As Leeds beat Preston 4-1 and played extremely well away at Villa for a 1-1 draw, I started to think we might have these away games sussed. I was wrong.
Slowly but surely, teams started to figure us out. Isolate Wood, stop Hernandez and you’re halfway to getting a result against Leeds. Pablo Hernandez hasn’t performed well at home since Villa, which was last year. I hesitate to slate Garry Monk on anything, considering what he’s done for us as a club, but it concerns me that he seems unwilling to drop Pablo. When Hernandez was injured and Roofe was playing as the number 10, we played extremely well. Roofe also brings a lot more energy to a performance and away from home especially you need that, if Hernandez spends most of his time closing people down, then he doesn’t have the stamina to perform, yet if he doesn’t close people down, we suffer as a team.
Now, I’m not going to put all the blame at Pablo’s door. Our midfield is getting run over, it’s time to make a change. I suggested before the Brentford game that we play a proper 4-3-3, swapping Hernandez with another central midfielder such as Kalvin Phillips. I believe this would give us a lot more grit in midfield and would allow our wingers to express themselves more. However, Garry decided to stick with 4-2-3-1 and we got punished. Let’s be clear, he knows more than me, but it shouldn’t be a surprise how well Brentford played, they’ve gotten some good results at home, beating Reading and drawing 3-3 with Brighton for example. To have picked up a result yesterday, we needed top drawer finishing and quality goalkeeping, unfortunately we only got one of those. Rob Green was outstanding, he stopped it being 4 or 5. It’s extremely worrying that if Chris Wood gets shut down, we don’t score goals. It really shouldn’t be this way, when we beat Preston 4-1, Wood didn’t even start.
Leeds have won one of our last six away games, the win was the Birmingham game where we were very fortunate not to concede more. There’s no shame in admitting that something needs to change. We have by far exceeded our expectations this season, but now we’re here, in the top six, but faltering. Why waste the opportunity for promotion because “nobody would have thought we would be where we are now.” Insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. It’s been clear for some time now that we’ve needed a change. We’re not perfect at home either, look at the Cardiff game. However, Elland Road is special and the fans definitely play a part, the Brighton game was an exceptional performance and result.
So the answer to the question is yes, we have been found out. Fortunately, we have a five-point gap to 7th place with a home game coming up against 8th, win that and all is well with the world (until our next away game). Remember, if we get to the playoffs, we do have to play an away game. We’ve lost to Reading and Huddersfield and beat Sheffield Wednesday, but that was many moons ago and we hadn’t even adapted to our 4-2-3-1 formation by then. Garry knows what he’s doing and I’m sure he’ll fix it before our trip to Newcastle.