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For Venables waking up on sunday morning must have been how it felt to be a miler the morning after Roger Bannister beat 4-minutes, or a long jumper after Bob Beaman added feet to the record, a whole new standard is being set before our eyes and the challenge for Leeds is how to respond, how to bring themselves back into contention. Beating Manchester is no longer the yardstick in English football, for us its a nice local revenge feeling, but it is not a measure of where you stand in the game, its like cresting a Himalayan foothill just to see Everest towering above you. The only other time I can recall watching a team this far ahead of us was when Madrid visited two years ago.
Arsenal were better in every single department; they were fitter, stronger, faster, saw the passes earlier, controlled the ball better, kept the ball, gave their teammate on the ball (countless) opitions, they scored almost at will, their tackling was firm, the defending resolute and above the teamspirit was everything. It was a truly awesome display. And we are supposed to be title challengers.
The most worrying thing from a Leeds point of view was not the footballing lesson, that happens sometimes and the key to it is how you respond to that, the real problem was our spirit. A few players would be exempt from too much criticism on this level - Robinson - it would be churlish to suggest he could have done any better with any of the goals - Mills - worked hard, kept Wiltord relatively quiet, but was out of position - Radebe - gave everything as we would expect, but he is no match for Henry's pace - Dacourt - tackled like a demon in the first half, but gave the ball away far too often - and Smith, dear old Smudger - he might be stupid and petulant at times but his heart and soul beats for Leeds and we'd have more points than we do right now (and more suspensions) if we had a team of Smith's.
The lack of heart (not Harte - which was a relief to me) was epitomised for me by Kewell. I've said before I consider him the most gifted footballer and athlete at the club, by a country mile but that's nothing to a club like Leeds if he doesn't want to graft. His attitude to losing the ball is disgracgeful - he turns away, hand on hips and prods a bit of ground with his toe - he shrugs and looks off into the distance - he blames someone else. He never tries to win the thing back. He never tracks back and covers for his full back - in part this cost us the second goal, although Mills' clearance wasn't the best. I would say he has a worse attitude than Viduka.
Our midfield was offered a lesson in effective tackling, covering and distribution - Bowyer and Bakke are miles off international class judging by this. Bakke who two or three years ago was offered up by O'Leary as "our Viera" - how laughable that is now. Bowyer's only response to being second best is to lash out - yes I know from the TV replay's that Cygon managed a crafty one at his neck - but why is Bowyer's response to go over the top the next opportunity he gets - why isn't it to get the ball down and go by him, to leave him sat on his backside as Bowyer sets up a goal - why not? because he can't.
Venables is supposed to be a man motivator - where is Kewell's motivation, where Viduka's... Bakke's... Kelly's (9 minutes into such a huge game - and your first game for ages - to be caught like that is criminal - but where was the calling to him?). He's supposed to be a great tactician. To me Venables did the right thing dropping Harte but then he disrupts the defence by playing 2 players out of position. Why not leave Mills where he was and put Kelly at left back - or Lucic, of one of the younger players. The defence was already weakened by loosing Woodgate.
It won't be long until we hear the phrase "a season of transition" - well OK if it is to be that lets have rid of the dead wood - let's have the young hungry players in - let's have folk with some fire in their bellys... folk with something to prove. Let's get them blooded. Let's get some team spirit because there's sod all there at the moment. There's no passion. And that's what hurts.
A word about the ref - he was a disgrace - but he wasn't the difference between the 2 teams - there must be some kind of report about a man who is so inconsistent in one game under the media glare. This business of requiring players to leave the field of play after receiving treatment was symptomatic - he did not apply it to any of the 3 Arsenal players treated, but did insist that Bowyer left the field - our only player to receive treatment. Blatant bias.
That was one of the most one sided matches I've ever seen. 4-1 was unfair to them. It could have been 10 and the only reason it wasn't is that Arsenal completely coasted the second half. When we got one back , they just made sure by going straight up the pitch and knocking one in , then back to coasting. I'm not going for the 'Arsenal are brilliant. Everybody would have got stuffed by them today' line cos I'm more interested in us and the fact that we couldn't even give them a game today. I don't think I've ever seen that from a Leeds team at home. Venables has been making noises today saying that it's time for changes and that his long term stategy may have to be reassessed to get short term results. What does that mean Tel? I think it means he's had a look at Bakke, Mcphail, Harte, Viduka and co and realised they're not good enough and now he's going to revert back to experience and tried and tested players. i.e a midfield with a bit of bollocks in it. Basically he's admitting that he's got it wrong.
Admittedly Tel couldn't do a right lot yesterday but the little he could do he got all wrong. When you take this with our general play and tactics so far this season I think it's fair to say that Tel has been a disaster. A coach who talks a good game but really hasn't got the faintest clue on the abilities and strengths of his players. We've fallen for the hype , hook line and sinker and we're about to pay the price !
Yesterday we went with 4-3-3 again , carrying Viduka up front who was absolutely terrible again. This guy wants shooting. He strolls round like he's playing for Real Madrid . He couldn't give a f'ck. He's not good enough and if you can't see it then you're blind ! Henry v Viduka , world class player v Pub team number 9. It's that f'cking bad. Kewell was pinned to the left wing. Oh Tel, make your mind up ! Kewell was the only Leeds man to beat an Arsenal man yesterday but of course it was on the left wing which meant that the resulting cross was overhit and it came to nothing. Do we ever learn ?. Kewell has to play up front , down the middle, end of story.
Midfield - what f'cking midfield ? Dacourt battled his bleeding heart out and I actually thought he got the better of Vierra in the first half but he was on his own (please tell me the reason he got took off was that he was injured). Bakke was a passenger. What is Bakke's role in the team now ? He rarley gets the ball, but when he does he gives it away and then he weighs in with the odd ridiculously late tackle. He's useless. the worse player in the league by a mile. He wouldn't look out of place in the Conference. No joke ! When do you think Tel will realise this ? Cos all the fans who watch him every week have just about cottened on now.
Bowyer - bloody terrible. He actually only gets away with it because of his work rate. England !??? You're joking. He's not good enough. Mind you , Tel stuck him on the right wing. Do you think Tel watched DOL's demise. He hasn't leart anything.
Defence - Mills at left back , Mmmm.. interesting gamble but it didn't work. How uncomfortable did Mills look and how out of his depth was Kelly having hardly played for 2 years. Surely Tel should have changed it bringing Mills to right back , Matteo to left back and Duberry on. It wouldn't have made much difference though.
I think my final memory of this match would be the guy a row in front of me saying that Tel will change it around at half time and we'd get back in the match. When he actually saw our central midfield parntership line up to take on Vierra and co for the second half, he just groaned.
'F*cking hell he's put Mcphail on to play with Bakke. 2-0 down against Arsenal and he's playing Bakke and Mcphail !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I'm off home'
I'll not repeat my thoughts on Mcphail , I might get accused of being boring. All I'll say is look at their 3rd goal. Waddle, waddle , quack, quack
Venables - you're a f***ing joker !
This was quite simply the worst I can remember seeing a Leeds United team ever playing. We were second to every loose ball, hustled off the ball time and time again; our only attempts to attack were all "hoof and hope;" we didn't have a shot on target until the 81st minute. Most of the team played as if they didn't care. (I saw both Matteo and Bakke smiling at one point when we were two or three goals down.) A few things are obvious: Woodgate is our best defender; Radebe (I'm afraid) is showing his age; Mills is a good right back (but not a good left back); Kelly is either rusty or past it; our midfield is hopeless - they have forgotten how to either hold the ball and build patiently, or to break quickly by moving the ball to the strikers in two or three passes; Batty must play; Viduka shouldn't be playing; selling Keane was a mistake, as we now have only one fit striker (Smith - Kewell is not a striker, much as he likes to pretend he is, he had three good chances today and fluffed two of them). Considering the depth of our squad, the paucity of resources on the bench was astounding. During the summer I said there were three players we HAD to sell: Harte, Duberry and Burns. All three were in the squad for today's match. What about Okon and Lucic? Why sign internationals if you're not even willing to put them on the bench? Very drastic measures are needed in the short and medium term. Here are some suggestions:
1. Fire Kidd, and replace him with Eddie Gray. The simple fact is we haven't played good football since Kidd became coach. And the longer he's been coach, the worse we've become, as he gradually drills all the creativity and exuberance out of our team. The only reason he's coach is that O'Leary's fragile ego couldn't stand the fact that Gray had such a bond with the players, and was a Leeds legend in his own right. Venables should be big enough to admit that Gray could add something to the backroom staff, and that Kidd would be better employed in the first division. This step could be taken tomorrow, and would pay immediate and long-term dividends.
2. Bring back Batty. Venables obviously has some personality conflict with Batty, who doesn't help his case with this absurd "I won't fly to games" routine (so much for being a hard Yorkshireman - if you paid me 25,000 pounds a week I'd f*cking hang glide to games). But the team is crying out for a midfielder who can win the ball, protect it and pass it to a member of his own side. We have one of the best players in Europe at that, we pay him 25,000 quid a week, and we won't even put him on the bench for the reserves. Venables has to put the team ahead of his personality conflict with Batty, and put him in. Leeds ALWAYS play better with Batty in the side, and this would allow Dacourt to move forward a little more. A corollary of this recommendation is BAKKE MUST BE DROPPED. The Norwegian is contributing nothing.
3. Play Bridges as soon as he's fit. We desperately miss Bridges' sharpness and speed of thought up front. Watch the videos from the one-and-a-bit seasons he actually played for us, and look how many goals he helped created for other players.
4. As soon as Fowler is fit, Viduka must have his operation. At his best, Viduka is a top-class forward. He's nowhere near his best, and, giving him the benefit of the doubt, his Achilles must have something to do with this. Get it right, 'cos he's next to useless now. (AND GET HIS DIET RIGHT!!!)
5. Play Matteo, Johnson (when fit) or Wilcox at left back. Today's selections were bizarre: Mills, a right-footed right back who's a decent centre-half, was put at left back, whereas Matteo, a left-footed left-back who's been converted to centre-half, was playing centre-half. Result: chaos in our penalty area. Harte should never be allowed to return to the first XI, but that doesn't mean one of our left-footed players can't take his place. (And why is Burns on the bench, but not Wilcox?)
6. Let Smith lead the line. He is our best centre-forward. He holds the ball up well, gives the opposition centre-halves a hell of a hard game, is a great finisher and a good header of the ball (witness his header under the pressure that hit the bar with Seaman beaten this afternoon). We have almost a dozen international midfielders. There's no need to take our only fit striker and put him in midfield (and I know he played up front today, but that's been the exception to the rule recently). Smith and Bridges should be our striker pairing, with Kewell attacking from the left.
7. Level with the supporters. This is going to be a stressful period for the club, and the only way to keep the supporters on your side is to tell them the truth. It looks like we have been repeatedly lied to by both chairman and manager recently (examples: "we only need to raise 15 million," "Rio is not for sale, and certainly not to Man U," "we'll be signing three or four world class players in the next few days," "We have no holding midfielder at the club," "Batty is injured").
1. At a minimum, sell Harte, Duberry, Burns and Milosevic. Think seriously about selling Bakke unless he improves remarkably. If Venables has no intention of playing him (and I'd like to know why not) then Wilcox should also be sold. If it appears that Bowyer isn't going to sign, then he should also go. If Viduka doesn't improve, he could be let go too (I can't believe I'm saying this, but unless it's his Achilles that's the problem, then he is no longer good enough for us). Sell any of the youth products who are not good enough for the first team.
2. Buy a top quality left back and a top quality right-winger/midfielder. The team has been crying out for these for years now (especially the right winger). It's unforgiveable that we've signed Johnson, Lucic, Barmby, Okon, Keane, etc. etc., but not a top quality right winger.
Okay, I've calmed down now.
Certainly we have played worse this season, and many times last season we were dire. You must have missed those games. However your point is taken. We were slow and gave them too much room. It was painful to watch at times. There was no belief that we could win today. Kelly's mistake which led to the fist goal was truly unbelievable. Mill's mistake, in retrospect, was bad too and led to the second goal.
Viduka is struggling and a passenger for almost the whole game. Even Robinson seemed a bit off today. I felt he went down a bit too early against Henry and could have possibly saved us from the third goal. Only Smith gave it all. Mills did try. In our central defence only Woodgate has real pace so we were always in danger there.
A bad day at the office and TV raised his hands and said he screwed up with his selection. Thats true to an extent but many of the players on the pitch today are also to be blamed. Before the game I had a premonition of being trashed 0-4. Looks like we did a wee bit better than that.
Arsenal are currently unbeatable but it remains to be seen if we will get our act together or not. We lack pace when going forward, slowing the game down and allowing the opposition to regroup. Our best game has been against Newcastle, the best I've seen us play in the last year or so. We need to get the hunger and commitment shown in that game back fast or else we will have to kiss Europe goodbye.
Copy from Football Unlimited of 30/09/2002.
The last time Elland Road witnessed something as pitiless as this, most of the current Leeds players were not even born and Southampton were the victims of a famous 7-0 humbling best remembered for the cries of ole that greeted every shimmy, every feint and every moment of keep-ball impudence from Don Revie's side.
Battered and beleaguered, the modern-day Leeds now understand how it feels to be on the receiving end.
Arsenal's performance on Saturday was so mesmerising and brilliant that it invited comparisons with some of the greatest sides and performances. Arsène Wenger spoke of the Real Madrid, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Ajax and Liverpool teams of yesteryear but, after a moment's consideration, the manager settled for a comparison with the Holland side of Johan Cruyff, Ruud Krol and Johan Neeskens. "Danger everywhere, tremendous spirit, a privilege to watch," he said. "It was total football."
Copy from Football Unlimited of 28/09/2002.
Arsenal are out on their own when it comes to goalscoring, but it hardly took the shattering of a record from the old Third Division North to confirm that. The Premiership champions took just nine minutes to find the net for the 47th consecutive match and even at that stage it was evident Chesterfield's 72-year-old run might not be the only record in danger.
Leeds United ended up grateful that the damage was limited only to their worst defeat of the season. Had Arsenal not begun toying with them midway through the first half, or had they summoned Fredrik Ljungberg from the substitutes' bench, Leeds could have been on the wrong end of a scoreline that Terry Venables would have found even more painful to discuss.
'I've got to rethink and see where we go from here. We hardly have anything to be happy about,' the Leeds manager said. 'Just about the only comfort I can drag out of that is that Arsenal did just the same in midweek and in my opinion PSV [Eindhoven] are a good side. Arsenal were terrific last season, but I think Gilberto Silva has made them even better. They were much the better side on the day.'