BBC pundit Noel Whelan has voiced dire concerns at Leeds United’s abilities to defend dead-ball situations, and fears there may be no way back this season as his ‘biggest fears’ have bed in.
Whelan’s comments come after we were held to a point in the table-of-the-table New Year’s Day showdown with West Bromwich Albion on Wednesday, where Baggies defender Semi Ajayi scored both goals.
Ajayi opened the scoring for West Brom in the second minute when he prodded home a goalmouth scramble, which started when we Kiko Casilla failed to deal with Matheus Pereira’s in-swinging corner by only punching the ball into the air.
United had three chances to clear the danger before the ball would fall to an unchallenged Ajayi on the edge of the six-yard box, who ran off Ben White’s shoulder as Liam Cooper could only watch on.
Whelan does not consider this to be a rare issue, either, noting that we have struggled to withstand the pressure from dead-ball situations for ‘about three seasons’.
“We’re going to have this conversation all the way through to the end of the season when it comes to set-pieces, corners, free-kicks and sometimes balls into the box,” Whelan told Football Insider.
“When you come up against players who are big and strong and thrive off balls into the box from corners and set-pieces, we are going to get undone, we can’t defend them very well, we don’t have the height or aggression to deal with that.
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“It is a problem, it is always going to be a problem until the end of the season. That is one of my biggest fears, when we give away corners and long throws, if someone’s got the ability to put it into the box, very rarely will [Leeds] get the first contact.
“That’s something we really need to think about or get better at in the second part of the season. It’s not just been this season, it’s been about three seasons now. It is a massive concern.”
Ajayi’s goal on Wednesday evening was the eleventh we have now conceded from dead-ball situations in the league this term, having seen Casilla pick the ball out of his net nine times from free-kicks and corners, plus twice from penalties.
While our record may be dire given those 11 goals account for 53% of the strikes allowed this season, it is not the worst in the Championship, with Wigan Athletic conceding 17 times from set-pieces and once from the spot.
Our nearest promotion rival West Bromwich Albion have also conceded nine times from set-pieces and three times from penalties this term, and have allowed more open play goals scored against them (13) than we have (9).
In other Leeds United news, a BBC pundit has ripped into a £2.7m-rated Whites man for his recent performances.