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Where to start on this one? That we were blasted out of sight by a team a blinding forward line - well Thierry Henry anyway. That Viduka allegedly pissed off home after being told he was on the bench. That our back 4 included 3 loan players. That one of these is Roque bloody junior. That we are now bottom of the league.
We never got a sniff of this game. 3-0 down after 35 minutes and it could have been 8 by 90 minutes - Parlour blocked one of Henry's almost on the line and 2 other clear on goal opportunities were blazed high and wide when it was easier to score. We only got back into it once Arsenal had reset themselves to stun. Our defence for the first half gave one of the most inept performances it has been my misfortune to witness. Yes, their forwards are good but if you do not follow the basic laws of defending - staying goalside of your man; picking up men as they come through and sticking with them; not leaving anyone unmarked in and around the box; competing for the ball - then you are going to get royally screwed by whoever you play against. This is a training ground issue. The first two goals came from balls just lobbed down the line, behind the fullback for a forward to run onto. For each of the goals no defender was close to the scorer - this is just footballing suicide.
The defence has to be sorted. Kelly - limited as he is against the top class opposition - is our only option a right back and he still has plenty of spirit for the fight so he is still worth his place - a bit better cover from midfield would help. Ditto Olembe who did more than most to try and carry us back into the match in the second half and looked like he had at least seen a football before - he was my MOTM. Camara is solid and dependable as part of a central pairing - he is fast (not as fast as Henry, but who is?), good in the air and strong in the tackle. But he can only do one man's job. With Roque jr alongside him, Camara is lost as well because he is trying to cover Roque. Leeds need Roque not to be playing in the back 4 ever again. Unlike Rich W, I would give him a go in midfield, alongside Batty. He may go missing there as well in which case he'd be out, but he may also bring a bit of balance and a bit of creativity. Before we play Roque again in defence we need to try Matteo, Radebe (on crutches if need be), Duberry or Kilgallon - all of whom can at least defend.
The midfield was lightweight. Pennant occasionally sprung to life, Sakho was never really in it after the first minute, Batty did what he does - but that was his least effective game since the come back - and Johnson just continues to frustrate. Bringing Roque or Milner into midfield would have the consequence of pushing Johnson out left which I think is his most effective position. He can get forward, come in on the back post and provide cover for Olembe. Milner on at half time for Bridges was reasonable and very keen - he is direct and wants to push Leeds forward, but he is still lightweight and in this company it shows.
Smith - ran his socks off. Occasionally linked up with Bridges. Seemed to be the lone man up front after the break - which was odd. Presumably Reid didn't want to get a real spanking - and maybe he thought "well we've lost this best keep Mickey fit for other games". Got a nice goal following a good cross from Lennon on the left. Almost scored another when a shot from the edge of the box hit the post a few minutes after the goal. Had this gone in it might have been interesting for a few minutes - but anyone thinking we could have caught Arse is talking out of their's.
Lennon too did OK when given the ball to feet rather than just hoofed long. His pace seemed to cause a few flutters for the right back. But as I say Arse were cruising by then.
We were never going to get anything from these 3 league games. The job now is to move on from here. Get to 20 points by Xmas and we'll be OK. Less than 15 and we're down. They need to keep Reid at least until then - changes now will only set us further back.
...someone remarked after the Man U cup match that it was like watching a 1st division team play. That sums up the Arsenal match completely for me. If it had been Stoke v Arsenal, it would have been the same - lesser team put up plucky opening, huff and puff, couple of half chances, then quality tells with majestic counter-attacks exploting lesser defenders lack of awareness and pace.
Observations from match - 1st minute, Sakho had a great chance. Thought he struck it far too casually, probably not quite realising what a great position he was in. If ever there was a match where we desperately needed an ealy goal, to be able to sit back and avoid the Arsenal counter-attack, this was it.
1st goal. Kelly's positioning hideous, completely asleep with one of world's best strikers 5 yards away from him.
2nd goal. Thought Robbo's positioning was awful. yes, the ball broke out to the right unexpectedly, but the guy just slid it into a exposed goal. Poor judgment of where his post was.
For all first 3 goals, we dropped too far off danger men, and being very cynical, other more 'worldly' teams would have got closer and brought men down on the halfway line to stop moves before they became dangerous. Take a yellow card as a price worth paying.
As for players:
Robbo - not really the match to judge him on - bar the above.
Kelly - what we already know. Will run his heart out, cares a hell of alot, but against class opposition will always be exposed. Can't blame the guy for his limitations ultimately (other than mistake for 1st goal which was sloppy).
Camara - tried, but was bewildered and adrift due to....
...Roque!!! - what an astonishingly bad player! Even the Brazilian commentators recognised he was cr*p. I even think Rich Walker was being too kind to him, as he praised his heading. To me his heading reminded me of the Duberry Random Head Generator of Southampton last season - yes he got to the headers, but they were liable to go anywhere. Doesn't comprehend marking, looks terrified and visibly shrinks when anyone runs at him, let a simple pass run under his foot to almost create another Arsenal goal. Wherever he went, mayhem and confusion abounded. The only time he looked good was ambling forwards, but I don't see him as being any benefit in midfield, as he can only intercept, not tackle.
Olembe - my man of match. Considering the guy isn't a natural defender he is doing a great job, kept going fantastically well, a really looked like he cared. Wouldn't be surprised if someone else came in for him if we don't find the money for permanant signing in January.
Sakho - Sakho at left midfield doesn't really work. He seems ill at ease, the midfield feel unbalanced with a lack of strength and too strung out, as me and KOT have said befoe, if Pennant is on right you need a more 'narrow' player on left. Need to get back to Blackburn with Johnson left mid (who did play better in that match than he has been doing in centre). He can do nice things now and again but just not quite up to it.
Pennant - well he answered any doubts about him trying! In fact his main fault was trying too hard - too conscious of being the team's "creator" and so tried to do everything, and beat everyone at times. Against lesser teams it may come off though, and wouldn't want to discourage him.
Batty - love him to death, battled like hell, still a great Leeds player.... BUT he did look his age on Saturday.Look at their counter-attack goals. Now Arsenal are utterly exceptional at those breaks, but they often ended up with 5/6 in attacking positions, against just our back 4. Really, Batts should be back there. Can't criticise the guy too much for that as he is 35 and hasn't been given a match for 18 months, but did show the clock is ticking, and we will need new legs there next year. Did one awful stuff up near end where he gave the ball away twice on edge of own box within 10 seconds, borne of exhaustion and frustration. Best distributor of ball in team though. Football really is a wonderfully simple game when played well, and Batts shows that.
Johnson - game passed him by. Wants to make an impact, wants to impose himself, but can't. Would like to see him back on left, and try Milner in centre.
Smith - second half was a joy to watch. Playing pretty much alone up front with Milner/ Lennon supporting, he hassled, bustled, barged, and generally looked like Shearer/ Hughes at their best. Was a fantastic role model for Lennon and Milner, and even avoided the red mist descending, when in the past this would have been a classic "and Smith was sent off in the closing stages" match.
Bridges - love him to death, desperately want him to make it back, but on this performance you have to doubt it. Given Fatboy has taken his bat home, we need to persevere with him and hope fitness and sharpness come back, but wasn't promising. Some tough decisions to be made for all sides about a contract come January.
Milner - I so, so, so want him to make it. Really do. Still not convinced though. I keep looking for a Kewell in there, but fear he may be a Couzens. Is young, and very difficult time to come in though. In an ideal world would have had full season at Swindon.
Lennon - only a kid, but I thought showed glimpses of real talent and promise. Very early days, but looks to me as if he can make it.
Nice to see a match anyway... oh, and the fans were incredible - the commentators here seemed bewildered why we were singing so much when we were getting hammered!
Copy from Football Unlimited of 03/11/2003.
Freshly battered by a fluent, yellow card-free Arsenal, who could have scored eight, Reid returned to off-field matters every bit as sticky.
Mark Viduka was fit to play on Saturday but was not even on the bench. Viduka is believed to have been late for training once last week and then missed a players' meeting. Meanwhile, in the Sun, Viduka was griping about low morale. Viduka earns £65,000 a week.
Reid tended to exclude nonconformists at Sunderland, as Nicky Summerbee and Allan Johnston will confirm, and Viduka appears to be about to suffer the same fate.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 02/11/2003.
The good news for Leeds United is that they will not have to play Arsenal every week. The bad news is that they do have to field pretty much this team every week.
Arsenal may be the model of a modern attacking top team, all pace, movement and incisiveness on the break, but Leeds are currently as bad as a Premiership team gets. Sloppy, sluggish and disorganised they were hounded and humbled. The owner of a shambles would have been ashamed.
Peter Reid, whose job that is, probably was. His fate as manager seems likely to depend on how well the club's new chief executive, Trevor Birch, does in turning the club around. The squad will certainly need refreshing during January's transfer window if Leeds, looking simply unfit yesterday, are not to be relegated.