Initial team analysis

Starting up with a club you support in real life is something of a double edged sword; on one hand you’re already familiar with most of the players, on the other it’s hard to separate your real-world opinions from those of the SI researchers. Looking over the squad with a dispassionate eye, therefore, is something of a challenge, both in terms of accepting which of your favourite players have been deemed deadwood as well as avoiding overlooking good players who aren’t getting games in real life.

With that in mind, I cast an eye over the starting squad with the assistance of my ever faithful assistant, Mr Snodin (I shan’t be taking the staff up on their acceptance of mutual termination). It seems we have good depth to the squad but could do with an extra midfielder or two. He’s also, apparently, a big fan of Patrick Kisnorbo. Which is nice.

So let’s dig a bit deeper with Glynn (who ranks 11 on judging player potential and ability, incidentally). For a club that’s looking to dominate League 1 this year, we need to be looking at 2.5 star ratings and above, which will give us the following first team squad to work from:

Leeds squad 2009-07-07

Leeds squad 7th July 2009

As a generic comparison base, I’m assuming a 4-4-2 line-up but this may change if anything jumps out in the analysis.

Goalkeepers

Shane Higgs (new signing in pre-season already) vs Casper Ankergren. Apparently Higgs “is a lot better” than Ankergren, who only got 1.5 stars but what do the stats say?

Attribute Higgs Ankergren
Aerial Ability * 11 10
Command of Area * 10 8
Handling * 11 9
One-on-Ones * 12 14
Relexes * 12 13
Composure * 9 5
Concentration * 12 10
Decisions * 10 8
Positioning * 13 14
Agility * 13 12
Eccentricity 3 14
Bravery 10 16
Positioning 13 14
Balance 14 14
Jumping 12 17

On balance, Higgs does come out the stronger but, and I know I’m only in League 1, it might be worth keeping an eye on the market…

Centre Backs

Kisnorbo and Bromby look fairly solid as first choices but I’m not overly confident Naylor, Huntington or Michalik are strong enough to cope with extended injury crises. Speaking of injuries, we aren’t going to see Naylor in action for the first few months, anyway.
In addition, we seem to be pretty sluggish without the anticipation or, to a lesser extent, positioning to make up for it.

Full backs

On the left we have Parker vs Sheehan with neither looking anything special but Sheehan edging it slightly, mainly due to attacking and technical factors with Aiden White worth watching in the future but not ready for the first team yet.
On the right we seem to have a lack of quality, again. Hughes is slightly better defensively but prefers to play central midfield, Crowe’s got a technical edge, both being in their 30s means neither’s getting any younger.
To be honest, I’m not confident in either side on paper.

Central Midfield

According to my assistant, this is the primary area to strengthen, a point he emphasises by rating Doyle, the guy on loan, as our best player (unfortunately he’s right).
In general, while we don’t have the fastest players around, they do seem to be hard-working and in good shape with Howson and Doyle standing out as potential box-to-boxers. Doyle, Hughes and Prutton are pretty solid defensively with no-one being great offensively. I’m also a little worried that our best passer in the middle (Howson) is only a 12.

Without making changes, we’re going to be very workman-like in the middle of the park. Not the kind of football I want Leeds to play, but I still have trouble forgetting the halcyon days of Kewell, Bowyer, Milner et al

Wide Midfield

Robinson and Snodgrass look pretty strong out wide., with Snodgrass being one of our stars with a pretty consistent rating across all fields, though I’m still concerned by the 12 passing rating. Also, with neither player being particularly fast or great at crossing, they’ll need to be played as wide midfielders rather than out and out wingers which could be beneficial to the team as a whole given the cover is provided by more general midfielders (Johnson, Howson, Prutton and Hughes).

Strikers

That whole “separating real-world opinions” thing I mentioned above? Yeah, it’s coming into play here with Becchio rated higher than Beckford. Hmm. Still, let’s look at each one on their individual merits:

Enoch Showunmi
He’s tall, He jumps and heads well and he’s pretty strong. Beyond that he’s really nothing exciting. Without good service from the wings (which we don’t have), I can’t see him having a great impact. (side note, a month ago Leeds released him by mutual consent IRL)

Mike Grella
Pretty solid physically but Finishing 12, Long shots 8, Heading 10, Positioning 10 means he’s not a striker I’ll be keeping on. Worth £110K and wanted by Derby so I doubt he’ll see the first team.

Luciano Becchio
Tall at 6’2 with good heading, jumping and strength but also good first touch, finishing and technique. As things stand, this is my target man.

Jermaine Beckford
Fast, creative with good dribbling, finishing and long shots. Seems a bit lazy but should compliment Becchio well linking up with the midfield.

Conclusions

Given the players at my disposal from the outset, a 3-5-2 would work well in eliminating my weak full backs and packing the centre of the park with my oh-so-exciting midfield. Unfortunately, I don’t think the defence would be able to handle wide attacks pulling them out of position, or fast strikers breaking through, which leads me to fall back on the old 4-4-2.

Attack is probably the strongest area of the team, with Becchio and Beckford looking pretty solid. Snodgrass and Kisnorbo look the strongest of the rest but I think we’re going to need to strengthen fairly considerably across the board.

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