The journey to Molineux by Leeds United evoked the latter scenario. Even if a coach has every intention of making a deep cup run, making 10 substitutions and then losing in the first round gives him no credibility.
Executive Angus Kinnear remarked before the first EFL Cup match of the season, “Victor [Orta] and I have especially dismal track records in the cups having watched multiple early exits including humiliations at Crawley and Newport.” So, we’re all rooting for the same thing: to give the fans something to cheer about in the cup.
To have a deep run in the cup, you need more than just putting 11 guys who have never played together and 4 rookies in the same lineup together. There is no denying the effort put out by the squad as a whole, especially by the younger players.
Jesse Marsch and Rene Maric, who filled in for him at yesterday’s news conference, had a tough time convincing the media that a cup run is a priority for the team this year. There wouldn’t have been 10 subs made if yesterday night’s game had been a league contest, no matter how intense the previous two weeks had been.
Three, four, or five substitutions could have been understandable, but when you completely overhaul a team that has been riding high on the success of two consecutive victories, it’s unrealistic to expect everyone to be in sync and play with one another. Maric was on the money when he outlined the coaching staff’s faith in the chosen players and the significance of taking moves like those made on Wednesday. However, it is obvious that the club is not placing a high premium on the Carabao Cup.
Youngster impress well
While Leo Hjelde and Joe Gelhardt are hardly rookies, all eyes were on the three outfielders making their major league debuts Wednesday night. Players like Darko Gyabi, Sonny Perkins, and Mateo Joseph have made significant contributions to the U-21 team this year.
Marsch found a way for all three to make their Whites debuts after months of praise for their excellent training level and a right to additional first-team opportunity. When paired with Mateusz Klich, Gyabi’s excellent tackling throughout the field stood out as the highlight.
With the under-21s, Perkins and Joseph would display the synergy they’ve been working on over the last three months. When the under-21 season started, Perkins had scored seven goals in six games, while Joseph had scored eleven goals in seven games for Michael Skubala’s squad.
Although their cutting edge wasn’t reflected in the score at Molineux, their passing, interaction, and confidence were all very good. Joseph had opportunities to score, and on another night, he would have made the most of them.
Harrison may have seen the writing on the wall
When United is down to its last minute of making a complete lineup change, the importance of the one player who stays in while the rest of his Premier League squad relaxes becomes obvious. Especially when the person lasts the whole game.
In the wake of the victory against Bournemouth, Jack Harrison’s starting spot and the threat posed by Wilfried Gnonto were hot topics of conversation. The two games Gnonto has played off the bench have set the stage for his expected full debut on Wednesday.
It’s impossible to ignore the message that Marsch is sending regarding this weekend’s starting lineup by making the Italy international wait a bit longer while continuing to play the one player who is massively out of form right now. There was nothing in Wolverhampton from Harrison to indicate he had played his way back into shape, but only time will tell if Marsch takes the risk with Summerville and Gnonto each starting in such an important game.
Gelhardt is haunted by his experience at Brentford
Gelhardt’s starting spot on Leeds’ roster was long deserved. Since his 16-minute appearance on September 3 against Brentford, the forward has only played more than once with the under-21 squad in Premier League 2.
Gelhardt, who was a hero for the club many times last year, has been forced to wait in the wings for late appearances here and there while Marsch cycles between Rodrigo and Patrick Bamford in the first squad. On Wednesday, he will finally rejoin the group after a lengthy absence, but it will bring back painful memories of the struggles he had in September at Brentford.
That afternoon, Pontus Jansson and Ben Mee would physically overwhelm Gelhardt, leaving him vulnerable to assault alone. The center-backs feasted on anything served beyond shoulder height, and he was left with little alternatives when the ball was played to his feet.
Last night, both Nathan Collins and Max Kilman would have been happy to intercept any pass in the air destined for Gelhardt, and the striker’s obviously poor first touch made it difficult for him to get anything going from the ground. After a night marred by many offside calls, the knock that ultimately forced Gelhardt off the field only added salt to injury.
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