Leeds 1 v Birmingham 2 – Five Takeaways


Leeds suffered their first defeat of the season against former manager Gary Monk’s Birmingham City. Leeds lost the game in the first 30 minutes when they gifted two goals to the away side. Bailey Peacock-Farrell has come in for some heavy criticism online about his positioning for both goals. Deep down he knows he should have saved both efforts. For the next 68 minutes, Leeds dominated the possession without creating many goalscoring opportunities.

I was apprehensive heading into the match from the research I did on Birmingham’s results so far. Despite having failed to win any of their opening 8 games, they were playing well and posed a far greater threat than most Leeds fans on social media realised. The bookies’ odds had Leeds just odds on to win the match at 3/4 when I saw them on Friday. Considering that Leeds were at home, top of the league, unbeaten and playing a team yet to have a single league win was a red flag for me. Leeds should have been much shorter odds, and I’d say they lost quite a few accumulators for many punters today.

The Squad Must Bounce Back From The Disappointment:

Leeds finished the game with a season-high 71% possession and 17 attempts on goal with only 5 on target. Those match stats would win most games in any league. Leeds did not start the game well, and Birmingham made them pay. The goals were shocking to concede, but there were nearly 70 minutes left to play. Leeds lacked width in the first half hour, and the substitution of Kavin Philips for Stuart Dallas was a clear realisation of that glaring fact. Marcelo Bielsa has shown that he can admit his errors and will make the necessary changes at any time of the game. Birmingham had no chances after they scored their second goal. Leeds dominated the remainder of the game, but the clinical edge shown against Preston was severely lacking. I have said many times that of Leeds can keep clean sheets they will win most games. Teams who want to push for automatic promotion cannot afford to make two game-changing mistakes in a single match. Leeds were made to pay, and the Leeds fans will be hoping that can learn fast from their mistakes.

Bielsa Admits He Got His Tactics Wrong:

It shows the measure of the  Argentinean genius that he apologised for his pre-match tactical mistake after the game. Marcelo Bielsa is a man without a massive ego or a love of the limelight. The Leeds manager took responsibility for the defeat. Jose Mourinho would never do that. The humble manner of the former Bilbao manager is refreshing. It is inspiring the players to believe in the philosophy and stick to the process. The early first-half introduction of Stuart Dallas provided the width that Leeds were missing. Unfortunately, the team was losing two-nil at the time. The change worked as it was supposed to do because Leeds dominated the remainder of the game. Birmingham were set-up to stifle Leeds and their time wasting was frustrating. Leeds could not build attacks through Kalvin Phillips and Jack Harrison was marked out of much of the first half by the Birmingham defence. The players never panicked, and they adhered to the basic principles which Bielsa has instilled into each member of the squad.

The Fabled 3-3-1-3 System:

Leeds fans got their first clear introduction of Marcelo Bielsa’s famous 3-3-1-3 system. The removal of Kalvin Philips and introduction saw Leeds make changes to their formation. The team have deployed slight variations of the system in the previous eight games. However, Saturday was the first time it was used for a prolonged period of a single match. The system worked well with Samu Saiz taking the role of the number 1 behind the front three attackers. Leeds were able to increase the pace of the play and use their triangular passing moves to get down the Birmingham flanks. The formation could be used more frequently moving forward. Birmingham forced Leeds to attack through the middle in the first 30 minutes of the game. Other teams will no doubt try this tactic in the coming games. The pace of the passing and the extra width is what Leeds will need to improve on. The training ground will be open late in the coming weeks as Bielsa will want his players ready for the future challenges.

The Goalkeeper Conundrum:

Bailey Peacock-Farrell has done fantastic so far this season, but he has now made three crucial errors which have led to the opposition goals. Jamal Blackman is probably wondering if he will get a chance to make his case for the number one jersey. Peacock-Farrell has made some great saves, and overall, I firmly believe he will be the Leeds number one goalkeeper for the next few years. He has played twice for Northern Ireland, and it was clear in my mind that he would be the first-choice goalkeeper moving forward. Blackman must have believed that was signed to be the Leeds number one. The form of the young Leeds academy graduate has been great for squad competition. I really hope that the fans get behind Peacock-Farrell because as it was shown with Loris Karius, mistakes can destroy confidence. I think Bielsa will stick with his current choice unless he is forced to make the change. I am hopeful that won’t need to happen.

Onwards To Hillsborough:

Friday night sees Leeds travel to face Sheffield Wednesday. The Owls has an impressive win away at Aston Villa on Saturday and will want to inflict a second Leeds defeat of the season. It is highly doubtful that any of the injured players will return in time. It will be interesting if Bielsa will start with Stuart Dallas and deploy the 3-3-1-3 from the beginning of the game. It will be a big test of character for this set of players. The reactions to adversity so far this season have been brilliant. An away derby should get the players focused on getting back to winning ways. Keeping mistakes to a minimum will be vital if Leeds are to claim the three points. A clean-sheet should see Leeds in pole position to win the game.

Leeds 3 v Preston 0 – Five Takeaways

After two hard-fought draws, Leeds returned to winning ways with an emphatic win over Preston. The Lancashire side started brightly and forced Bailey Peacock Farrell into an early smart save from a Callum Robinson curling shot. For the final 30 minutes of the opening half, Leeds besieged the away goal with a constant barrage of attacks. Eventually, Liam Cooper scored the deserved first goal from a corner before halftime. Preston scored an offside goal early in the second half which seemed to jolt the Leeds side, and they began dominating the game again. Tyler Roberts scored two great goals to seal the vital win and confirm that Leeds stayed top of the league. Below are the five critical items I took from the success:

Pontus Jansson:

The gargantuan Swede had his best game in a Leeds shirt in over a year. He was composed and assured in possession and formed a solid partnership in the centre of defence with Liam Cooper. The Leeds captain has been excellent so far this season and gave another fantastic display on Tuesday, but it was Jansson who was my man of the match. The towering Scandinavian was immense, and it is great to see him returning to his best form. I have previously said that on his day Jansson is the best defender in the Championship and his superb display on Tuesday night certainly helps prove my point. I will be praying that he can keep fit and stay in form for the months ahead.

Clean Sheets:

The Preston win was the fourth clean sheet of the league so far this season. The back four and goalkeeper look extremely solid, and Kalvin “Clarence” Philips has been excellent at shielding the defence from central midfield. Leeds proved yet again on Tuesday that they will control possession and create numerous chances. It was the third game in a row where the team had over 60% possession. The high pressing and possession could leave the team stretched against the top sides in the league. If Kalvin Philips always out the game, then the defence could be exposed especially with our attacking full backs. It is an issue Leeds will probably face against our promotion rivals who will try to play on the counter-attack.

Tyler Roberts

I for one owe the young Welsh international an apology. I was critical of his finishing at Millwall on Saturday. Honestly, he should have had two goals in London, and I was doubtful that he could realistically replace Roofe and Bamford. He answered his critics with two goals and an overall fantastic performance. He has the energy to burn, and he continually pressed and harried the Preston back four. Roberts showed no signs of nerves and got better as the game went on. The delicious lob for his opening goal was spectacular. However, it was his clinical finish for the third Leeds goal which impressed me the most. Marcelo Bielsa stated after the match that the Welsh international pleaded to be played as a central striker. It was great to see him back up his confidence with goals and his display on the pitch. He was the eleventh different player to score so far this season. It’s a great sign that the squad can share the goalscoring burden and Leeds fans can now look forward with less trepidation to the eventual return of our injured attacking players.


I am constantly let down by the Macedonian winger’s lack of consistency. He provided the cross of the season for Kemar Roofe’s brilliant header away at Derby. Against Preston, his final ball was awful. He let the Preston right-back run free for the disallowed goal and was sloppy in possession throughout the game. I tweeted on Saturday that he was born offside and I stand by that assertion. One of the numerous coaches at Thorp Arch need to show him how to time his runs. I cannot remember a player who went from the sublime to the ridiculous so often in a Leeds shirt. I live in constant hope that Alioski will positively impact the promotion cause going forward.

Clinical Finishing:

Leeds should have been three-nil up at halftime, but some poor finishing left the door open for Preston. Mateusz Klich missed two great chances in the first half, and Jack Harrison should have added to his goal tally but hit the post when it was easier to score. Leeds could have easily won by six or seven goals. The team needs to be ruthless because you cannot be charitable in the Championship. Gary Monk brings his struggling Birmingham side to Elland Road on Saturday, and he will no doubt want to derail the Leeds quest to return to the top flight. It will be another tight game, and I know Leeds fans will be expecting a comprehensive win, but I think it could potentially be a much tougher game compared to the Preston victory. If Leeds can keep another clean sheet on Saturday, I firmly believe that they will get another home victory.