With less than a week to go until Leeds’ season restarts with a couple of tough games, first at home against reigning Champions Manchester City before an away game at 3rd place Newcastle United, plenty of excitement has been swirling around Elland Road, especially with the Whites playing their first games in front of fans for over 40 days against Europa League opposition.
Leeds defeated Spanish outfit Real Sociedad, dominated for large parts of the game and looked good value for their 2-1 victory. As a result, fans were excited, as this Sociedad side defeated Manchester United at Old Trafford earlier this season. However, reality struck as Leeds were downed 4 goals to 2 against a Monaco side that, despite not doing as well as Sociedad domestically, only sitting 6th in Ligue 1, took the game to Leeds and made them look hopeless at times.
Things started well for the whites, however, with Robin Koch putting the side up, taking advantage of a goalkeeping mishap from a corner. But the rest of the game followed a similar trajectory in that Leeds had chances to score but couldn’t take them. Meanwhile, Monaco was clinical in front of the goal, and what was an even scoreline at halftime was blown open inside the first 9 minutes of the second half, to the point where a Joe Gelhardt penalty was a mere consolation.
Obviously, with friendlies, the final score is the least important thing, but with the ruthless Erling Haaland coming to town next Wednesday, things need to improve in the next week to avoid being embarrassed by Manchester City for the 2nd straight year. Here’s how I thought everyone played:
Kristoffer Klaesson – 5
The young Norwegian couldn’t do much about the 4 goals he conceded, with many of them coming at point-blank range. He made some routine saves and it’s good for him to get 90 minutes under his belt. However, if Meslier is still ill for the City game, I’d prefer Robles in goal.
Rasmus Kristensen – 5
The Danish right-back looked good going forward and put in some decent crosses for the likes of Gelhardt to contend, but he arguably wasn’t good enough tracking back against the pacey Gelson Martins. Too easily beaten for the 2nd and 4th goals.
Luke Ayling – 4
Playing most of the game as a centre-back, Ayling was caught out of position for a lot of Monaco’s goals. He probably won’t play against Manchester City next week, but if he does, he should be playing on the right, rather than in the centre.
Robin Koch – 8
The German international was arguably Leeds’ best player through the first half, getting his goal and tidying up when it looked like the defence was being breached. This impact was magnified when the side conceded 3 in 9 minutes upon his departure. Ultimately, a very promising performance going into next week
Diego Llorente – 3
Not exactly at fault for any of the goals conceded in the 2nd half but was a bit erratic on the ball at times and was out of position alongside Ayling for the goals themselves. It did look like he’d been out of the team for a while before the break for the World Cup.
Pascal Struijk – 5
An average outing for the man who signed a new contract before the game. Didn’t put a foot wrong exactly, but Leeds fans know that the Dutchman can do better.
Junior Firpo – 5
Firpo was solid in the 25 minutes he played upon his return to the side. He’s going to have to prove himself over the next few games however to avoid being left out in favour of a centre-back again when the season resumes.
Leo Hjelde – 5
Hjelde only played around 10 minutes so it’s hard to judge his game properly. Would like to see more of him in the first team in the coming months.
Marc Roca – 6
Felt that Roca assumed the Tyler Adams role against Monaco, doing a bit of everything across the midfield, and doing a sufficient job at that. Few good deliveries from set pieces too.
Adam Forshaw – 6
Forshaw has gotten better over the few friendlies he’s played over the break and will most likely start against Manchester City. Whilst I don’t think he’s ever going to be back up to speed for the Premier League, he leaves it all out on the pitch. That crunching tackle was probably the highlight of the evening for many too.
Sam Greenwood – 4
Didn’t really adjust to the 4-3-3 formation that Marsch had the boys playing at times too well but made some good runs when he was pushed further forward in the 2nd half and was always a threat on set pieces.
Darko Gyabi – 5
Gyabi only played around 10 minutes after coming on for Aaronson and he made some good attacking runs. Would like to see him make his Premier League debut for Leeds before the new year.
Brenden Aaronson – 5
The American gets Leeds into so many good attacking positions with his close control, especially in the 1st half, as he faded away in the 2nd when the game was gone. Would like to see him pull the trigger more often, but the unselfish play must be credited also.
Wilfried Gnonto – 7
Gnonto remains the not so secret gem up Marsch’s sleeve. Continued to keep working despite being hacked up here and there by Monaco’s defence. Good footwork to win the consolation penalty too.
Joe Gelhardt – 5
Got himself into some great positions on the end of crosses but couldn’t finish. On another day he gets a hat trick, but he needs more confidence. Very well-taken penalty though.
Mateo Joseph – 5
Was a positive addition up top in the 60th minute but still has a few heavy touches in him that cost him when he works a good chance for himself. Would also like to see more of him in the coming Premier League matches, especially if Rodrigo joins Bamford on the injury list.