Complacency and lack of effort are two things not associated with Leeds United this season but the current drop in form in League One action has prompted the Manager to blast his players. Simon Grayson knows he has a tough task of balancing between the dream of a longer run in the FA Cup and the realities of League One life.
The Whites are truly going through a critical period as every player’s motivation and priorities are being tested. At Old Trafford and White Hart Lane the players fought extremely hard to compensate for the gap in talent and their efforts were rewarded with a win and replay respectively. Grayson acknowledges this fact and has pointed out to his players how their passive approach to the Swindon match cost them three points. The league is like bread and butter for Leeds and their hopes of returning to the top flight start with the next fixture against a tricky Colchester United side. The Whites will have one major advantage as the game is set for Elland Road and the fans will likely be present in full force in what should be a test for the credentials of the club. The clash will offer a clear indication of how seriously the players will be taking the league fixtures from here on as Leeds have yet to suffer a home defeat.
The current mini crisis has been overshadowed by the heroics in the FA Cup yet Grayson is visibly concerned about the league form and aware Leeds could waste it all if they keep dropping points. The club’s objective has been clearly defined and stressed upon by Grayson on a number of occasions. The aim is to secure promotion with everything else including an extended run in the FA Cup considered as a welcome bonus. Another season in League One will dampen the hopes of the loyal supporters while creating opportunities for Premiership and even Championship sides to lure some of the skilled players such as Robert Snodgrass. Leeds cannot afford to lose any of its core players given the ambition of the club to return to the top flight in the near future. The key is not to jump so far ahead and assume playing well against elite sides in the FA Cup is a guarantee the clubs in League One will just tremble, roll over and let the Whites play their game.
The reality is the exact opposite as these clubs such as Wycombe Wanderers and Exeter City will be delighted to have a shot at beating Leeds in league action. The players are visibly struggling to maintain their high intensity in clashes against non-Premiership sides as witnessed in the home defeat to Carlisle in the JPT. As controversial as this might seem but a loss to Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup replay could be a blessing in disguise and a wakeup call for many of the players. Victory against the Spurs will be another historic achievement given the current circumstances but it may lead to further damage to the aspirations of the club to jump to the Championship. The fixture congestion will make the players more susceptible to injuries given the likelihood of muscular fatigue and limited rest. More significantly, an extended run in the FA Cup will be a major distraction taking away the focus from securing the much desired automatic promotion.
One way to deal with this lethargy would be to bring in some new players who are able to add some quality to the side and fight for playing time. This will make competition stronger between the squad members and push some of them to work hard in order to guarantee a place in the starting lineup. A few days ago a source close to the club mentioned to adifferentleague.co.uk the club will be looking to bring in a couple of reinforcements, particularly a striker, and this is clear indication of the club’s need for more goal scorers. Aside from Jermaine Beckford (who by the way scored against Manchester United and Spurs but has looked lethargic in recent league action) the other strikers Luciano Becchio and Mike Grella have not impressed this season with Becchio missing time due to injury and struggling for form. Grella has not had much time to leave a lasting impression but he has failed to grab a starting spot in the limited appearances made so far.
Grayson will be looking for a response from his players against Colchester and Elland Road will be the perfect venue to reignite the charge to the Championship.