Leeds are currently enduring a rather rocky start to the new year. They have won just two of their six matches and appear to be lacking consistency.
So, what’s the issue?
On the chalkboard
One of the biggest issues can undoubtedly be attributed to the defence. They have shipped 38 strikes – the second most in the division – and have a woeful record from set-pieces.
Of course, the Whites have had numerous injury concerns. At one point, Liam Cooper, Robin Koch and Diego Llorente were all out injured. The club captain has now returned but after the latter received yet another setback last week, their problems are only mounting.
How they could do with a player like Ben White. The centre-back was an imperious figure for the Whites last term and featured in all 46 league outings. His health was always perfect and on his way to winning 2.5 interceptions per game, topped the team’s statistics for that area of the game.
He epitomises everything Marcelo Bielsa looks for in a defender and it was unsurprising they tried so hard to bring back last summer. Victor Orta submitted three bids for his services – all of which were turned down by Brighton.
That being said, it’s another man on the treatment table that Leeds miss more.
The last time Adam Forshaw set foot on a pitch in a Leeds United shirt, they were still a Championship side.
The club’s transfer record was still £18m for Rio Ferdinand and the thought of £50m investment from the 49ers was far-fetched.
Such is the length of time that he’s spent out with an injury that he’s almost become a forgotten man at Elland Road.
He has not featured for the Whites since the 28th September 2019 because of an ongoing hip problem and his return date is still relatively unclear. Though, given the issues Leeds have had in midfield, he has been a massive miss.
Leeds have been able to patch together their defence by shifting Luke Ayling inside to centre-back and playing Pascal Struijk at the back but midfield remedies are hard to come by. When Kalvin Phillips doesn’t play at the base of the midfield Bielsa’s men tend to find life difficult.
They lost 3-0 to Crawley when Phillips was absent from the midfield while Struijk struggled when he deputised for the England international during the 1-0 loss to Brighton.
However, if they had Forshaw fit, he would be a very simple remedy. The 29-year-old is your typical box to box player and is as good going forward as he is in defensive phases of the play.
In 2018/19 the £23k-per-week earner recorded 2.2 tackles per game but after being given more freedom in 2019/20, managed 1.1 tackles before his injury. Although he didn’t find the net, the experienced midfielder got forward on a regular basis and provided 1.9 shots per match.
It’s hardly a surprise that Bielsa loves him so much. Speaking in October 2019, the Argentine said; “He has a feature that is very difficult to get. He defends similar to Kalvin, he attacks similar to Klich.”
Both Phillips and Mateusz Klich have been hugely influential since Bielsa took over in 2018 so that’s quite the appraisal. It also speaks volumes about how much they miss him.
Stuart Dallas has recently been moved to midfield and with his tenacious movements, we’re starting to see shades of Forshaw in his performances.
However, in the words of Bielsa; “you are not going to find a lot of players with this kind of characteristic.”
Forshaw is one of a kind and is being missed greatly.
AND in other news, Leeds may have their new Ben White in rarely-seen 18 y/o who’s “very calm on the ball”…