It seems to me that Leeds supporters fall into one of two camps at the moment. There are the overly optimistic hysterics who feel we should be romping away with his division and that Grayson should be sacked every time we lose. The other camp is the one I am happy to sit in. We are the pragmatic realists, looking for a season of consolidation, knowing that Grayson is performing to the best of his abilities with the finances available.
The forums and blogs this week have certainly shown that we have a fair few of the ‘Grayson Out’ brigade. I’m not going to pretend Tuesday night was pretty, or that Grayson has raised more questions than he has answered with his selections this year, but it seems that every defeat sees the need for a post-mortem.
So what happened this week. Simply we were outclassed by a very impressive looking Leicester side. No matter what you think of Sven, there is no doubt that his arrival must have boosted the Leicester team. All out to impress the new gaffer, they carved us open at will. It should have been 3-0 in the opening 15 minutes, but profligate finishing saw Leicester fail to gain reward for their flowing football.
Grayson had the nous to see this and changed his team on the half hour. Sanchez Watt was having a shocker, but rather than a straight swap, saw we needed a bit more grit in midfield. Bradley Johnson added a body in the middle, and Davide Somma dropped into a wide left role.
In some respect it stopped the rot. Leeds gained a toehold by keeping possession, but only by knocking the ball across the back four. Unfortunately once we attempted to cross the halfway line we looked clueless. The lack of creativity in midfield was apparent, with the likes of Howson and Snodgrass looking well off the pace. I think everyone concerned with Leeds would have been absolutely delighted to go in level at half time.
The 2nd half saw a slight improvement, but as has been the case for the majority of the season, a mistake was punished. Snoddy gave the ball away with a shocking pass and never looked like winning it back. As the ball worked its way across to Kyle Naughton whose shot took a massive deflection to loop over Jason Brown to give the Foxes the lead.
Leeds didn’t even huff and puff much and it was another Richard Naylor error that allowed Steve Howard to clinch the game. Leeds pulled one back immediately with their only decent football of the night, but it flattered us and a late push never threatened an equaliser.
So let’s do the post-mortem. The first and most obvious question has to be when will Grayson pull the plug on Richard Naylor. There is no doubt, in my opinion, that we look a poorer unit defensively when he is in the side. His mistakes are schoolboy like (not watching the bounce, getting too tight to strikers etc) and he has no pace to recover. It is sad when he is so openly passionate about the club, but its time to put him out to pasture. Alex Bruce has looked generally much better and Leigh Bromby is coming back to fitness. I would even prefer to see Michalik given a go before Naylor.
More worryingly is the lack of a coherent midfield and attacking unit. I’m not sure SG knows how he wants to play and who is best suited to fit into whatever formation he does play. The opening day saw a 4-3-3 with Becchio as a target man with wide men (Sam and Watt) providing the support. This meant a 3 man central midfield with one of Kilkenny, Howson or Johnson fulfilling the holding role. Unfortunately Howson and Killa are not strong enough and Johnson is not disciplined (or quite frankly good enough) to do it, hence the acquisition of Amdy Faye.
I feel that Billy Paynter was bought to deputise/rotate with Becchio. His injury saw Davide Somma become the default option up front. Because he is a different type of player, this led to a change of game plan to 4-4-2, as he needs a target man to feed off. This has led to another problem to find the right combination. We either have no creativity if Faye is included, but without him we have no bite. There is a vast number of combinations to fill the front 6 positions, but they all have pros and cons.
Another worry is our poor home form. Since our year long unbeaten record went, our home form has been pretty patchy. For the first time in a long time, I thought our support was really poor. Leicester out sung us for long periods and when the team are playing poorly they need our help. I think we let them down as much as they let us down on Tuesday.
Monday night is another big game. Cardiff are going well, have some good players (Bellamy, Chopra, Whittingham etc) there is the rivalry between the supporters and its live on TV. The team will have been stung by the criticism received this week and I would like to think that they will react in a positive manner. I honestly can’t see us getting anything, but would be happy with a gutsy effort. Let’s try and remember where we have come from and be a little patient. Despite the doom and gloom of the past 48 hours, we are still just 3 points off a play-off place, and I am sure we would all have taken that back in August.