Leeds United: Souleymane Doukara Might Be a Find and 6 Other Things We Learned From Swindon
1 - Don’t Panic
If you’ve not seen the team in pre-season it’s not as bad as you might have feared. I came away from the game more upbeat than I did from a few games last year. The coaches and players seem to be trying their best with what they’ve got and although it’s not where we should be yet there were some positive performances. I feel more optimistic than I did 24 hours ago.
2 - We might have found a striker in Souleymane Doukara.
Given I didn’t even know his name when he started it was a relief to see someone who actually knows what a striker should do and have a good go at doing it throughout the game. He was strong, fast, persistent, chased the defenders, robbed the ball from them three times and really could have come away from the game with two goals and the crowd singing his name. As it was he left to long and warm applause. In the first half he hit the post after creating his own one on one from the left wing, had another good goal scoring chance tipped over from around the penalty spot, he made two good cut backs, had assists on both goals, held the ball up well and won us a legitimate penalty with a dangerous cross box run. Tweeters were asking if he was like Tony Yeboah but at the moment I’d say more Tony Agana – you’ll need a long and good memory for that one.
A truly great striker like Hasselbaink would have buried at least one of the three good chances he had but the key thing is he got into the positions and hit the target each time. He also chased back at times, although at others he was wandering back from offside – hopefully that was just fitness. He might turn out to be one of those that plays well but doesn’t score a lot, he might be less obvious against a more intense opposition but against Swindon he was a definite positive. If the fans get behind him he could do well. Lets hope he becomes a Jimmy not a Clyde.
3 – Byram still has class
There were two moments that summed up Byram’s game. In the first half he had it at right back and was looking for a runner or someone to show for it and we were static. The ball went back to the keeper or across the defence and he just stood there raising his arms in frustration. It was a short moment but it summed up a lot of our familiar style of play. We were happy to move ball about in defence but didn’t pass it out through mid-field quickly enough. Rudy’s default pass is back to centre backs. Byram needs more positive and creative players around him to get the best out of him.
In the same half he created two excellent chances. The first was a series of drag backs on the half way line that saw him beat three players who were in a triangle around him, he set off into attack and the ball found its way via Doukara across the goal area for Morison to guide into an open net.
The second move saw some really good passing work with Bianchi that opened up the Swindon left back area, two 1-2s saw the ball into the area and pushed out to Doukara who you really thought would score but his shot was at the keeper who palmed it over the bar. I felt Byram should have been playing right midfield but I spoke to Eddie Gray at half time and Eddie thinks Byram plays better with the ball and the game ahead of him.
4 – The balance isn’t there yet.
Steve Morison started the game with a decent knock down on the edge of the area for Luke Murphy to have a good chance saved. Shortly afterwards he was in the same position to score. That was about the last time we saw him in the opposition box and in fact he ended the second half covering for Warnock at left back as the former England man started making some headway on the wings. Morison worked hard but he’s not got the pace, agility or guile to be a winger or a midfielder. If he’s not playing as part of a front two I don’t think he should be in the team, despite his endeavour, we have too many young creative players in the squad for him to take a midfield place.
5 – Some players need to do more to establish a starting position
Across the team I thought the defence did OK – Pearce and Warnock both made important lunging blocks – and Pearce seemed to be directing it all well. In midfield Rudi was really robust, breaking up play, putting himself about forcefully without giving stupid Michael Brown style freekicks away and Murphy did his best to bring some energy and direction. He’s still to really impose himself in the way we might have hoped when he signed. Hopefully this will come.
Given his age and experience I think Tonge has to do a lot more to stay in this team and I would rather see one of the kids like Mowatt, Dawson or Cook take his place. Tonge can see a run and a pass but I think right now we need midfielders that have impact throughout the whole game. Swindon were quickly passing it through our midfield much the same as Barnsley did at Oakwell at the end of last season. They had put together over 140 passes in the first 6 minutes before we even had one pass completed – yes I counted them – and then we put a ten pass move together. Bianchi needs time to settle and had a couple of nice touches but he also didn’t really stand out, so I think right now the midfield is a work in progress.
When he came on for Byram in the second half Berardi wasn’t shy about getting forward into the right midfield and right wing areas, ordering late sub Cook back to cover for him. We appear to have two good right backs but no definite right midfielder yet.
6 – Don’t get too excited
This was a friendly against a nice passing team from a lower league. It was a lovely warm evening and the coach was amongst old friends as the hosts. When it’s pissing down in Millwall next week and Ian Holloway has his players licked into competitive shape and the Millwall hammer throwers are screaming from the stands and every tackle will count I’m not sure we showed enough to suggest we could ride it out. If we were a boat right now I wouldn’t put us to sea. Swindon had no real threat in the box and there were no tackles flying in. The atmosphere was more like a game of park bowls. The team need another ten days of raising the intensity and hopefully the Dundee United game will see it step up another gear. The defence especially need to tighten up at corners if the Swindon goal is anything to go by, a winnable header lost and an un-marked striker with a free shot into roof of the net. In Championship matches such weakness will be punished.
7 – What do we need that we haven’t got.
Jason Pearce needs a battle hardened dog of a centre back next to him, someone lean and safe who knows how to repel an attack or just fucking rough and scary to play against and with.
We need the midfield to find a balance and a pecking order and we need to stop playing the diamond which surrenders the centre of the park to the opposition.
We need a fast left winger who can get some good crosses in for whoever plays centre forward. We had little pace last night although Doukara confidently robbed the right full back and headed in on goal more than once.
And I think most importantly we need a cutting edge striker who is used to banging in at least 16 goals a year at this level and who knows he can do it against the opposition we will be facing. He should have played in the British leagues for the last four years and if we have to pay upto five million for him so be it.