How Do You Solve a Problem Like a Midfielder

Its not often you would find a Leeds fan paraphrasing a song from the Sound Of Music, but another failure to win at home has caused me to look beyond last nights game into focusing on, what I feel to be the teams fundamental problem.

On paper, and despite 3 changes, the line up was pretty similar to Saturday. Kasper returned in goal, Alex Bruce replaced Collins at the back and Bradley Johnson continued in the holding role he took up when replacing Amdy Faye at the weekend.

This allowed Leeds to continue in the 4-3-3 formation so successfully employed in the 2nd half at Scunny and Coventry at the weekend. Hulls line up showed they were there for a point, with Garcia, a midfielder employed as their lone striker.

Leeds started brightly, dominating possession, without creating any real chances. Hull hadn’t done much, but most of their play had come down our left, the wing being covered by Max Gradel. When Hull took the lead with a screaming free kick, Grayson ripped up his game plan.

Johnson was immediately moved to the left, and Gradel pushed up to support Becchio. To shore up a perceived weakness on the left, he sacrificed a body in the centre, and forced Howson to drop into a truly centre midfield role. He has patently shown all season that this doesn’t suit him, and so Leeds had gone from controlling the game to cedeing the midfield. Hull still had 5 in there and now overran us in that area.

Johnson, now allowed to go forward, did grab an equaliser, but he had already squandered two opportunities, once not getting a shot away, another with a delicate chip, when one of his usual drives would have done the trick.

Leeds dominated the second half, by keeping possession well, but never really created much. Gradel is a fine wide player but is wasted as a striker, and there was little or no understanding between him and Becchio. Somma’s introduction offered us a little more threat. The 2nd goal duly came through Howsons only real class of the night, a delightfully struck ball out to Snodgrass who crossed for O’Brien to head in.

We shot ourselves in the foot by not grabbing a third, and conceding another stupid goal, but the result was not the thing that frustrated me the most.

Its been a common thread the last 10 days that we stumbled upon Jonny Howsons best position. Why is it then that against a poor Hull side, at home we moved him back into a position where he has proved he is not suited.

Once again the lack of a holding midfielder has been highlighted as Fayes absence disrupted the team. Bradley Johnson (no more Leeds salutes when you score until you sign your contract please) has shown he is not disciplined enough to play the role. If Gradel was being caught up field, exposing space in front of the left back, then Johnson should be capable of filling that space. He wasn’t and forced the whole formation to be changed.

I believe that we do have a solution though. Andy O’Brien has added some stability to the back. He and Collins looked solid enough at Cov on Saturday to suggest they can cope. Therefore why not use Alex Bruce in the holding role? Defensively minded, he could quite easily sit in front of the back four, feeding Kilkenny and allowing Howson to bomb forward. Killa is more adept at the sort incisive pass than the long raking ball, and he could easily supply the wide men and the front two, knowing that Bruce is there to mop up if he misplaces the odd one. Too many times last night, Kilkenny looked in danger of exposing the defence by being caught in possession, or by forcing a pass with no real options to go forwards.

Let’s hope Grayson has a think about it before Saturday. The win last night would have taken us 5th. We can’t afford to throw more points away on Saturday.

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