By Mike Courtney
The last few weeks have not been good for Leeds United. Defeats at Reading, Newcastle, Millwall and at home to Burnley have left us feeling a tad disillusioned. It's not just the defeats themselves but the manner of them, with Saturday's setback at The Den possibly the worst performance by a Leeds side in 2013, and that's saying something. Bmac even alluded to this in his post match press conference saying that the performance in the second half wasn't good enough. I know the players we have aren't world beaters and some of them aren't good enough even for this level but the least we expect as fans is a bit of fight and heart and commitment but that was absent in the second half at Millwall.
When McDermott came in toward the end of last season we did see a slight improvement in our style of play and he managed to get the results required to keep us in the division. The required improvement in the squad over the summer for me didn't set the world on fire. I know we are working on a tight budget but the signings of Smith and Hunt didn't fill me with confidence at the time and 9 games into the new campaign (12 if you count the League Cup), my views haven't changed with just 2 goals between them, Smith has scored twice even though he has been mainly used off the bench and Hunt has yet to get off the mark despite starting most of the League matches. Our other major signings, Murphy and Wootton, have fared a bit better but still have plenty of room for improvement.
It is really our lack of goals that is losing us games. I know that's stating the obvious but 7 goals in 9 games is just not good enough. Defensively we haven't done too bad with only 5 teams in the division conceding less than us. If you look at the league table, Leicester, Watford, Forest and Blackpool, all teams vying for the playoff places, have all conceded the same amount of goals as Leeds but have scored considerably more. So it's clear to see where the problem lies. I know it's easy to blame the strikers, after all its their job to put the ball in the net, but when you are being overrun in midfield and have no pace and creativity out wide then the chances that fall are few and far between.
So where do we go from here?. Its obvious to everyone connected with the club that the funds aren't there to make wholesale changes to the squad. Bringing in a couple of loan signings to try and strengthen our attacking options is a must and even BMac has to see this. I know he has spoken about his reluctance to bring in loanees but he has to see that what we have isn't good enough. He has tried tinkering with the formation in search of that elusive goal but to no avail. As it stands we are already looking over our shoulders at the relegation places as a gap emerges between the top 7 and the rest. In order for us to bridge that gap to the top the loan market has to be utilised. We have already missed out on some available strikers, Fryatt, Sharp and Lingard. I'm not saying they were the answer to our problems but other teams have taken a punt on them and they couldn't do any worse then what we already have.
BMac did say he made an inquiry about the availability of one striker but was rebuffed, so I know he is looking. It's not quite crisis time yet but a couple of more games without a win and a healthy return of goals may see the fans turn and if the team loses the fans, who have been brilliant, then we are in big trouble. There have been strong rumours of the return of Luciano Becchio and this has divided many fans. The player himself would favour a return to Elland Road over other Championship clubs. His goal scoring record for us is second only to Beckford in the modern era so for me he is worth a punt. I'm sure if he started banging in the goals like the Becchio of old it wouldn't take long for the doubters to start singing his name again. We would still need someone with pace out wide and maybe a more creative midfielder but a proven goalscorer at this level would be a start so get Becchio back before he is snapped up by someone else.
The team has a great chance to bounce back to winning ways at home to Bournemouth tomorrow night, a team that has conceded 20 goals already this season yet sit 2 points and 5 places above us in the table. This would have been seen as a banker before the season started but our lack of goals of late will have changed the mindset of most observers. I still think we can win it but there needs to be a few changes to the lineup and formation. I stated this in a previous article before the Burnley game and I think it could still work for our home games. We need to change to a 3-5-2 attacking formation. I would stick with Lees. Wootton and Pearce at the back, protected by Green and Austin in midfield. I would have Byram and White out wide with young Mowatt in the attacking midfield role. Rossco has to start as he is our main scoring threat and I would give Poleon a chance to stake his claim up front. This side would give us pace out wide with a strong backbone to the team and have our most dangerous players, Rossco and Poleon in attacking areas instead of dropping deep to pick up the ball. I think Mowatt deserves to start as he was our brightest player against Millwall and Murphy hasn't shown enough drive or creativity of late and looks lethargic.
I do think that BMac is the right man for the job and all is not lost yet for this season. If you recall Reading's title winning season under McDermott they were in the lower half of the table approaching Christmas and went on a run that brought them to the title and the promised land. This is the type of run we need to go on and with the home game tomorrow and a trip to Managerless Derby on Saturday, its as good a time as any to get the season back on track. Nothing less than 3 points tomorrow night will do and I back the boys to get back to winning ways with an emphatic win.
Dare to dream..... MOT Leeds Leeds Leeds.