Former Leeds United defender Danny Mills has suggested to Football Insider that the Whites’ ability to defend set-pieces could prove to be their undoing, as Marcelo Bielsa goes in search of promotion into the Premier League.
The Elland Road natives’ have conceded two of their three league goals shipped this term from set-pieces, and Mills feels a lack of an imposing physical presence beyond centre-back duo Ben White and Liam Cooper is a key concern that must be highlighted.
Mills took note of the potential issues this may cause over the course of the season, after former Whites man Aapo Halme threatened the goal for new side Barnsley last weekend, with the 6 ft 4 centre-half winning 80% of his five aerial duels – two of which were offensive battles (WhoScored).
“Leeds aren’t the biggest team, other than the two centre-backs in Cooper and White,” Mills told Football Insider. ” [Patrick] Bamford’s tall, but he’s not the greatest of defensive headers.
“They’ve got to stop conceding corners, which clearly is not going to happen all the time, or just find a different way to defend set-pieces, because there’s been quite a few problems caused by that and they just need to make sure that isn’t their undoing.”
White and Cooper both stand at 5 ft 9, which places them fifth and sixth respectively among their teammates in West Yorkshire, per heights recorded by WhoScored. Only Patrick Bamford, Mateusz Klich and Stuart Dallas are taller for outfield players, while goalkeeper Kiko Casilla is the tallest man at Leeds.
With their relative heights down on most strikers, the Whites will naturally struggle for aerial dominance, but United were able to restrict Borja Baston’s involvement when Swansea City travelled to Elland Road last month, despite the Spaniard ranking second in the Championship for goals scored through headers with two.
Before his departure from proceedings in the 63rd minute, Leeds restricted Baston to three first-half offensive aerial duels, of which he won two. What proved to be Leeds’ failure in the end as the Swans won was more through slow reactions dealing with the aftermath of a late corner, and failing to clear their lines as the ball ricocheted around the box.
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