Marcelo Bielsa had some worrying news at yesterday’s press conference. The manager revealed that Pablo Hernandez is a doubt for Friday’s match against Derby County. This is extremely worrying news, as any extended absence for Hernandez is likely to have a very negative impact upon results at Leeds United.
Hernandez, the reigning player of the year at Leeds, is the most talented offensive player at the club, and is one of the best players outside in the Championship. He’s extremely good at creating goal-scoring chances, his free kicks and corner kicks are sublime, and he has the ability to play on both the right wing and in the engache or “number 10” position in Bielsa’s preferred 3-3-1-3 / 4-1-4-1 formation.
Pablo Hernandez in the Championship in 2018/19:— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) January 8, 2019
Registered the most assists (10)
Created the second-most chances in the division (60)
Directly involved in 17 goals in 19 matches
Already equalled a career-best 7 league goals scored in a single season
Spanish Prince #LUFC https://t.co/QY8hgyADSA
He’s been probably the best player for Leeds this season, and the results have shown that the club sorely misses him when he is out. Leeds won two of seven league games earlier this season when Hernandez was out, and the two wins the club had while he were gone were against Hull City and Preston NE, both of which were struggling and below 20th in the table when Leeds faced them. Meanwhile, Leeds drew against Middlesbrough, Millwall, Sheffield Wednesday, and Brentford, and lost to Birmingham City during the same stretch of time when Hernandez was out.
He came back as a second-half substitute against Blackburn Rovers, but that was once again a match that Leeds lost, and despite coming on, he wasn’t able to have the same kind of impact on the match as he would have had if he had been able to play the entire match. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of Hernandez on Leeds, he is literally that important to the club.
Pablo Hernandez registered 15 league assists in 2018, MORE than any other player in the top four tiers of English football.— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) December 31, 2018
Just to clarify, that is the MOST in the whole of English league football this calendar year.
All hail our Spanish Prince . #LUFC #MOT pic.twitter.com/xslTKUHbUL
Leeds are top of the league, but the kind of form that Leeds had during his absence would not result in anything resembling playoff form, much less form that would see the team stay in the automatic promotion positions.
If Hernandez is due to miss an extended period of time, then Leeds need to address his potential absence right away. While Samu Saiz was a different kind of player, his departure to Getafe for family reasons leaves another big hole in the creative midfielder position that doesn’t appear to be able to be filled anytime soon by Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown.
Leeds simply cannot expect to get promotion if Hernandez is out of the lineup. Considering that Hernandez is 33 years old and will turn 34 this April, Leeds should strongly consider bringing in a quality player or two in this transfer window to mitigate any fallout from Hernandez missing time. This is simply the best chance Leeds has had in the past 15 years to get back to the Premier League and it would simply be an extremely poor idea to let this opportunity slip through the team’s fingers.