Eddie Gray says Leeds play too many long balls and blames midfielders, but is he right?

Elland Road pitchside

The former Leeds United manager has slammed the club's midfielders for not being more confident collecting short passes from defence.

Former Leeds United manager Eddie Gray has been speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post about the Whites’ recent performance against Rotherham United, and he picked out one facet of their play in particular that needs working on.

Leeds lost 1-0 to a side that were bottom of the Championship of the time, and that was a massive blow when you consider manager Steve Evans’ was searching for his third straight victory.

Looking back on the match, Gray told the YEP, “There was a lot of long balls against Rotherham and if I’m honest, I blame the midfield for that. They should have the courage to say to the defenders, ‘Give me a short 10-yard pass and I’ll take it from there’.”

But is Gray right?

  Total PassAccurate PassTotal Long BallsAccurate Long Balls
Liam Cooper 51 30 14 8
Alex Mowatt 45 31 7 3
Giuseppe Bellusci 40 21 17 8
Scott Wootton 39 20 11 1
Gaetano Berardi 38 22 8 0
Lewis Cook 35 27 4 3
Chris Wood 30 16 1 0
Luke Murphy 29 14 4 1
Mirco Antenucci 28 21 1 0
Stuart Dallas 17 12 2 0
Jordan Botaka 7 5 1 0
Tom Adeyemi 4 4 0 0
Lee Erwin 3 1 1 0

Well a quick look at the statistics from Saturday’s match show that Leeds centre-backs Liam Cooper and Giuseppe Bellusci played 31 long balls between them (16 of which were accurate) but they played a combined total of 91 passes, meaning they played nearly twice as many short passes as they did long ones.

Full-backs Gaetano Berardi and Scott Wootton fared worse, with the former misplacing all eight of his long balls and the latter succeeding with just one out of 11. So distribution in that area is certainly something Evans will want to improve in the weeks ahead.

But when it comes to Leeds’ central defensive unit, it seems they are varying things up well between short and long passes, and with slightly more confidence from the youngsters ahead of them, they could quickly get back on track by dominating matches as they no doubt can.

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