West Ham 2-0 Leeds: Phil Hay identifies clear problem for Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa on the touchline

Leeds United journalist Phil Hay believes that the side have a “clear problem” in dealing with set-pieces following their 2-0 defeat to West Ham on Monday.

Marcelo Bielsa’s men started the game brightly, and were unfortunate to see a goal chalked off early on when VAR ruled Helder Costa to be narrowly offside in the build-up.

Things quickly got worse for Leeds, as they conceded a penalty which goalkeeper Illan Meslier saved, only for Jesse Lingard to convert the rebound.

However, it was the second West Ham goal which was particularly disappointing. Craig Dawson was not picked up from a corner, and ran freely into the six-yard box to head home and double the Hammers’ advantage.

In The Athletic’s discussion thread after the match, Hay pinpointed a number of reasons why Leeds have struggled to cope with dead-ball situations this term, particularly corners. 

He wrote: “A much bigger issue is why Leeds cannot get it together when they’re defending set-pieces. It’s a clear problem which hasn’t been resolved.”

“There’s a variety of reasons. Firstly, Leeds are not a strong side aerially. If you look at the stats, you can see that. Secondly, man-marking runs the risk that if someone loses their man, he’s free to score with no-one available to step in. To put it bluntly, it’s a bit of a shambles.”

“Without getting into the zonal vs man-marking debate, the basic problem is that Leeds lose their men too often. And when you do in a man-marking system, no-one else is going to pick them up.”

GIVEMESPORT’s Sam Brookes says…

Hay described Leeds’ set-piece defending as “a bit of a shambles.” He’s not wrong.

Dawson scored twice in January, suggesting that he is a threat in the opposition box and needs to be carefully marked. Instead, Leeds allowed him to score from close range under no pressure whatsoever. 

It was far from the first time that this has happened this season. Leeds have now conceded 14 goals from set-pieces in 2020/21 – three more than any other side in the division.

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Whose career is this?

On this occasion, it appeared to be Diego Llorente losing his man, but he has not been the only culprit this year. In the reverse fixture back in December, West Ham scored from two set-pieces through Tomas Soucek and Angelo Ogbonna. Worryingly, Leeds do not seem to have learnt from that night.

It is clear that the side’s man-marking system is not working. They need to try something different as their current method is consistently costing them points.

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