Leeds wont push on if Marcelo Bielsa has to keep playing musical chairs
16 Aug 2021 08:39 am, by YorkshireSquare
People keep telling us that pre-season is about fitness and preparation not about results, but Leeds United supporters’ worst fears were realised on Saturday as they took their pre-season form into the opening game of the season at Old Trafford. Just as against Ajax, Leeds failed to gain any control over the midfield with Bruno Fernandes and Paul Pogba in particular thriving in the Kalvin Phillips shaped hole left in the Leeds United midfield. Marcelo Bielsa’s desire for a small squad and the lack of investment in the transfer market this summer appeared to have come home to roost as the deck was shuffled to accommodate the loss of our talismanic holding midfielder.
We have options there of course, Pascal Struijk and Robin Koch have deputised in the past but with Diego Llorente missing our options were limited on Saturday. Robin Koch has been the preferred option in the holding role in pre-season, this leaves Cooper and Struijk to cover the centre back roles, both left footed, left sided centre backs and we know how much Bielsa likes a left/right combination in the middle of his defence. Th absence of Phillips meant Koch stepping forward into midfield and Struijk moving over to the right side of midfield. Two positions weakened to cover one missing player.
The unfamiliar combination at the back was exploited for the first goal as Fernandes split the defence, Robin Koch having los his man in midfield. Luke Ayling’s equaliser was worthy of being remembered for decades but will now be forgotten following what happened over the next few minutes. First Mason Greenwood got the better of Struijk down our right-hand side to restore Manchester United’s lead. Just minutes later Paul Pogba gifted all the time he wanted in the middle of midfield setup Fernandes for his second.
On the hour mark a ball over the top split our defence yet again as the Portuguese midfielder completed his hat trick. The humiliation was complete eight minutes later as Pogba exploited our right-hand side again before Fred, who lost his man, found space in the middle to slot home the fifth. Yet again Leeds United humiliated at Old Trafford. In some ways 5-1 is better than 6-2 but there was a distinct lack of fight on display on Saturday afternoon which was concerning. The return of Kalvin Phillips will improve things, but Bielsa said after the game that it ‘was a collective issue not an individual one’ that led to Saturday’s result.
We move on to Everton next Saturday and the hope of a better performance and result. But with a lack of strength in depth Bielsa will always have to play musical chairs to accommodate the absence of key individuals and against the top teams this just won’t work. Solskjaer could call upon Jadon Sancho and Nemanja Matic from the bench, Bielsa had to rely upon Helder Costa and Tyler Roberts to change things up. This lack of depth and the shuffling of the deck required when we have injuries has been apparent for some time but it will cost us if we want to push on this season, despite how content Angus Kinnear said everyone was with the squad.