Here are our five talking points from Leeds United’s 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road in the Championship as Illan Meslier secures a long overdue clean sheet between the sticks
Piroe-Rutter rethink

It may have worked like a charm against Ipswich Town seven days earlier, but against a deep-lying, belligerent, limited rearguard action, Joel Piroe and Georginio Rutter did not have much joy for Leeds United. Eyebrows were raised when Daniel Farke used the division’s most prolific striker since 2021 as a deeper-lying option in Suffolk, but with the Tractor Boys committing to attacks, there was space to exploit.

This was one game and there is no need for an overreaction. Such is the breadth of attacking options, when fit, at Farke’s disposal, there is a vast array of combinations the German can use to crack the code in future.

On this occasion, it was frustrating to see just how anonymous the eight-figure signing was. Piroe, scorer of 42 goals in 93 Championship games, was either helping to build attacks between the centre circle and his own box or finding himself smothered by Sheffield Wednesday’s obstinate nine-man defence.

Farke insisted Piroe thrived from a deeper role, arriving later in the box, at Swansea City, but it really wasn’t working on Saturday. Rutter’s own problems did not soften the Dutchman’s blow either.
Any perceived confidence built on the back of last weekend’s outstanding debut goal was nowhere to be seen at Elland Road. The Frenchman seemed to spend the afternoon either offside or failing to execute when he did have the ball in the final third.

Farke suggested the forward was overthinking his actions rather than using his instinct and looking for, what the German called, a brutal finish. The nadir came as a sumptuous pass over the top met Rutter in the clear, behind enemy lines, one-on-one with Devis Vasquez.


For once, he was onside, the stadium urged him to play to the whistle, but you could tell in his hesitant stride he was expecting the flag to come. A torrid lob looked more like a simple pass to a team-mate and the ground could not hide its frustration.


Last weekend’s goal was too thrilling to suggest it won’t come good for Rutter, but perhaps a different combination, out wide maybe, will suit him and Piroe better.


Shackleton goes from strength to strength


It’s not an especially deep observation which needs to be laboured, but Jamie Shackleton went from strength to strength against Wednesday. The 23-year-old was, predictably, stuck in at left-back where he did so well as a sub in Suffolk seven days earlier.
With Junior Firpo and Sam Byram injured, as well as Leo Hjelde seemingly down the pecking order, Shackleton increasingly looks like a man Farke wants to depend on. The academy product was considered versatile for his ability at right-back and central midfield, but the left side of defence looks no issue for him either.

His right foot even helps when he looks to cut inside and take shots as he did yesterday. Yes, the visitors did not ask particularly demanding questions in attack, but Shackleton was very useful in his own drives forward to support whichever winger was in front of him.


He’s going to do just fine this season.


Spence brings the heat immediately


In his long, baggy shorts and oversized shirt, Djed Spence briefly cut a languid figure as he waited to come on at Elland Road. That was until he left a strip of seared turf behind him in a recovery chase that may have broken speed records within a few seconds of coming on.


Spence was lightning as he was immediately called into action to catch up and stop a rampaging Josh Windass. He may have only had 15 minutes or so on the field, but it quickly became clear what Leeds have on their hands.


There was the speed, the strength to hold off challengers, the intelligence of his positioning and the technique of his dribbling. A penny for Luke Ayling’s thoughts as he watched his replacement from the dugout.


This was only Spence’s second public match since April 1, when he played his final game for Rennes in France last season. There was a friendly appearance from the bench for Tottenham Hotspur on August 8, but barring behind-closed-doors games, that’s all Spence has had.


The next fortnight at Thorp Arch will be critical, but Farke may have a decision to make sooner than he expected on this evidence at right-back.


Farke has had slower starts


Virtually unprompted, Farke saw fit to mention the points tally his Championship-winning Norwich City side had in 2018 after five games in his post-match press conference. Nobody in the media room had insinuated Leeds were struggling, in a bad way or especially worrying, but the manager dropped that nugget onto the record.


United have six points from a possible 15. It’s far from promotion-winning form, but it’s the symptom of a club which can only now come out of the flux which has saturated every facet of the organisation since relegation.


There has only been one win, but also only one defeat. Norwich, Leeds fans will remember especially well, began 2018/19 in dire fashion. Their opening five games were rounded off by a visit to Carrow Road of Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites.


Mateusz Klich, Ezgjan Alioski and Pablo Hernandez put Farke’s side to the sword and left them on four points from an opening 15 before an East Anglian derby with Ipswich Town. The German was under pressure as Leeds left with the three points, but they rallied immensely after the opening international break.


Norwich would lose just three more league games all season. Three defeats in 41 games. It was a staggering fightback to the league title by Farke’s team, who ended on 94 points, 11 clear of Leeds.


Farke also made a point of mentioning Teemu Pukki, who ended the season with 29 league goals and a golden boot, had no goals in the opening five games either. The Finn had in fact scored twice in that time, but Farke’s message to the Leeds fanbase was clear.


Don’t panic. There is a lot of football to be played.


A reset everyone needs


International breaks are so often bemoaned for disturbing our football routine. Just as the season gets going, any momentum is lost as players go away with their countries.


However, Leeds will be among the clubs grateful for the chance to draw breath. After one of the most disruptive, busy summers the club has endured in recent memory, a fortnight away from the blood and thunder will be good for everyone concerned.


Farke, appointed just 61 days ago, will not have felt his feet touch the ground since he walked into Elland Road. He has expertly guided a club he is entirely new to through an ocean of icebergs where unmapped hazards seemed to pop up every other day.

For the squad too, with the distraction of the transfer window gone, they can knuckle down, reset their focus and know this is the project they are now tied to until January at the earliest. It is in every member of that squad’s interest to buy into what Farke is saying and be the best they can for Leeds.


This fortnight will give Farke crucial time to drill the players who do not go away with their nations. It allows everyone, the new faces especially, a vital chance to get to know each other better and take a breath before the autumn onslaught of the second tier takes hold.

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