Walsall 1 Leeds United 0

Back to England, back to the harsh realities of domestic football. Gone was the inspiring, mountainous backdrop of Domzale, in its place the two tiered majesty of the Tile Choice Stand and the pollution spewing M6; gone was the happy, drunken haze that did much to mask the ordinariness that typified performances in Slovenia, instead a barely adequate, 3 pint reality cushion was all we had to hide behind.

Brian McDermott described the day succinctly by branding it his worst as manager of Leeds United – it was hard to argue. While his arrival in April brought a renewed sense of hope, a sudden renaissance in passing football and the opportunity for a long suffering fan base to finally able to emerge into the sunshine and out of the shadows of the Warnocksaurus, it was always going to take more in the longer term.

At the start of the summer it was plain that Leeds needed a new centre back, a creative midfielder, two wingers and (once Morison had departed) a proven striker. With a fortnight remaining ahead of the season’s opener against Brighton, in Luke Murphy, we’ve filled only one void. That’s not to criticise the purchases of Matt Smith and Noel Hunt, the former, although very suspect with the ball at feet in front of goal, is undeniably a threat in the air and a useful option in the short term off the bench (assuming we can provide service from wide positions), while Hunt has struck up an immediate rapport with supporters and the experience and goals he’ll provide amongst a predominantly young pool of forwards could prove invaluable.

But the gaps remain; the same players who failed last season again are showing little to suggest this season will be any different. At the back, Pearce continues to function as if his brain is one from the Neolithic era and his feet something more akin to the Jurassic period: the way in which his movements appear to be so deliberate and thought out when doing something as elementary as playing a short pass simply doesn’t scream ‘footballer’ at you. Beside him, Lees still looks uncertain, particularly with the ball at his feet, while Warnock, although less of a concern has yet to hit his stride either. At right back, it’s possible to feel a little more sympathy for Peltier, having been lumbered with a role on the left for much of last season to accommodate the emergence of Sam Byram, it’s Byram’s absence now that’s served to ensure he’s being denied a chance to establish himself in the middle where he’s looked most comfortable…certainly more so than Pearce or Pugh.

Walsall attack – pattern for the day

In criticising the defence it would be remiss not to acknowledge the role that those in front play in exacerbating their difficulties; the midfield remains the most urgent area for attention. Brown, Green, White, Norris – four nondescript passengers, just as they were under Warnock. Tonge, while a useful squad player doesn’t appear cut out for playing on the right side of a diamond; he can’t cover the ground, while Murphy looks peripheral and wasted on the left.

In the attacking third at least there is hope; especially in Poleon who arguably stood out above all overs in Slovenia and who alongside his partners, McCormack and Hunt has already built the kind of rapport with Leeds fans that too few other players have done in recent years.

So what of the game? It was every bit as bad as the manager would have you believe and the frustrations in the dug out are clearly as palpable as they are in the stands at this point. McDermott, to this point at least, has pursued a diamond formation; an acknowledgement of the lack of pace of width in the team. Watching the team again yesterday though, it’s hard not to suspect that while McDermott’s intentions to employ the formation were to accommodate those shortcomings, maybe he’s also underestimated the lack of intelligence and ability in some individuals to adapt to a more fluid and flexible approach to playing the game.

It certainly appears so if Walsall is to provide a benchmark; but for a couple of short spells either side of half-time, Leeds were comprehensively outplayed, even looking second best against the host’s second XI. Although the winning goal arrived on 11 minutes, it already seemed overdue at that point, while in contrast it took Leeds over half an hour to create anything of note. When it came, it was courtesy of a deep cross from Peltier – sadly a fairly isolated incidence and until Byram is fit, wingers are signed, or Poleon is given an opportunity on the right, there appears little hope of providing any sort of consistent service from wide areas. As an increasingly resigned away following watched the game play out and passes misplaced, a half-hearted chant of “We’re not going up!” came and went in a whimper, much like Leeds had.

Doubtless there’ll be the typical dismissive remarks about overreactions and friendlies counting for little, while a markedly improved display at Stevenage may also calm nerves a little. However, there’s no disguising the fact that the problems that blighted the side last campaign are not going away and McDermott knows that as much as anyone; there’s only so much coaching, formations and tactics can compensate for a lack of ability, intelligence and simple desire in some of those players currently on the wage bill.

When Paddy Kenny is the outstanding Leeds player in a clash with Walsall, there’s evidently a lot of problems still to address before the big kick-off.

Four more players…

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6 responses to “Walsall 1 Leeds United 0

  1. It is easier said than done to pull in the new players so obviously needed when we are spending so much on the ‘Dead Wood’ brought in by past regimes.
    the past 2 managers would have panicked by now and brought in someone inadiquate from Ipswich reserves and given them a 3 year deal. Trust in Brian….MOT

  2. Our beloved club is in a terrible mess.
    Kenneth William Bates left a terrible financial mess which required GHF to have deep pockets of cash reserves. Sadly their cupboard I s bare and they have nothing to offer. they need to sell the club very quickly or they could easily put us in to Administration.
    The current squad is the worst in living memory and whilst I’m BM we have a superb manager, his hands are tied and it could take at least 2 years for him to put together a squad capable of challenging for promotion.
    What a mess!

    • its going to take 2/3 years anyway to get back in the prem, so just hold tight and trust, no good gettin lucky goin up and comin straight back down. are you more interested in leeds united or who we are playing

  3. The club is running (due to the Bates regime’s mortgaging of revenue) about £3m a season short of where it would be, even without additional investment. And it has players on the books that nobody wants, and who are probably using (let’s guess, about £10k a week for Brown, Tonge, Pugh, Norris, Varney – Green I actually rate a bit better than the first five) a further £2.5m a year. There’s a further amount to be cleared up in loss making facilities and Yorkshire Radio

    So £5.5m (more like 6 to 6.5) a year which could have been spent on players and wages. I think both Grayson and Warnock took wild bets, and also bear in mind everything had to be signed off by the self regarding Gwyn Williams, who was only too keen to take credit for any transfer successes. I think GFH are a bit of strange investment bank (I’ve never seen such an entity invest with no money set aside for further investment) but they are definitely up against it as regards what they’ve inherited.

    I’m a bit surprised though that there are still so few kids coming through, Poleon and Byram notwithstanding. Can we not produce even one winger?

  4. I think we have to be big & brave and sack BM now – he’s clueless & will relegate us.
    Now before you all get carried away just take on board some quality JONTY time -I know the problem and it is BM – he’s trying his best but his best won’t be good enough – Smith & Hunt won’t score goals & despite his poor showing at the end of the season Morison was our best bet – bad bit of business letting him go without an adequatere rreplacement – get him fit & focussed & you have 18-20 goals at least – now we have Hunt & Smith – will struggle to hit double figures between them.
    Bring back NW – let him finish the job & get us back to the promised land – he’s our only hope.
    Listen to the JONTY because JONTY time is for real & equals the truth
    More from me later folks or over on 606 where my regular followers frequent.

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