The Verdict: Artistry of Lasogga epitomises changing times at Leeds United
JUST a hoofed clearance from Leeds United's home can be found a wall that has acted as a conduit for supporter unrest over the best part of 40 years.
Jimmy Adamson, Bill Fotherby, Ken Bates and Massimo Cellino have all had their names daubed on the entrance to the underpass that runs under the M621 alongside the obligatory demand of ‘Out!’.
Now, however, such a means of protest is at an end following the unveiling over the weekend of a fan-funded mural depicting Howard Wilkinson and the midfield quartet who helped his United side to the League title a quarter of a century ago.
That may come as a blow to those whose living relies on sales of spray paint cans but, judging by how quickly both Andrea Radrizzani and Thomas Christiansen have won over Elland Road since the summer, the chances of either’s name appearing on said wall any time soon were slim to non-existent anyway.
There is a feel-good factor swirling through LS11 right now that owes plenty to both men. Radrizanni’s popularity owes everything to how things have so dramatically changed for the better since the chaos of Cellino, be it the buyback of Elland Road or the professional lines along which club business is now done.
Christiansen’s impact may be confined to the pitch but the transformation wrought since his surprise appointment has been equally impressive.
Denigrating predecessor Garry Monk’s work may be a popular pastime among supporters still unhappy with the manner of his exit during the summer but huge strides forward were taken by a club who had become the very epitome of mid-table mediocrity under a succession of managers.
What Christiansen has already done, though, is take United to the next level in their attacking play. Where last term Chris Wood and Pablo Hernandez were the two figures around which the entire team was built, this time there is an all-round fluency to Leeds that means Burton Albion are unlikely to be the last team blown away by Christiansen’s men in the Championship.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga may have taken the plaudits for scoring twice on debut following his loan switch from Hamburg but it was the manner in which he linked up with the attacking midfield trio of Hernandez, Kemar Roofe and Samuel Saiz that offered perhaps the most tantalising glimpse into the future.
Burton were awful, their body language from the moment Lasogga put the home side ahead on 20 minutes betraying a lack of belief that Leeds ruthlessly seized upon. But better sides than the Brewers would also have struggled to contain a team in such rampant form that no less than 30 attempts were made on Stephen Bywater’s goal.
What made this all the more remarkable was that one of United’s most impressive performers before the international break, Ezgjan Alioski, watched from the bench as Christiansen tweaked his personnel to accommodate Lasogga, a point that was not lost on Pontus Jansson at the final whistle.
“This year, we have a lot of options in offence,” said the Swedish international in the wake of United keeping a fifth consecutive clean sheet in the league, a feat last achieved in 2009-10. “A lot had to go through Pablo last season because he was one of the best players in the league.
“But this year we have Saiz, Alioski and Roofe. It is the same for me when I have the ball, I have much more options to find a team-mate than last year. That makes it easier.
“Wood was a good target but now we have other players with other qualities. We work hard in training during the week with Thomas about how we should attack and how we should defend. Much more time is spent on that than last year.”
After a torrential storm early in the game had initially forced the two coaching staffs to retreat into the dugouts for shelter, soon the floodgates were opening on the pitch.
Lasogga struck the first blow with a clinical left-foot finish from a beautifully weighted pass from Eunan O’Kane. The Republic of Ireland international was also involved in United’s second goal, his link-play with Hernandez being followed by Kalvin Phillips firing in at the far post.
Hernandez made it 3-0 from the penalty spot following a foul on Luke Ayling, before Lasogga helped create sufficient space for Roofe to fire in from 20 yards just after the break.
Roofe then returned the favour with some tricky play that ended with a chipped cross that Lasogga headed in from close range to cap a polished display of attacking artistry and guile that was somewhat fitting on the weekend the quartet of Strachan, Batty, McAllister and Speed were immortalised just a short walk from Elland Road.
“The opponents were maybe not the best but it was one of our best games since I came to the club,” added Jansson. “Two goals is a great start for Lasogga. Andrea and Victor (Orta, head of recruitment) did a good job to get him here.”