The Classico of the Championship Lived Up To Its Billing. Goals, Missed Penalties, and the Big Sam.
- This Was a Great Advert for the Championship
This was a great showcase for the Championship. A contest between two ambitious teams searching for promotion in a division where the quality of the top teams has really risen ever closer to the top division. The game was exciting and attacking throughout. There was refreshingly little in the way of ‘hoofing it into the mixer’ that you might expect from a game featuring an Allardyce side. Instead there were several really good displays of football with both sides seeking to play and pass the ball forward. Leed’s equaliser was an excellent example of this with short incisive passing in the final third leading to a deserved equaliser.
- Unlucky Number 7
Max Gradel looks like he’s going to be an excellent player for Leeds this season. Quick and with good control he offered Leeds a good outlet down the flanks with the pace to beat his man and get his cross in. For a young player his distribution was remarkably consistent. What he lacked was a striker with the physical presence to either impose himself in the area or the decision making required to be in the perfect place to receive it.
The penalty miss was an issue although it didn’t cost Leeds a point in a hard fought encounter between the two teams. The miss didn’t seem to faze his confidence as you might expect it to with a younger player. He looked bright and remained one of Leeds better players. The only potential issue is that he’s very one footed. He constantly favoured his right foot which made it a little easy for the West Ham players to get the ball off his when he ran down the right flank as him too predictable when he’s trying to beat his man with pace.
- Allardyce is Warming to the Club
Even after a few games the difference that Allardyce has brought is beginning to shine through. The team look more disciplined and more focused than they did in any of the sorry period of Grant’s tenure. I doubted Allardyce’s suitability for the club in pre-season saying he wouldn’t be a fit with the club’s history of good football and youth development. While youth prospects like Zavon Hines have been let go the team has brought in older pros like Kevin Nolan and Stuart Taylor and given them long term deals. While this isn’t a long term solution for the club the nucleus of experienced players are a stark difference to last season where the team seemed without direction and bar Super Scotty Parker, leadership on the field.
- Leeds Look Like They’re Turning A Corner
Results have been mixed for Leeds so far but they might be turning a corner after the weekend’s game. They looked sharp and confident, kept calm and put West Ham under pressure until the they scored their equaliser through some excellent build up play. Importantly the team played a fairly clean game and kept all their players on the pitch. The team has received 11 bookings and 2 sending offs already. That ill-discipline wont be feasible if Leeds want to push for promotion this season.
- Some of West Ham Players Might Look a Bit Too Comfortable in the Championship
The fear of West Ham fan pre-season is that too many of the squad would look too comfortable at Championship level. That they would find a division which would suit their ‘talents’. However the removal of deadwood like Upson and Gabbidon has cleared up space in the first XI for players like Kevin Nolan, professional players who are capable of sharing the responsibility of leadership with Scott Parker and giving the team a combative edge in midfield. West Ham threw too many points away from leading positions last season, a critical factor in their relegation. Allardyce will have to correct that if they are to bounce back. While some players were let go the board have decided to model the club’s approach on that of Newcastle a couple of seasons before. Gambling that the squad is good enough to compete in the Championship with only a few additions needed for it to fight for instant promotion into the Premier League.
Unfortunately Julien Faubert is still there with Real Madrid increasingly less likely to call him back for a second loan period. Can’t imagine why.
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