They say “give a man a paint brush and he’ll paint you a picture, but give an artist the brush and he’ll show you the stars”.
This is the principle behind the recent recruitment drive at Leeds United. For the best part of two years now, Marcelo Bielsa has been handing paint brushes to mere mortals, asking them to create some of the worlds most beautiful artistic football and while promotion has shown. Many of his would be artisans have succeeded in creating masterpiece after masterpiece on the football pitch, now it seems is the time to bring in the professionals.
Players who are not just football players but artists, geniuses capable of interpreting the detailed scribblings of El Loco into something both unfathomable yet also beautiful.
In Marcelo Bielsa’s teams there has always been a spine of creation, starting from the centre backs and ending in the centre forward, players not only tasked with their obvious duties but also to help contribute to the pattern of play and creation of chances for others.
In the current 4-1-4-1 set up there are 4 highlighted players who hold the paint brushes with most responsibility, so to speak. One could even make a case for the keeper starting things off but we’ll leave Mr Meslier to work on his homework for now (he’s 16 right?).
Anyway as firstly highlighted Leeds have a ball playing centre back which is now either of the new signings Robin Koch or Diego Llorente, both adept at passing, dribbling and reading the game. Second, Leeds have a defensive midfield or quarter back role usually occupied by Kalvin Philips, who as seen in the game against Liverpool, will either make short passes to players buzzing around him or ping passes to on rushing wingers in space, usually Jack Harrison and his velvet first touch.
Thirdly we have the playmaker role who, although playing in the figurative three of central midfield, will play higher up in possession and will hold the greatest responsibility for how the team plays and painting the picture Bielsa wants on the pitch. It’s a huge testament to Pablo Hernandez as a player that even though he has been surrounded by some lesser skilled players and in a lesser skilled division, somehow he’s managed to get Leeds playing some amazing football.
Finally we have the striker which is currently Ireland’s (or England’s) best kept secret, Patrick Bamford, although new signing Rodrigo will expect a key role this season. Last season Bamford was in charge of not just scoring goals, but running into the channels to create space for others, holding onto the ball high up the pitch to then laying it off to others and creating chances also for others, in this Leeds team its probably the second most important role in the team, which leaves no surprise as to why Victor Orta spent the big bucks on Rodrigo, who has a track record of playing this role for club and country.
With the signings of Koch, Llorente and Rodrigo; Leeds have 3 players who are, with no disrespect to anyone, levels ahead of some of the players they replace. There is though a clear need for a long term replacement for the ageing Pablo Hernandez, who can’t be expected to play the high octane Bielsaball for 40 games a season now. Wales international Tyler Roberts has deputised in Pablo’s absence but with mixed results, so now is a huge need for a real artist in chief to grab games by the scruff of the neck and craft them how they see fit.
A few of the candidates Leeds have been linked with for the coveted position are:
Rodrigo De Paul (26) - Udinese Calcio
My top candidate for the role, like some of my ex’s can create something out of nothing. A truly underrated talent in world football, who has his fingerprints all over his teams play from start to finish. You may see him picking the ball up deep then randomly pop up in the box to score moments later. De Paul is very versatile too, he’s played just about every attacking role for Udinese in his time there.
Ruslan Malinovskiy (27) - Atalanta B.C.
A very different type of player to the rest of the players being mentioned, he’s robust and a bit of a machine, with his high work rate and strength on the ball. Malinovskiy is very similar in style to Kevin De Bruyne, with his hammer like shots from either foot and laser like passing. This Ukraine international is another underrated talent in world football, who is tailor made for the Premier League.
Michaël Cuisance (21) - Bayern Munich
The most heavily linked player this week and youngest of the ones mentioned. Some have compared Cuisance’s style to Mesut Ozil, although starting from a deeper position. Cuisance is excellent at pressing and if he lives up to Ozil comparisons will be able to thrive in this Leeds team who adore a chance creator. It all reminds me a little of when Dimitri Payet joined Marseille with a bad reputation, who then Marcelo Bielsa turned into one of the best playmakers in the world.
Todd Cantwell (22) - Norwich City
Who is the real Todd Cantwell? Is he the boy with the golden locks always posting on instagram and twitter or the hard working, elegant midfielder at Norwich?
According to many inside sources he’s a lot more family oriented and down to earth than he appears. Amusingly someone on twitter eloquently summed Cantwell up by saying he was what happens when Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale have a child. I could never match such poetry but Cantwell could be one of England’s next top players for a decade to come, he has a steely determination to succeed, an incessant work rate and versatility to play either on the wings or in the middle of an attacking midfield, apparently not as fast as you’d like a winger to be but with Bielsa guiding him, he could be anything he wants to be.
Whoever Leeds find to fill the role it will be interesting to see what impact they have on Leeds’ style of play and if Leeds go from layman to Lowry. Who would you be bringing in if it was up to you? Let us know in the comments or @ThruItAllLUFC and @BigJimmy_V on Twitter.