Leeds United face seven finals now says Javi Gracia after another alarming collapse
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The Whites followed their mauling by Crystal Palace with an even bigger defeat as they lost 6-1 to Liverpool and the safe pair of hands that Gracia looked to be following his appointment is clearly not the case as he has struggled to put right the defensive woes that dogged his predecessors Jesse Marsch and Marcelo Bielsa.
Gracia made a decent start to life at Leeds, but his record of 10 points from eight league games, plus an FA Cup loss, can only be considered as average and whether there has been any real improvement since Marsch's sacking has to be open to question.
In many ways it has been one step forward and two steps back as they look more organised at the start of games, but are still failing to make the most of their attacking opportunities and are simply falling apart when solid defending is needed.
Once again Leeds were the better side in the opening quarter against Liverpool and Gracia's tactics of backing off the Reds to play on the counter attack looked to be paying dividends with the visitors not managing a single shot on target in the first 34 minutes.
United looked the more likely to score and looked as comfortable as you could ever feel against a dangerous attack like Liverpool's. But once more the opening goal did not come the Whites' way and they collapsed alarmingly.
Yes, that goal clearly should not have stood as a linesman and referee 10 yards away somehow failed to spot a blatant handball by Trent Alexander-Arnold in the build-up and VAR then compounded the error by letting Cody Gapko's goal count.
But incompetent displays by officials are nothing new at Elland Road and the reaction to conceding one goal should not have been so poor. Within three minutes Liverpool were two up through Mo Salah and although Luis Sinisterra briefly raised hopes of a comeback early in the second half with a smart finish it was all over once the visitors soon made it 3-1 through Diogo Jota following some further calamitous defending.
The performance was ultimately so bad again that it is difficult to see how United can recover from this second successive mauling with Championship football looming ever larger.
Concede first at Fulham on Saturday and another defeat looks certain so short on confidence is this team now.
Gracia has a huge job on his hand to raise spirits for this game that looked winnable just a few weeks ago and the massive home match with second from bottom Leicester City next Tuesday.
He once again struggled to explain what he had seen from his team, but is obviously looking for a reaction from the players.
He said: "I don't remember in my career if in two games I concede five then six goals but I am here to try to give my best to try to help the team and the club.
"The supporters need to see the team playing like we have done in previous games and try to improve our level and get better results. This way the supporters will be happier with the team.
"What we are seeing in this moment is not enough.
"I don't have in this moment an explanation, but what I can say is the players always tried and worked hard during the week trying to prepare the next game.
"We have to improve our levels for the seven finals we have to play."
“We lost composure during the game. Maybe the first goal opened the game and maybe came from a handball, but after that there is nothing to say, we have to improve for the next game.”
Gracia was naturally disappointed in his side's defending again.
He added: “It's something we need to work on and try to improve.
“It's something we didn't do in the previous games and now we are in the most important part of the season. We have to be more solid and defend better."
(Gakpo 35, Salah 38, 64, Jota 52, 73, Nunez 90)
Monday, April 17, 2023
Leeds: Meslier; Kristiansen, Koch, Struijk, Firpo; Roca, McKennie; Harrison (Gnonto 77), Sinisterra (Forshaw 77); Aaronson (Summerville 66); Rodrigo (Rutter 66).
Liverpoool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Konate, Van Dijk, Robertson; Henderson (Milner 81), Fabinho (Thiago 85), Jones; Salah (Firmino 81), Gakpo (Nunez 81), Jota (Diaz 81).
Referee: Craig Pawson