Leeds United returned from the international break to fall to a disappointing 1-0 defeat at home to Wolves on Monday night, as Raul Jimenez scored the game’s only goal.
The international break once again came in for strong criticism from fans and managers alike amid the ongoing national crisis, not to mention the constant injury problems that it has caused to a lot of teams.
Leeds were no exception to those injury issues as Liam Cooper and Diego Llorente suffered setbacks thanks to their travels with Scotland and Spain respectively.
Leeds came into this game looking to get back to business after their gripping 1-1 draw against Manchester City last time out, what seemed like a lifetime ago. However, an unfortunate deflection off the head of Kalvin Phillips diverted Raul Jimenez’s tame effort beyond Illan Meslier, settling matters on Monday night.
Here, we take a look at five things we learnt from the Whites’ home defeat…
Pascal Struijk looks the real deal
Cooper was taken out of the starting lineup very late, to be replaced by young Dutch defender Pascal Struijk and the 21-year-old showed just how dependable he can be.
Leeds were the better side in the first half and that was largely down to how the backline were able to deal with the threat posed by Pedro Neto, Jimenez, and Daniel Podence, where Struijk was able to screen the formidable striker very well and limit his supply to virtually nothing.
On top of being able to dominate a very good Premier League striker for the vast majority of the game, his passing range was on display too, proving he can slot seamlessly into Marcelo Bielsa’s system, even at a moment’s notice.
He can count himself very unlucky that his slip eventually led to the Mexican’s goal, but the subsequent defending by the rest of his backline barely covered his back, and it was the only time Jimenez had a sniff, showing how good Struijk was and can be.
Robin Koch better than Ben White?
A lot of the early talk in the summer transfer window was dominated by Leeds’ pursuit of Ben White on a permanent deal, but we eventually ended up landing German international Robin Koch from Freiburg for £13million, a fraction of Brighton’s White valuation.
Since then, there hasn’t been any complaints about Leeds’ signing of Koch, given his commanding performances at the back of late alongside both Cooper and Struijk.
What we’ve lacked since Pontus Jansson left is an aerial presence that can dominate in the air at both ends of the pitch, and while he had little to feed off in the final third, there was no getting past him in our penalty area.
It’s hard to compare the two based on this season, but from what we’ve seen from Koch so far, £13million seems like the best business we’ve done this summer compared to signing White for treble that.
Koch has taken to the Premier League with ease and Monday night was just another example of it.
When Phillips is off, we’re off
The first half was exemplary for Kavlin Phillips and Leeds as we controlled possession and had the lion’s share of the half-chances in a 45-minute spell where neither team looked like being carved open.
With Joao Moutinho on the pitch comes an onus on Leeds to take the game by the scruff of the neck in midfield and ensure we dominate his area of the pitch, and not the other way round.
The first half saw Phillips win that battle comfortably, but when Moutinho began to gain control in the second, Phillips suffered in midfield, but interestingly, his mistakes were coming in unforced circumstances.
A lot of wayward passing from the 24-year-old created unnecessary pressure for Leeds where we looked at sea after the restart.
His six-week injury is a hammer-blow but his performance prior to what caused that setback wasn’t at his brilliant best anyway, which upset a lot of our first-half balance.
Our depth out wide is pleasing
It wasn’t the most vintage performance from Jack Harrison and Helder Costa as they struggled to break down a resolute Wolves backline, but the most positive thing about our play out wide was having more options.
Last season, the threat out wide only came from those two and if one had picked up an injury, there wasn’t a sure-fire replacement waiting in the wings.
Now, with Ian Poveda stepping up and Raphinha signing, we have great strength in depth on both flanks and their impact was noticeable when they were introduced.
It’s hard to judge Raphinha’s contribution based on a mere eight minutes, but he created a couple of opportunities from precious little and it’s only a sign of the things to come from the Brazilian.
The pressure on Costa and Harrison to produce each week is relieved an awful lot knowing that we have two quality wingers behind them in the pecking order.
We were taught a Premier League lesson
Fans, players and coaching staff of a Leeds persuasion argued that we did enough to deserve at least a draw from that game based on the spread of chances.
However, while performance alone more often than not delivered the goods in the Championship, efficiency at both ends of the pitch is needed in the Premier League to pick up points.
Wolves didn’t put a foot wrong in that game and kept a hard-earned clean sheet whilst finding the net despite barely having a sniff at goal.
This won’t be the last time we face games like these against strong defences and potent attacks, and it’s the harsh reality of the Premier League at play.
A slip from Struijk should not have led to that goal, but naive and lazy defending following Struijk’s blunder was ultimately our undoing in a performance that didn’t have too much wrong with it up to that point.