Garry Monk’s Birmingham City became the only Championship side to take all the six points from his former club Leeds United in the year in which they may finally return to the top flight of English Football after 15 years of exile.
It was Jacques Maghoma’s ball across the box that found Che Adams whose low strike into the far corner whistled past the Leeds keeper Kiko Casilla. Che Adams again proved to be the one that tormented Leeds United as this was his third goal against them, the previous two came from a 2-1 victory, a little over six months earlier at Elland Road.
The Blues came into the game on the back of a reduction of nine points by the EFL for profitability and sustainability breaches which left them just five points above the relegation zone. In addition to their misery, they headed into this game on the back of five straight defeats in the Championship. On the other hand, Leeds United had a drastically different story as they came into this game with four wins from their last five fixtures.
Although Leeds United lacked their usual fluidity in this game against Birmingham, Patrick Bamford had ample amount of chances to bring the whites back into the game which he failed to convert meaning Leeds fell to a second defeat in the space of three matches. In this article, we will be taking a deeper look into how Birmingham tactically got the better of Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United.
Marcelo Bielsa had an almost fully fit squad, as Barry Douglas was the only notable absentee for Leeds United. With Kemar Roofe finally back from his injury on the bench. Although it was quite surprising that with their top scorer Roofe fit enough to play, Bamford found his name in the starting eleven even after a poor display against Millwall. Kiko Casilla came back into the team after his one-match suspension. It was a usual 4-4-2 formation for Garry Monk’s Birmingham City with the likes Che Adams and Lukas Jutkiewicz up front and it was Maikel Kieftenbeld in the midfield making his comeback into the starting eleven after missing the trip to Hawthorns.
Kalvin Phillips as a third centre back
Leeds United started off the game with a four-man defence and but Birmingham restricted Leeds for spaces and the man marking from the blues was completely spot on. Marcelo Bielsa did try to counter it by pushing Phillips into the defence where he played as a third centre back. Phillips usually plays a deep-lying midfielder but in the role of a centre back he allowed the full-backs to overlap and play much higher on the field.
But as the game progressed Phillips started to move forward as Leeds United lacked the fluidity and efficacy which they displayed this season. Moving forward, Phillips played in front of Pontus Jannson and Liam Cooper to link the defence with the attack. But Leeds United failed to do so as the Phillips wasn’t really able to feed the balls to the Leeds forwards.
Birmingham’s dominance on the left flank
Given the amount of the possession Leeds United had this season it was quite clear that Birmingham would be having less of the ball and it was down to them on how efficiently they were going to use it. It was the left flank through which Birmingham attacked most. With the likes of Pablo Hernández in a free role, Luke Ayling would be playing further forward which left plenty of spaces on the right flank for Leeds United. Maghoma took full advantage of these spaces left behind by the Leeds defender and it was the ball from Maghoma coming in from the left flank that Che Admas put in the back of the net.
Out of possession play from Birmingham
The Blues worked really hard when out of possession. They made life extremely difficult for Leeds United. Birmingham’s players didn’t really allow the whites to have any real time on the ball. As they were pressing quite high and it was difficult for Leeds to find any rhythm and get hold of the game which they usually do.
Pablo Hernández in a deeper role
More often than not Pablo Hernández was a go-to man for Leeds United as on several occasions when the opposition had the lead it was Hernández who stepped up for Leeds United and took charge of the game. But today Hernández was not quite up to his usual standards. This might be due to a different role which he had to play in this game against Birmingham City. The lack of creativity from Leeds United meant that he had to play in a much deeper position and bring the ball forward to the final third of the pitch. Hernández didn’t really fair well in this role as he was not really able to find the right passes and the marking from Birmingham was too tight for him to breakdown.
Bamford’s misery and Roofe’s absence
It was an evening to forget for Patrick Bamford as the Englishman had a horrendous display at St Andrew’s. Every time the ball went forward to Bamford he wasn’t really able to create anything as he had the likes of Harlee Dean and Michael Morrison breathing down his neck. It wasn’t really Bamford’s game and he missed some big chances. Leeds United were missing the services of their top goal scorer Kemar Roofe who was the on the bench. With Bamford not having a good game, bringing on Roofe at half time would have made a difference for Leeds United as the pace of Roofe would have caused problems for Dean and Morrison who had a scintillating game at the back for Birmingham City.
After working hard last week against Millwall to get back to their second position in the league, Leeds United have thrown it away to Sheffield United once again. Although Leeds had the majority of the ball, they never capitalised on this and they never really got the grip of the game. On the other hand, Birmingham City played like any other away team, capitalising on one of their two best moments of the game. It was three huge points for a group of players who have been grafting week in, week out for the club.