After today’s news that Leeds United captain Liam Cooper would be out two to three weeks with a hamstring injury, is it time to consider that perhaps the club should look to bring in another central defender as cover for the existing players?
Gaetano Berardi and Luke Ayling played in central defence against Swansea City, and the lack of a defender capable of dealing with aerial threats was exploited by Oli McBurnie and Swansea.
Bielsa on whether his resources are stretched: "Not at all. We know the players are out and we work closely with the 23s. We have players who could offer solutions." #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) August 23, 2018
However, it does not appear that Marcelo Bielsa seems particularly bothered by the injury to Cooper and any effects it might have on the team selection. But should it be?
Leeds were thin going into the season at the back, having sent Paudie O’Connor out on loan to Blackpool FC and not retaining Everton loanee Matthew Penningon earlier in the summer. Leeds also declined to pursue Kyle Bartley, who it seemed wanted a return to Elland Road after his time at Swansea was up, and Bartley ended up at West Bromwich Albion for a much smaller fee than was expected.
Bielsa has been playing Berardi as first choice central defender while Pontus Jansson returns to full fitness, but Berardi is a fullback and really should’t be relied upon to play in the middle of defence for long stretches of games.
In preseason, when asked about the lack of central defenders, Bielsa had revealed that Kalvin Phillips had been training at centreback, but that’s not a total solution, is it? It seems that right now the defensive midfielder position that Phillips has been playing at is almost like the third central defender in Bielsa’s 3-3-1-3 that shifts to a 4-1-4-1 if the opposition is playing with a single striker, which Leeds have faced, and probably will face most of the time in the Championship.
Jansson has only played in one match this season, as he’s struggled to get up to match fitness after the World Cup and he’s not guaranteed to appear against Norwich City . Conor Shaughnessy might be utilized, but he’s just come back from a rather ugly injury that he suffered last January.
Bielsa knows more about football than almost all of the rest of us, and he knows this team better than the rest of us, but it would make most fans and observers of Leeds a lot more comfortable if another defender was brought in, as the U23 options (Oriol Rey, Hugo Diaz, Pascal Strujik) weren’t totally convincing in preseason.
But hey, in Marcelo we trust, right?