While the Carabao Cup may not have been high up on Leeds United’s priority list, their tame 2-0 defeat to Arsenal on Tuesday night would have done nothing for their confidence heading into this weekend.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side were well in the game during the first-half, and but for some truly woeful decision-making in the final third and some questionable end product, could have found themselves a goal up.
Instead, they let the home side off the hook, and the Gunners duly punished them after the break, with goals from Calum Chambers and former Whites loanee Eddie Nketiah bagging to see the north Londoners through to the quarter-finals.
One man who really embarrassed Bielsa with his performance, was Dan James.
The Wales international was once again handed a start from the off as Bielsa went fairly strong with his starting line-up, and showed the searing pace that makes him a nightmare for opposition defenders.
But, James’ speed was all that was on show in terms of a positive sense for Leeds. Time and time again, his final ball and decision-making let him down and wasted numerous promising opportunities for his team.
One occasion saw him mis-control an admittedly difficult ball that would have had him take on Bernd Leno one on one, while another, and arguably the most disappointing, saw him race away on the break but fail to see Rodrigo to his right in open space and seeing the attack come to an end.
The fact he had fewer touches than goalkeeper Illan Meslier spoke volumes of just how anonymous he became, and it was something a couple of people spotted.
Writing in his post-match player ratings for The Yorkshire Evening Post, Graham Smyth gave him a five, saying: “His pace troubled Arsenal but the final ball let him down. Disappeared from the game as an influence after the break.”
Those sentiments were echoed by Leeds Live’s Beren Cross, who also gave him a five, and added: “Found excellent positions and out himself in the right places at the right times to turn the afterburners on and get Leeds up the field, but by contrast, showed slowness in thought when it came to delivering a final ball or shot around the box. Wasted several good openings.”
Bielsa would have been desperately hoping for James to prove why the Whites splashed out big money on him after several years of following his progress.
Instead, he put in the kind of mind-numbing display that would have left his manager extremely disappointed on the side-lines.