In his latest column for leedsunited.com, lifelong supporter Jon Howe gives his report on the season so far.
Howe is the author of two books on the club, ‘The Only Place For Us: An A-Z History of Elland Road’ - which has been updated as a new version for 2021 - and ‘All White: Leeds United’s 100 Greatest Players’ in 2012.
Okay so it’s not quite halfway through the season, but I didn’t make the rules and it’s as good a time as any to pause, look back and reflect. And it’s not like we’ve anything better to do. So let’s take this opportunity to remind ourselves that there have been plenty of good points so far this season, even if they’ve been mixed in with some pretty average ones too, and maybe this will give us the charge of positivity we need before taking on Manchester City and Newcastle United before the end of 2022.
Best Goal – Crysencio Summerville v Bournemouth
There are actually a few contenders for this if we’re looking for technical skill rather than great moments. I’m a big fan of Rodrigo’s flick header from Jackie Harrison’s free-kick versus Chelsea, partly because of the brilliant delivery and the subtlety with which Rodders guided it in, but also because we so rarely score goals like that. Luis Sinisterra’s long-range reply against Brentford just before half-time was also a peach and probably the best individual goal we’ve scored. I loved the way Sam Greenwood waited a moment, composed himself and struck that left-footed curler inside the post versus Bournemouth, because we REALLY needed a goal at that moment. And finally, Rodrigo’s second at Tottenham was as sweet a finish as you’ll see anywhere, but the winner has to be Summerville sealing the 4-3 comeback versus Bournemouth. Electric pace and devastatingly clinical, again, the type of goal we don’t often score and completely down to the individual desire of both Wilfried Gnonto and Summerville himself. If one or neither of them have the gumption to make their respective runs, the goal doesn’t get scored. Willie’s pass was inch perfect in the heat of the moment, and the finish was emphatic. Liquid football.
🤯 "4-3 to Leeds! That is incredible!" pic.twitter.com/YcXb7DSxCQ— Leeds United (@LUFC) November 5, 2022
Best Player – Illan Meslier
When an opposing team’s goalkeeper wins man of the match we usually take a crumb of comfort from the fact we’ve peppered them for 90 minutes and the keeper has kept them in the game. And it’s the only solace we can take because we’ve usually lost in such circumstances. Illan Meslier winning this suggests we have been under the cosh for most of the season, but that’s not quite true. Meslier wins this for a series of great saves at vital times across the whole season, but in particular, his display at Anfield was as singularly responsible for earning the three points as a goalkeeper’s performance can be. Meslier keeps improving, keeps ironing out the flaws and keeps his ice-cold mentality.
Best Signing – Tyler Adams
It’s fair to say that Jesse Marsch’s side is still learning about each other and has still to truly gel after a raft of close-season signings. But there are certainly signs that when everything comes together, we have the basis of a very good side. Rasmus Kristensen and Marc Roca have shown flashes of their true potential, and so has Luis Sinisterra, who has genuine class but through injury has not been able to show us enough of it. Brenden Aaronson has been at the heart of the best things Leeds have produced this season and has so much potential, as does Wilfried Gnonto, but for consistency and impact, the best summer signing on the evidence so far has to be Tyler Adams. It’s exhausting just watching him, and he must be a nuisance to play against, like a wind-up kids’ toy that Just. Will. Not run out of batteries. But his game is not just about industry, Adams is the conduit through which the whole system operates and perhaps his best quality is knowing his limitations; he doesn’t try to be the player he knows he’s not, and he’s very comfortable with the player he is. Superb ball retention, simple and precise passing, ceaseless in breaking up play and an absolute beast if you want someone to get in the opposition’s faces. Quietly effective he might be, but like the best players in that position, you definitely notice them when they’re not there.
Best Win – Chelsea 3-0
Yeah, yeah I know, Liverpool away, first win there since David O’Leary was in short trousers etc, I get it, but in a field of, let’s face it, limited contenders, that Chelsea win was magical and I also couldn’t shoehorn it into any other category, so just bear with me on this one. After the protracted trauma of last season, Leeds fans needed a convincing display against a stellar team, and ideally very early, to act like a comfort blanket and tell us that “everything’s going to be fine this season”. Okay, this win didn’t prove to be the trigger we thought it would be at the time, but it was an “I was there” occasion, and they have been few and far between post-pandemic. The sun was shining, a brand new team put a ‘big six’ side to the sword in cavalier fashion, it was comfortably our biggest win of the season and it was against Chelsea. And if I have to explain why that means everything then we might be here all day.
🤩 "Absolutely perfect!" pic.twitter.com/HdFx2abQNz— Leeds United (@LUFC) August 21, 2022
Best Moment – Crysencio Summerville’s winner at Anfield
Obviously his other late winner versus Bournemouth a week later was perhaps even more dramatic, and a special mention also for the moment when a flustered Edouard Mendy was hounded down by Brenden Aaronson at Elland Road, but this was a once-in-a-generation moment, the likes of which you have to savour and remember exactly where you were. At 1-1 and in the latter stages of the game, Leeds had put in a great display against all odds, but most Leeds fans still expected a well-under-par Liverpool side to scrape an undeserved winner from the one fluid move they managed to string together, because that’s the kind of body blow this joyless division tends to serve up. That Leeds managed to snatch a win – a first in eight long games - with Summerville’s instinctive toe-poke, and in front of an emotionally-drenched away end, felt like redemption for a few decades of hard luck stories.
🤯 "That is sensational!" pic.twitter.com/onfkRI5jvG— Leeds United (@LUFC) October 30, 2022
So there we have it, it’s not been too bad on reflection. You do get the feeling there are plenty of stories yet to be written and there’s suddenly so much attacking potential in the squad, and with plenty of personalities determined for game time and to play their part in the story. Here’s to repeating this list article at the end of the season and having new contenders for every category, and if that’s the case then we’ll have enjoyed quite a ride.