Alex Mowatt showing why he needs a licence to roam and Mirco Antenucci proving himself the No 1 striker are among our conclusions from Leeds’ 3-0 win at Huddersfield.
Goals from Mirco Antenucci, Chris Wood and a 25-yard beauty from Mowatt earned Leeds an impressive victory and their second win in a week under new manager Steve Evans.
The match swung dramatically in Leeds’ favour when, during first-half injury time, tap-ins from Antenucci and Wood caught Huddersfield cold and gave the visitors a 2-0 lead going into the interval.
Huddersfield started the second half brightly, but it was Leeds who scored again when Mowatt lit up the John Smith’s Stadium with the goal of the game; the midfielder firing a bouncing ball into the top corner from 25 yards out to send the 4,000 travelling Leeds fans into raptures.
We take a look at the main talking points to emerge from the match.
How to get the best out of Mowatt
Mowatt has, for the last two matches, been selected to start on the left side of Leeds United’s midfield – but it’s not a position he particularly favours after allowing several early overlaps – most notably from Huddersfield livewire Joe Lolley – escape his attention.
But move him into the central areas and that’s where you get the best out of him. A pair of 25-yard screamers in the last two matches are testimony to that.
I can’t help but feel that Leeds are diluting the brilliance of the player by selecting him out on the left – but hopefully Evans will have learnt this.
Certainly his performances over the last week suggest he is returning to his form of last season, where under the tutelage of former Academy mentor Neil Redfearn, he scored an impressive nine goals in 38 games.
Two managers later and some notable changes of formation since have halted Mowatt’s progress. His last two goals have been exceptional – but both have come when he’s drifted inwards from his left-hand role.
Play him centrally – or better yet give him an advanced midfield role – if you want to get the best out of him.
There’s plenty of calls on social media for Leeds to select recent wing addition Jordan Botaka from the start. Despite fleeting glimpses, I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far of the Congolese forward, and he certainly looks a decent option for the Whites in either of the wide flanks. The impressive Stuart Dallas a shoe-in for the other, with Will Buckley another option once he finds fitness.
With Luke Murphy keeping Leeds ticking over – and a must-pick in the centre of midfield – the best option for me would be for Leeds to revert to a five-man midfield, or at least opt for a 4-4-1-1 formation, with Cook and Murphy central and Mowatt given the licence to roam behind the frontman.
However, Evans will no doubt be tempted to stick by his formation which has yielded maximum points from two games, so it may be some time before we see the player let off the leash and away from the constraints of the left-hand midfield role.
Cook needs regular central berth
Another player who’s yet to find his best form this season is Lewis Cook.
And like Mowatt, it’s an easy equation with Cook – he simply needs playing in his best position. Leeds have finally given Cook the central midfield role he needs in the last two games; and it’s no coincidence that the Whites have enjoyed back-to-back triumphs.
It’s easy to forget Cook is still only 18 years of age given he’s approaching his half-century of appearances for the club.
Granted, there’ll be times when his form dips – that happens with all young players finding their way in the game – but playing centrally alongside Murphy can only help his game – and help Leeds to continue climbing the Championship table.
Antenucci now Leeds’ No 1 striker
A goal for Chris Wood at Huddersfield might suggest to some that all is fine for the big New Zealander. In fact six in 16 so far for the summer signing from Leicester isn’t that bad a return.
However, a closer look at the stats show that only three of those goals have come from open play (against Sheffield Wednesday, Derby and now Huddersfield) and he looks the most vulnerable player to make way if Evans does decide to accommodate Mowatt in a free role behind a striker.
Certainly Antenucci looks like a must-pick for Leeds right now, with his performance at Huddersfield – and a match rating of 7.5 – catching the eye. As well as scoring Leeds’ opener, the bearded Italian also had a major hand in the second. It’s fair to say the player looks undroppable at the moment.
Wootton not up to the task
A Brian McDermott signing, I won’t be the first or last to question what exactly Wootton brings to Leeds.
Take his first half at the John Smith’s Stadium. Eventful would be one word. Clumsy would be another. Booked early on for a lunging challenge on Nahki Wells, Wootton was fortunate not to be sent off after leaving a lingering leg in on Emyr Huws. Huddersfield will, probably quite rightly, point to that escape as the turning point in the game.
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Leeds fans, however, will look to the incident which forced Liam Cooper’s early withdrawal and left Leeds’ captain with concussion; the former Manchester United defender running blindly into his fellow defender when trying to create space from a corner.
Wootton was eventually hooked in the latter stages for Tom Adeyemi – but with Charlie Taylor soon returning, it surely won’t be long before we see Wootton axed from the line-up altogether and either Gaetano Berardi switching flanks or Sam Byram recalled.
Taylor return can’t come soon enough
If you’d told me a year ago that Charlie Taylor’s injury absence woud hit Leeds harder, I’d have probably questioned your sanity. Our most consistent player until his injury last month, Taylor is expected to return to training next week and could come into contention for Leeds’ next game after the international break, when Rotherham are the visitors to Elland Road.
His return will likely mean Wootton drops out of the first-team picture, with Berardi switching from left-back to right-back and giving Leeds’ defence a more familiar look.
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