Leeds United need waking up by on-pitch fighter and Summerville attention needs exploiting

Leeds United are preparing for Norwich City in the Championship play-offs -Credit:MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images
Leeds United are preparing for Norwich City in the Championship play-offs -Credit:MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Leeds United are heading to Norwich City on Sunday in the first leg of their play-off semi-final in poor form. After two wins from their final eight games of the season, confidence and momentum are absent in the dressing room.

Daniel Farke’s got an imposing to-do list ahead of the trip to Carrow Road. This is a team which racked up 90 points in 46 games. It is not impossible to believe the German can again find those levels from this young group of players.

Get Roberts sharp

Connor Roberts has only played 131 minutes since he returned from the international break with an injury, including 12 on Saturday from the bench against Southampton. Farke said the right-back had only seen one training session before that game, but will benefit from a full week of training at Thorp Arch this week.

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Will that be enough for Farke to consider him from the start at Carrow Road? Sam Byram was decent enough on Saturday, but Roberts is one of the few players who hasn’t seen their stock impacted by this poor run and has the kind of experience that shakes teams to life.

Anyone who has watched him closely since he came into the club will have seen him rollicking any and every one of his team-mates if they need it. He, figuratively, cracks skulls and tells players where they should be on the pitch.

The more you think about him, the more critical he feels to awakening this line-up.

Rebuild the trust between defence and midfield

Leeds were two days short of completing three full months without conceding from open play in 2024. Between New Year’s Day and March 28, Ethan Ampadu and Joe Rodon were at the heart of a backline which could not be broken down without a set-piece.

That record came crashing down on Good Friday with Junior Firpo missing and Ampadu separated from Rodon in midfield. Since then, the team has looked shaky against opponents interested in attacking, while the balance in midfield is all over the shop.

Mercifully, Farke at least acknowledged how wide-open the team were on Saturday and how, away from a win-or-bust one-off game like that, they will get back to basics this week. Keeping Norwich out until at least half-time on their turf feels vital to steadying this Whites ship.

Ampadu and Rodon have not been perfect through the run-in, but there have to be big questions asked of the protection in front of them. They have been pulled from pillar to post by Ilia Gruev, Glen Kamara and Archie Gray’s soft grip on the engine room.

Trust needs rebuilding.

Exploiting the Summerville double-team

The sight of Crysencio Summerville being surrounded by four Saints defenders on Saturday bordered almost on comedy. It’s as if opponents want to smother the division’s best player in the final third.

Farke will expect that, Summerville will expect that, but Leeds have to exploit that. If Norwich want to commit two or three defenders to marshalling the Dutchman, that means there is space for other Leeds men to exploit.

Can Firpo do more to support Summerville on the overlap? Can the switches to Wilfried Gnonto on the other flank come quicker? Can, against the trend of an entire season, the central midfielders arrive late in the box for shots on goal?

Get five arms around Rutter’s shoulders

Georginio Rutter is both blessed and cursed with a heart that beats on his sleeve. That puppy-dog enthusiasm and fun have made him a fans’ favourite this season, but it’s always painfully clear when his game is eating him up.

As Farke said on Saturday, the French maestro is a confidence player and they need him feeling 10 feet tall in Norfolk. Sit him down, chain him to a seat in the Thorp Arch media suite and have his season highlights streamed on a loop between now and Saturday’s departure.

The manager needs all of his experience to get Rutter back on it. Of the many who need it, perhaps Rutter needs a reset, as the side’s key creator, more than anyone.