Leeds 1 v Birmingham 2 – Five Takeaways

Summary:

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.