Leeds team vs Brentford 27th September 2014
LB Warnock DC Pearce DC Bellusci RB Byram
CM Bianchi CM Austin
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.