
It seems ex-Prime Minister Wilson was correct and it appears that a week is a long time in both Politics and Football. A much improved defensive performance over the abjectly woeful and at times pitiful display against Millwall on the opening day of the season last weekend gave Leeds a much more solid base to build upon resulting in a much-needed victory; albeit by an 88th minute goal from new signing Billy Sharp. Saying that, the midfield still show signs that they need to pick up their passing game and present a more creative threat when going forwards.