Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Things That Went Wrong For Leeds United Against Cardiff City And What They Can Do To Recover

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Jack O’Brien
A 22 y/o football nerd seeking my way into football writing. I love Irish football and also the Premier League. A huge Arsenal fan! Aside from writing, I like to spend my time fishing and drinking beer.

Leeds United restarted their Championship campaign with a disappointing and rather shocking 2-0 defeat to Cardiff City. The loss serves as a major blow for Marcelo Bielsa’s men, especially as they have now lost their top spot in the league table to West Bromwich Albion.

In this article, we will discuss things that have gone wrong for Leeds United against Cardiff City and what the Whites can do to recover their form in the upcoming fixtures.

A casual approach in the build-up

Bielsa’s tactical system at Leeds United rely heavily on the build-up play. The then Championship league leaders were even boosted by the return of Ben White in this fixture. But, their build-up play from the back looked off right from the start.

In fact, it was White who struggled to impose his authority in the defensive half. He was perhaps distracted by the physical and aggressive presence of Callum Paterson while Junior Hoilett also provided more pressure from the wide areas of the pitch. As a result, the Leeds United stars including White, Liam Cooper and Kalvin Phillips struggled to construct a proper system at the back.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that both Cardiff City goals stemmed from individual defensive errors from Cooper and Phillips. This is something Bielsa must look into if Leeds United are to avoid falling into a high pressing trap in the upcoming matches.

Things that went wrong for Leeds United against Cardiff City - Not the best game for Ben White
Football – 2019 / 2020 Sky Bet EFL Championship – Cardiff City vs. Leeds United Joe Ralls of Cardiff City on the attack Ben White of Leeds United defends, at Cardiff City Stadium. COLORSPORT/WINSTON BYNORTH PUBLICATIONxNOTxINxUK

Lack of end product going forward

While the 2-0 scoreline may suggest a comfortable win for Cardiff City, it was anything but that. As a matter of fact, Leeds United attackers did put quite a lot of pressure on the opposing defenders, especially in the second half.

The likes of Jack Harrison, Helder Costa and Tyler Roberts, in particular, posed a lot of threat. They caused havoc with their intelligent movements and willingness to take on defenders. But at the same time, they all struggled to produce that final ball to feed central striker Patrick Bamford.

xG shot map – Cardiff City vs Leeds United (source: Infogol)

Leeds United’s xG tally of 2.07 is an ideal metric that suggests the number of chances the Whites managed to create yesterday. However, lack of end product and reliable goalscoring presence in the final third meant they found it challenging to find the back of the net.

What should Bielsa do to recover Leeds’ form?

Leeds United are in clear need of a more dynamic and robust centre forward in the goalscoring department – someone who is more willing to get on the end of scoring chances. But importantly, it would perhaps be a wiser option for the Whites to operate in a more central area of the pitch, preventing attackers like Harrison and Costa from moving out wide and producing crosses from the byline.

The lack of target-man capabilities in Bamford means most of those crosses often tend to be useless. In fact, it was Tyler, the central attacking midfielder for Leeds, who actually caused the most amount of trouble for Cardiff City yesterday.

Meanwhile, in the backline, the likes of Phillips, Cooper and White need additional passing options. Allowing the extra attacking midfielder in Mateusz Klich to operate in a deeper role might be an excellent solution to this problem.

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