After Conor Gallagher chose a loan to Crystal Palace over Leeds United, Victor Orta and Marcelo Bielsa were forced to look further down their list of central midfield targets to fill the biggest gap in the squad.
At the moment, Leeds’ ‘number 8’ options are Mateusz Klich, Stuart Dallas, Adam Forshaw, Jamie Shackleton. And that's just in the senior team because Jack Jenkins and Lewis Bate will also be looking to break into the first team this year.
However, Orta and Bielsa clearly aren’t fully satisfied with their options, which is why they’ve been chasing another midfield target. Since Gallagher chose Palace over Leeds, links have emerged between The Whites and Yangel Herrera while Marcelo Bielsa was spotted on a scouting trip at Sheffield Wednesday vs Huddersfield Town.
The 23-year-old primarily plies his trade in central midfield but has drifted into right-back a few times in his career. Last season, Herrera made 46 appearances in all competitions, scoring eight goals and assisting two while averaging 1.8 tackles and 0.8 interceptions per game in La Liga.
Atletico Madrid have also had their eye on him, but according to Gol Digital, seemingly aren’t willing to meet the demands of Manchester City. Meanwhile, Herrera is said to prefer a move to Leeds anyway as he sees The Premier League as the superior competition while valuing the chance to work with Marcelo Bielsa above all else.
The Whites were linked with O’Brien earlier in the window by The Sun’s Alan Nixon, who said that the Huddersfield midfielder was not the number one target but was among the highest on the list.
Now that Leeds’ number-one target is unavailable, O’Brien could be the primary centre-mid target this summer. Marcelo Bielsa was spotted watching Huddersfield against Sheffield Wednesday in The EFL Cup on August 1st.
O’Brien had a terrific game, making eight tackles and one interception while completing 81% of his passes. This will support his case nicely alongside the fact that he has spent the past year under the management of Carlos Corberan, former Leeds under-23 coach and one of Bielsa’s assistants in The Championship.
This could be a huge boost for a move for O’Brien as he can adapt quickly to Bielsa’s style and methods and hit the ground running in The Premier League if he’s good enough.
Lewis O’Brien (22) vs Sheffield Wednesday:— HTAFC STATTO (@HTAFC_STATTO) August 1, 2021
#️⃣ 7.8 Match Rating
81% Pass Accuracy
❌ 8 Tackles
Man Of The Match
A top performance from Town’s number 8, amid Premier Legaue interest. pic.twitter.com/c24b53VXtq
That’s the big question. Is O’Brien good enough? Well, last season he averaged 2.2 tackles per game while scoring three and assisting three in The Championship for a struggling Huddersfield side.
At 22-years-old, O’Brien is still developing but doesn’t have loads of time before he is no longer a young player. In this situation, he is comparable to Jack Harrison when he first signed for Leeds on loan in 2018. A 21-going-on-22-year-old who was yet to gain any real first-team experience in England, Harrison needed to develop a lot if he was to reach his potential.
His first season was solid statistically (4G 4A) but he was still inconsistent and a little one-dimensional. He went away for the summer and came back twice the player. Harrison scored six and assisted eight as a key player in Leeds’ promotion-winning season.
The question of if he was good enough for The Premier League arrived, and was answered in a flash. Last season Harrison scored eight and assisted eight and put his name in the hat for England’s Euro 2020 squad.
So, O’Brien could adapt well to this Leeds team, but stepping up to The Premier League might be more of a longer-term project, which is fine considering Leeds’ centre-mid options going into the new season.
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