It is going to be another year of despair, pain and anguish for Leeds United unless they start winning games again to avoid further catastrophe and squander their promotion hopes. A shocking defeat to relegation riddled Wigan Athletic at Elland Road reignited the fears of falling apart, and Noel Whelan, the former Whites attacker, has highlighted one drawback of their game which he believes is troubling the Whites in maintaining the momentum.
Although the masterclass of Marcelo Bielsa has transformed their football, the veteran Argentine failed to improve Leeds’ set-piece ability at both the ends of the pitch. They were thoroughly dominant versus the Latics until a corner deflected off Pablo Hernandez around the hour mark. Kiko Casilla, at fault once again, missed the flight and the ball ended up into the back of the net against the run.
“I think other teams look at how poor we are at set-pieces. The other night, the first goal for Millwall, Luke Ayling gets ragdolled. Simple, overpowered, and a simple header in. It’s not just the defensive area. Why have we really not scored any goals from set-pieces? We get about ten a game and we’ve probably scored maybe one.”
Whelan told to BBC Radio Leeds after the game.
Why Whelan Has A Case Here
Bielsa is highly reliant on his inverted wingers who offer directness to their game from the wide areas. The crosses, cut insides and link-up play make them unplayable at times, but a lack of expertise from set-pieces force them to bank on the open play for goals which proves tricky against deep-defensive opponents. Hernadez, 34, scored many in the past, however, had injury woes of late resulting in a loss of form and fitness. Jack Harrison needs to work more on his technique while taking free-kicks, and Kalvin Phillips has also struggled after he offered very little quality from corners.
The Whites have an impressive central defensive pairing of Ben White and Liam Cooper. White, on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion, has been a revelation in the heart of the backline with his game-reading, calmness, intercepting and tackling attributes. Cooper, too, is a reliable option alongside the young Englishman, yet they have been exposed time and again due to poor positioning and lack of aerial domination in and around the box. Both their fullbacks need to contribute more while defending set-pieces and exhibit superiority while dealing with the long balls, crosses and indirect free-kicks.