Before I write this let me be clear, I am not for one second suggesting that Hadi Sacko starts against Ipswich on Saturday, he probably won’t even make the bench and that is perfectly fair.
As I mentioned in the player ratings article for the Burnley match, a poor performance from Hadi Sacko could have been the end of his Leeds United career. However, the French former youth international showed some glimpses of the play that lead to comparisons with Max Gradel when he first arrived at Elland Road. His raw pace gave us a counter attacking threat that no amount of skill can replace and he was able to provide some end product which has always been the main criticism of his play.
His performance wasn’t close to perfect, he gave away the ball to much and showed some sloppy touches, but he showed enough to give me hope that he can play a part in a successful Leeds United team this season.
Last season, while he had some good performances, the consistency wasn’t there and his return of two goals and three assists wasn’t enough for a player of his talent. He does seem like a player who won’t shirk his responsibility to work hard and try to improve and his presence on social media does make me (from an outside perspective) think that he “gets” Leeds United and our fanbase.
If Sacko can play like he did last night and still keep improving then that's like a new signing tbh— BC (@BC_LUFC) September 20, 2017
The key to Sacko’s effectiveness is rooted in one pertinent fact - Defenders hate facing genuine pace. In this league there isn’t one defender who can stop Hadi Sacko running in behind and with the midfield passing ability of Hernandez, Saiz, O’Kane and Klich in central areas he should be able to get in behind on the right wing repeatedly. Although he may not take advantage of all these opportunities, if he keeps making them his work will lead to goals and assists.
Sacko looked like he's been well coached to me,positive runs in behind defenders,more aggression and confidence,can still be an asset #lufc— Ashley Tabony (@thehooter66) September 20, 2017
His best role in this side will probably only ever be as an impact substitute. I think he could be particularly effective away from home where the opposition is likely to have more of the ball and push their full-backs up the pitch. This pushing up of the full-backs gives us a chance to transition quickly (Sacko’s goal against Burnley being the perfect example of this) and while lots of our attacking players are quick, none of them are as quick as Sacko making him best placed to exploit space in a counter attack.
In the league, I don’t think we will see much of Sacko but it’s a long season and players will need resting and will get injured/suspended and this could present Sacko with an opportunity. Sacko could be particularly effective over the Christmas period where Leeds play 4 games in 9 days and tired opposition defenders could be exploited by express pace.
At the moment, he is still way down the pecking order but he has rekindled a lot of Leeds fans’ faith in him and that confidence could yet prove to be the making of Sacko in a Leeds shirt. I think the Burnley performance truly has saved his Leeds career, although it isn’t going to propel him into the first XI.