Leeds United Stories, Vol. 1

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leeds united 0-1 ipswich town: why and when

leeds united 0-1 ipswich town: why and when


So Silvestri, so Rosler, so Pearson, so Leeds United; they’ll sell a dvd of this, called How To Do Everything Wrong.

Marco Silvestri is the easiest to deal with. As the ball began its descent into a crowded penalty area, Silvestri left his goal line, his eyes on the flight of the ball, oblivious to the players blocking his way. He jumped into and over the melee; he timed it just right. Confident, calm, commanding; Silvestri plucked the ball cleanly from its place in the Elland Road sunset, conjoined its descent with his, until both were safely returned, as if from the International Space Station, to Earth. The salutations from the Kop behind him would have been no less raucous had Silvestri been an astronaut; hailed a hero, he had caught the ball.

Ipswich Town were not to be fooled. They stuck another high ball in, Silvestri stared at it up there in the sky as if he were stunned by first sight of a new moon, and barely left the ground as he propelled himself out of his goal under the path of the dynamite sphere. Our defence, a petrified forest, stood and watched as Ipswich shot the moon into our goal.

There was never any question of a comeback, or of Leeds taking the lead before Ipswich. Ipswich were poor in this game, struggling the way mid-table Championship sides tend to with passing the ball to each other. Leeds struggled more.

Uwe Rosler, deaf to any questions about his formations, selections or tactics after the draw with Brentford, sent out a side that reflected some of the requests he’d seemed to ignore: 4–4–2, with Murphy and Antenucci both starting. Unfortunately he neglected another important aspect; that the team had to be some good at all, and play reasonably well.

Murphy was intent on providing some rhythm and retention in midfield, but with Tom Adeyemi beside him, it was like he had nobody beside him; the player he needed beside him, the metronome’s tock to Murphy’s tick, Lewis Cook, was stuck out on the left wing as if in disgrace. Stuart Dallas, so far so favoured as a new signing, showed just how comfortable he is on the left side of a forward three by struggling to affect the game from the right side of a midfield four.

We wanted 4–4–2, we got it; but when we’ve seen it in glimpses this season, it hasn’t looked like this. Rosler reneged on his part of the managerial deal, which is to ensure that when he does pick a different formation or players, ones that fans have been asking for, he sets it up so that it’s not total garbage. That might sound unfair; we get to make the demands, and Rosler carries the load if it doesn’t work — but that’s the job, Uwe.

And from my seat, making good work of 4–4–2 still seems relatively easy; Cook and Murphy in the middle, Mowatt on the left; or Dallas on the left, with Botaka tried on the right; or Byram kept on the right, but of midfield instead of a forward three, to see if that jumpstarts his sputtering motors. Options, there, and it’s no accident that none of them include Adeyemi, whose Leeds career so far has been a strong argument for giving Rodolph Austin a new contract.

All any of this got us, in the end, was a first defeat of the season and a hole in the bulwark; Rosler’s defence, that even if so far we’re uninspiring, we’re unbeaten, is gone; we’ve now lost as many as we’ve won. That’s a negative spin, but that’s how easy that is now, and while the pressure was building on Rosler to deliver some football closer to the Botaka YouTube clips of our desires, to that is now added the pressure to deliver some football that wins some games.

And his release valve has gone. The two main questions about Adam Pearson at Leeds United were 1) why? and 2) when? As in, why is he here, and when will he leave? The answer to 1) is still as mysterious as it was when he turned up; we’ve got the answer to 2) now, but the knowledge hasn’t made us any wiser.

The open letter from Pearson and Cellino on the official website is filled with apology and regret but no real explanations; Adam wants to focus on other personal and business interests, but that’s so vague, and my own position towards open letters on the official website so cynical, that’s it’s difficult not to feel there’s something else true that we’re not being told.

The reasons will be the stuff of arguments for days, maybe years; Leeds fans can always make hay when only given half-truths. Perhaps that’s why that’s what we’re always given. But we’re seeking a reason for Pearson’s departure right now because of what that might tell us about Leeds United going forward. Pearson has become synonymous with stability at Leeds United, and it’s hard to imagine the sensible work we have seen continuing without the sensible director to execute it. Our other directors can generally be seen gyrating to chart hits on Instagram.

Perhaps that’s what became too much for Pearson, after four months; four months of being a lone sane voice in the madhouse. Part of his work has been to employ sobriety; his interview processes valuing a serious demeanour in candidates. But constantly flipping mode from serious football discussions with Rosler, Kelly or Hart, to the boardroom, where overgrown teenagers dance in shorts, and believing yourself still at the same football club, must become wearing.

We get a serious, sober and sane demeamour from Uwe Rosler, and from his comments last night, he clearly valued Pearson as a counterpart, and perhaps a defence. My first instinct on hearing Pearson had gone after the game was that Rosler would immediately follow, the whole episode a response to the dreary evening shared at Elland Road; that was wrong, as it turns out Pearson’s departure has been coming for several days, but the gut feeling remains, that without Pearson there to suggest that Rosler might just need a bit more time — the opportunity to actually play his new winger at all, for one thing — that Rosler’s days are numbered.

We should, really, still be far from all that talk. Rosler has had a bad time of it since the Derby game; Wood’s winner apart, things have actually been pretty rough since halftime in that game. But the complaints from the stands about last night’s formation and tactics, and the players’ performances, are still at the ‘sort it out and do better’ stage, that recognises the value of stability at a club that has had none, that we’re as well trying to finish in the top half of the table with one manager this season as with three.

That’s the view from the stands, though; football’s traditional home of raving, teeth-gnashing, yelled-before-thought incoherence. That is still a saner and more patient place than the boardroom at Elland Road.

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