Over the past two weeks it’s not been easy to be a Leeds fan, and I feel like a lot of the optimism we had after our dynamic opening day win against Brighton has been slowly eroded by mediocre results and low scoring games. The loss at Derby was typical of Leeds this season: the team weren't awful by any stretch of the imagination, but Leeds were predictable on the ball, conceded easy goals, and never looked like scoring more than the odd goal themselves. The issues in our team have become so glaringly obvious it almost hurts to spell them out: We don’t have a natural goalscorer. Our best players are painfully inconsistent. We lack width, guile and pace. Hunt is s***. Done.
However much I want to though, I just can’t judge Brian Mac harshly at this point. He might have – in retrospect - overspent on Murphy when we had a glaring need for width, and his team selection hasn’t always been perfect either, but like many a Leeds manager before him he’s also managing with one hand tied behind his back. In this sense it's a shame the results haven't been better, but we knew it’d be like this. The club finances are in disarray, we have about ten central midfielders on the books, (remember when we only had Brown and Clayton?) no wingers, and our best player is a 20 year old right-back. Pretty much solely because of the likes of Austin, Mccormack and the youngsters, Leeds are a mid-table side, but that’s all we are.
Still, while I’ll concede we don’t have the players to seriously challenge from promotion right now, Leeds can definitely do something about their form between now and the end of the international break. For starters, Mcdermott needs to shake up the starting eleven and experiment a bit more, starting with a formation swap to a 4-3-3. This would give us the unpredictability and width that we’ve lacked so far, and also open the door for some different players to prove themselves. While we don’t have any players who can play wide in a 4-4-2, Mccormack, Poleon and Diouf can all play as wide strikers, and playing Byram at right wing shouldn’t be ruled out either, especially with Peltier deservedly holding down a right back berth in the side right now. In short, we might not have any wingers, but we can definitely play with more width.
While we’re on the subject of experimentation, why not give an extended run in the side to Matt Smith? Yeah, he’s supposedly a bit one-dimensional, but despite being used mainly as a supersub he has been scoring us goals. In addition to his obvious height and physical strength, Smith has also shown he has the intelligence to find players when used as a target man, and he has the potential to be a great lone striker with the likes of Mccormack and Poleon as support. Diouf is another player who deserves another crack at a starting spot; he was probably our best attacking player last year bar-Becchio. For all that he can be a liability, he’s a player that’s skillful and extremely difficult to play against on his day.
All in all, you get the feeling that Mcdermott has not changed things so far because he’s concerned about what might happen if he jetisoned some of the hard workers like Hunt, Varney and Green from the team. The fact remains though, that while none of them can be faulted for effort, they're just not good players. To give credit where credit is due, Mcdermott has already given some chances to youngsters and fringe players in the form of Mowatt, Tonge and to an extent Poleon, but now that Leeds United are firmly planted in mid-table mediocrity, we should be thinking about taking a few more risks. If they don’t work, we can always go back to a more safety first approach, and if nothing else, we'll still have a solid back four and goalkeeper at Championship level.
Whatever he chooses to do however, it’s hard to shake the feeling that this’ll be another year of transition, and we’ll need yet more patience, plus one or two inspired transfers, to finally end the long wait for top flight football.
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