Is it time for Leeds United to drop Chris Wood?
After spending over £5 million in the summer on Kemar Roofe and Marcus Antonsson it is more than a little galling that Leeds United fans are still waiting to see this strike combination used up front. Chris Wood seems to be favoured as first choice striker at Elland Road, though few fans would back that decision in light of his under par performances so far this season.
Wood came in for criticism recently from fans due to his lack of movement, low work rate and poor goal scoring success. To some it may have been an example of a fan base turning on a player unfairly. The overhead kick which secured a late point against Fulham showed a glimpse of the potential ability, but did little to mask the reality of his overall lack of involvement so far this term.
The reaction from Wood himself to the fans, cupping his ear, appeared to be a direct response to his detractors. If that is what he needs to motivate himself, so be it. In a pre-season interview on LUTV he stated this season that a 20 goal haul should be easily achievable for him. When you make statements like that, you have to back them up. On recent form, I have to say Wood is selling the club short and he needs a good old fashioned kick up the backside to wake him up.
The best way to do that would be to relegate him to the bench for a series of games and utilise the Antonsson – Roofe combination. Both players are becoming popular figures with the Leeds fanbase and in no small part due to a strong work ethic, desire, teamwork, movement. In truth, many of the attributes Wood seems to lack.
Neither have been prolific with their output so far but, unlike Wood, when they get the ball, you get a sense that something could happen. A sense that one of them could craft a chance from nothing, like Antonsson against Fleetwood, or show awareness and ability to find space through movement, like Antonsson against Sheffield Wednesday. Or the ability to run at a defender and fleece him for pace, like Roofe against most defenders.
Admittedly Roofe needs a goal, but when playing a lad who is clearly a striker out wide it makes it harder for him to get amongst the goals. He is stepping up two divisions, but clearly has a striker’s instincts. Having scored 31 goals in 65 games for Oxford, I, like many Leeds fans, believed we had signed a clinical goalscorer. The experiment to use him out wide as a supply line for Wood was worth a try, but now it is time to put him near the goal and tell him to play his natural game and watch the goals start flowing.
With the Antonsson – Roofe combination up top, Leeds would also see an improved Pablo Hernandez. A playmaker who, with Wood playing as the main striker, looks nothing more than a luxury passenger in he team. Hernandez’s game dictates that he needs players in advance of him who have pace and movement, who make runs in behind the defence and can anticipate a pass coming to create a chance. Chris Wood is undoubtedly not that player and performances this season have highlighted that regularly.
A look on YouTube at the goals scored by both Antonsson and Roofe before their move to Leeds will show exactly what I am describing. Wood is static and expects maximum results from minimum effort. Roofe and Antonsson offer maximum effort and the potential for great rewards.
To be fair to Monk, much of what he has done so far has been worthy of praise, but the faith placed in Wood so far seems unwarranted, especially when there appears to be more suitable goal scoring threats in the ranks, who are desperate to be afforded the same level of game time as an under-performing Wood.