James Brown’s Leeds United column: 7 things we learned from the opening day win at Bristol City
Have we seen the birth of a new Super White? And what we know now about the centre-back problem...
1. White looks the part
White looks like a great loanee. Tall, lean and tidy in his play, he never looked flustered, and made the right decisions throughout his debut. From the off Leeds were enjoying some possession between the centre-backs, goalkeeper and full-backs. White looked most confident of all of them, sweetly dragging back the ball from a lunging striker and leaving him on his arse.
As the game wore on, he showed how good his positional play is and splayed a couple of accurate long balls, switching the play from right-back to left-wing.
Bristol City didn’t give Leeds too much to deal with in the air, but they did look dangerous when they stormed through at us, and the Brighton loanee worked well with his new midfield and defensive colleagues in breaking down that threat. One tweeter had this debut down as better than Rio Ferdinand’s.
Ben White’s pass map against Bristol City is extremely encouraging. He made the most progressive passes* by any Leeds player yesterday (14) and his positive distribution and range of passing certainly caught the eye. He completed 85% of his total passes (56/66). #LUFCpic.twitter.com/2HgwFFWagE— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) August 5, 2019
2. Bamford criticism undeserved
Patrick Bamford has been much maligned by many Leeds fans, but the movement for his goal was excellent. Rewriters of history will try to deny this, but Gary Speed used to get stick from the stands for having ‘lovely hair’ – and it feels as if Bamford had a skinhead and had grown up in Cross Gates, he wouldn’t be getting so much.
His big challenge is to convert chances: he certainly finds himself with the ball often enough, and that’s not fluke. Bamford had two good opportunities in the first half which would have been highlighted more but for his impressive headed goal. He’s almost a victim of his own ability to find the right positions. Some strikers see less of the ball, but do more with it when it comes.
Overall, though, Bamford had a good game. He put in a lot of work holding the ball up for his wingers and full-backs to run on to, and it felt like a stronger performance from the man with the violin.
3. Friendly fire is still a danger
I was at the game so didn’t see a replay, but it was extremely worrying when a goalmouth scramble from a corner – where Kiko Casilla came for the punch – ended with Liam Cooper flat out and seemingly comatose.
His team-mates weren’t huddled over him so I assumed he wasn’t passed out or dead, but the sight of Cooper out like that really highlighted why we definitely need another centre-back or two.
4. Casilla has pitching wedge for foot
He can play a lovely accurate long ball, lofting gently and spinning down to the waiting recipient. I just wish he wouldn’t get fancy when he’s in possession and one-on-one with a striker in our own box, or when he’s practising his kung-fu interceptions.
5. Silent grafters hard at it
All eyes are on Kalvin Philips right now as the threat of a big-money departure hangs over the club – and he increasingly looks a class act. However, the hard-working Mateusz Klich, Adam Forshaw and Stuart Dallas all played their parts in controlling this game.
So often fans only acknowledge mistakes or goals, but all three of these gave us a tightness in midfield that we lacked at times last season.
6. Pablo must be protected
Pablo Hernandez was a different class. He looked like a 19-year-old, energy-wise, and after a summer break he was totally back to his best. Marcelo Bielsa must get the likes of Helder Costa and Jamie Shackleton shadowing the magician to pick up tips because, as last season showed, it’s hard for the Spaniard to maintain this level of creativity over almost 50 games. It really felt like watching a grandmaster at play.
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Any other business?
Our press contingent had a strong ex-LUFC line-up, with Shaun Derry, Ben Parker and Noel Whelan all commentating. Bristol City have a stadium, concourse and catering set up far better than most new-builds.
We found a cracking Cuban cafe in St Pauls where the owner had clearly been on the mojitos – but the chicken, rice and plantain were epic in size and taste. One down, 45 to go. Enthusiasm firmly back.
James Brown (@jamesjamesbrown (opens in new tab)) is editor-in-chief of FourFourTwo. Read his pre-weekend column here
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By Ryan Dabbs