The ‘Manager Eater’ Has Infected Leeds Fans’ Sense Of Reality

Patience is a virtue.
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In my preview of this game, I bemoaned the fact that the cheapest tickets on offer to Leeds fans (at least those who don't qualify for concessions) was a staggering £28, £3 more than it cost to watch Leeds Rhinos reach yet another Rugby League Grand Final the night before.

The differences between the two teams, despite the obvious discrepancies between the sports, are there for all to see, and yet United fans are somehow expected to shell out more money to watch a lower-mid table Championship side put in the kind of performance that over 24,000 witnessed on Saturday afternoon, rather than watch a play-off semi-final between two of the best teams in the sport.

Yes, there is more money in football than rugby, that's a given, but it does little to soften the blow taken at Elland Road on Saturday, after having watched such a heartfelt and determined performance at Headingley less than 24 hours before.

Uwe Rosler had spoken at lengths about Birmingham's style of play going into the game on Saturday. He explained how he was expecting the visitors to take a contained, counter-attack style approach, designed to lull Leeds forward before hitting them on the break. Well, to Uwe's credit, he was bang on the money, that's exactly what Birmingham did. The only problem being, he didn't appear to have made a plan to deal with it in any way.

Leeds dominated the possession stats (67-33 respectively) but whenever the ball was lost further up the field, it would be lofted towards the imposing figure of Clayton Donaldson, inevitably finding its way to the irrepressible Demarai Gray, a constant source of abject terror for the Leeds backline.

Dominant in possession Leeds may have been, but that 67% is a worthless stat when you consider where most of it came from. Sol Bamba and the recalled Liam Cooper seemed content enough to spend most of their time passing the ball between themselves, as Birmingham settled back to enjoy a 1-0 lead that had come courtesy of Donaldson & Gray in the 30th minute.

Donaldson had out-muscled (or fouled, if you like) Cooper on the edge of the box, allowing the ball to run on to Gray. From a tight angle, Gray opted for sheer power in his strike, crashing the ball past Silvestri, who must have though the ball had evaporated from the sheer force of the young winger's strike. When either defender decided to ping the ball forwards to whichever member of the front three looked open enough, it was inevitably heading back to them after a few brief touches from Wood, Dallas or Buckley.

While Dallas cut his usual hard-working cameo, doing his darndest to break down the Birmingham defence by himself, and Wood once again found himself isolated and devoid of any real chances, Will Buckley got his Leeds career off to an inauspicious start, cutting a rusty figure on the right-hand side.

In Buckley's defence, he's been a while now without regular first team football, and was never going to dominate from the very start, but he can't have been overjoyed with his first outing, replaced by the bright, bouncy, but ultimately barren Jordan Botaka.

Botaka was a hive of energy, showing glimpses of the potential "skillz" that so many were envisaging after his arrival, but his few tricks and flicks were let down by his inconsistent end product. Much like Buckley, Botaka still needs time to find his feet.

Time, however, is not something easily found at Elland Road nowadays, and murmurs have already started regarding the future of Uwe Rosler. Not to say that the majority of these murmurers are calling for Rosler's head, but there have been questions raised about just how long he has left to prove himself before the "manager eater" takes another bite.

Understandable, given the last two results and corresponding performances, but harsh when all things are considered. Cellino, in his revised season expectations announcement, was quoted as saying that Rosler had simply been tasked with keeping the club in the Championship this season, before looking onwards to promotion in a later campaign.

Barring a literal free-fall towards League One, I see no benefit in reviewing Rosler's position until the end of this season at least, assessing where the club is before heading into (what is currently) Cellino's planned season for promotion.

It seems like some fans have been infected by the concept of time that seems to permeate Cellino's sense of reality. To Massimo, six games is seemingly efficient time to properly assess a manager's effect on a squad, a decision that was ridiculed by so many after Darko Milanic's dismissal. A year later, and we now find some questioning Rosler's position after merely 11. If the club continues on the road of constantly chopping and changing managers, it will only further the never ending merry-go-round of Bad Season-Change Manager-Rebuild-Bad Season-Change Manager-Rebuild that has followed Simon Grayson's departure. Let's calm down a bit, it's hardly been a disaster.

What Rosler does need to do is figure out how to get his team performing again. There have been flashes of positivity dotted throughout the season - Burnley at home, the 1st half of Derby away - but all too often we have seen the "system" failing influential players, or vice versa.

It took a 2-0 loss to Derby last season before Neil Redfearn finally decided to adapt his team's tactical approach in a way that complimented those he saw as his key players, and perhaps the international break after this defeat will give Rosler a chance to do something similar. Redfearn's 4-2-3-1 still strikes me as the best formation for the players at our disposal, but it's up to Rosler and his team to determine if a different approach is required, or if there is still life in the so-far unconvincing 4-3-3.

Whatever the decision, it is unlikely that Rosler will accept a similar performance come the visit of Brighton on the 17th. The Seagulls have proven that it is possible to revert a stuttering side into one capable of promotion, as last season's 20th place finishers now sit top of the table going into the second international break of the season, and will expect to continue their impressive run against a Leeds side that have not won a home game for seven months.

Some have criticised Rosler's penchant for chopping and changing personnel so often, but after watching the ease with which Jacques Maghoma slotted home City's second, how could anyone blame him?

Read more from Patrick at his excellent Leeds United website Harte & Soul


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