Staying up our only priority this season insists Leeds United midfielder Mateusz Klich
The Whites have thrilled neutrals this season with some of their entertaining football but Friday’s 2-1 defeat at home to West Ham United was their sixth in 12 league matches.
After Klich gave his side the lead with a retaken penalty the Hammers exploited Leeds’s soft underbelly with two goals from set-pieces. Manager David Moyes rubbed salt in the wound afterwards by saying his players had not even practised set-pieces in the build-up.
“There are not many positives from the game because we were winning and we should have kept pressing and created more good chances,” reflected Klich.
“It is our goal to stay in the league and games like Friday and on Wednesday (when they host Newcastle United) we had to win, so we are very disappointed.
“We had a great start (to the season) and people got carried away a little bit, but we have to get safe and still this is our goal, we are going to do everything to achieve it.”
Klich is right that for any newly-promoted team, consolidation has to be the first objective, such is the financial gulf between the Championship and the Premier League. Leeds, though, should be well placed to do it. Their results are inconsistent, and there are teams in this season’s division whose scorelines are consistently poor, with neighbours Sheffield United the most obvious example.
At their best, the Whites have looked capable of much more than mere survival. Even though they lost it, an opening-day 4-3 defeat at Liverpool had many who do not watch football beyond the Premier League drooling at the positivity and quality of play well known to those who had seen Leeds during coach Marcelo Bielsa’s previous two seasons in charge.
They followed it up with another 4-3, this time won against Fulham, and were outstanding in beating an Aston Villa team who were hoping to go top of the table at the time 3-0 at Villa Park. Everton have been beaten and Manchester City and Arsenal held.
Moyes was full of praise for the Whites’ style of play.
“Leeds are going to cause teams lots of problems because of the way they play and (Friday’s) game was probably different to any game you play because they have something different you have to cope with,” he said. “I give a lot of praise to my players for the way they dealt with it.
“Bielsa’s an incredible manager who’s had an incredible career and more importantly has a style that has been picked up by other coaches.”
As the Anfield defeat showed, his side’s forward-thinking approach has its downsides too, though Bielsa was dismissive when asked in Friday’s post-match press conference if he thought his side’s approach was naive.
One fault he did admit to was at set-pieces. Tomas Soucek and Angelo Ogbonna were able to head goals in either half, from a corner and a free-kick.
“We conceded from set-pieces again which is a problem at the moment and we didn’t create enough chances to win the game,” said Klich.
“We’re losing goals from set-pieces in nearly every game and we need to do better, it’s as simple as that.
“West Ham are very strong in the air and they score in nearly every game from set-pieces. We knew they were going to be dangerous, so we needed to avoid corners and stupid free-kicks and sometimes it can difficult to defend if it is a perfect ball and perfect timing.”
Klich was fortunate to be given a second chance from the penalty spot after video assistant Jarrod Gillet found goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski millimetres off his line in saving his fellow Pole’s weak effort. Klich’s second was much firmer, and to the other side.
“You don’t want to miss penalties,” he commented. “I had the chance with another one and I knew I had to take it again and I had to score.”
Support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you’ll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click HERE to subscribe.