For most of the season, Marcelo Bielsa has been burdened with injuries in almost every key position on the field. It seems every week another player becomes unavailable for one reason or another. He has managed to keep Leeds United on top of the League by calling on youth, playing players out of position and stretching the stamina levels of his squad. And for this, he should be rightfully applauded. Undoubtedly, he must dream of a day when he has a full squad at his disposal. However, even with a complete complement of players one area requires immediate attention if Leeds are to push on and claim promotion to the Promised Land in May. And no, it’s not the goalkeeper.
Over the last number of seasons Leeds Utd have experienced an unhealthy relationship with wingers. Fans cry out for a Robert Snodgrass or a Max Gradel but have received a Hadi Sacko, a Pawel Cibicki and a Mo Barrow. Today, even a full-strength Leeds eleven would still be lacking an exciting, penetrative wingman, a man to take the burden of creativity off the central midfielders, a man to chip in with goals and assists. The type of player that can get teams promoted from the Championship.
Gianni Alioski has been on the receiving end of some harsh criticism this season- some of it warranted, some of it not. He has been frustrating to watch in many ways - his proclivity to venture offside, his theatrical gesticulations to referees and his fondness for the floor have displeased many of the Elland Road faithful but he remains a firm favourite with Bielsa. Is it his admirable work rate? His history of goals and assists? Or is it that, for better or for worse, he is the best winger Leeds Utd have in their squad? Would he have been dropped long ago if Bielsa had any real options in this position?
Jack Clarke looks a super prospect whom Bielsa was keenly aware of before the season begun. He’s pacey, a dexterous dribbler, a good crosser of a football and has shown an eye for goal in his limited appearances thus far. He may well develop into a superstar. However, he is still very young and Bielsa is correct to use him sparingly this season. Jack Harrison has not made the impact Leeds Utd fans would have liked so far this season and would not start if Leeds had a better solution in the squad. Stuart Dallas has never really shown his best at Leeds and while he has proven committed, versatile and industrious he is never going to be the winger that brings Leeds to the next level.
Leeds have been, as usual, linked with a few wingers in the last couple of months and this is unsurprising. Bailey Peacock-Farrell needs stiff competition for his place and it’s nailed on that a keeper will be acquired in January. However, a quality winger would make all the difference to Leeds’ promotion charge. Bielsa has coped incredibly well with the injuries faced by Leeds this season but an injury to Alioski or Clarke would seriously hamper the possibility of top two or even a top six place come May. The addition of a Jarrod Bowen or an Adam Reach, on the other hand, would seal the deal.