Steve Evans is pinning his hopes on Liam Bridcutt providing the catalyst for a Leeds United revival. The Sunderland man has been brought in on a short-term loan deal with Evans changing the system to suit. The Whites are now playing 4-1-4-1 with the 26-year-old operating in his best position, as the holding midfielder.
It’s a short-sighted strategy given that Bridcutt is evdiently in the shop window for a January move and will probably end up elsewhere, but when your chairman compares hiring and firing managers to buying watermelons it pays not to think too far ahead. The average managerial tenure under Massimo Cellino is 101 days.
Consequently, as punters, it pays not to think too far back. Evans took charge on October 19, so all information about Leeds prior to that date is largely irrelevant. And Bridcutt didn’t arrive until November 26, so you can probably take most things before then with a pinch of salt too.
It leaves us with a sample of three matches. The first was a narrow 1-0 defeat at QPR, settled by substitute Charlie Austin, where Leeds played a standard 4-4-2. Then came the switch 4-1-4-1 with Bridcutt handed pivotal responsibility, which caught Hull cold as the Whites took a 2-0 interval lead on the way to a 2-1 win. And that was followed up by Saturday’s goalless stalemate at Charlton.
The new system is good news for Tom Adeyemi, who appears to have a bitter-sweet relationship with Evans. The former Cardiff midfielder was put on a pedestal as a box-to-box midfielder by Evans when he first arrived at the club, only to be dropped soon afterwards for failing to get the balance between defence and attack right.
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Now he’s back in the picture with Bridcutt providing extra protection and, as always with a 4-1-4-1, the onus is on the two central midfielders - in this case Adeyemi and Lewis Cook - to go beyond the lone striker and get on the end of attacks. In the past two matches, Adeyemi has been Leeds’ chief threat, his seven shots resulting in a goal against Hull and hitting the post at the death against Charlton.
On that basis, the 22/1 available on Adeyemi to score first is too good to resist and the 21/2 anytime price is arguably even better value, even though this game itself seems unlikely to produce a glut of goals. Those who also wish to get Cook onside can do so at 25/1 and 11/1 respectively.
Wolves are in better health than I gave them credit for ahead of last Friday’s clash with Nottingham Forest, the first of Sky TV’s ’10 games in 10 days’ initiative. The lack of any discernible cracks in team morale, despite the club’s current ownership uncertainty, is purely down to the man-management skills of Kenny Jackett, an unsung hero if ever there was one.
Essentially, Wolves are a top-half team, but not quite play-off standard, while Leeds are a bottom-half team, but not relegation standard. So it’s difficult to argue with the 90-minute prices but the match betting is a minefield given the level of short-termism on both sides.
Instead, focus on the process rather than the outcome. If Leeds are going to make any impression on the scoresheet, there’s a much higher chance of it being Adeyemi than the market suggests.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.