Norwich City v Leeds United: Marcelo Bielsa’s squad development continues as injuries bite

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But this also applies to the team. Despite a mixed transfer window. It could become a season of evolution for the Whites.

It’s never quite a comfortable process, which is why Leeds could be in the Premier League relegation zone when they face Norwich City tomorrow, but it’s necessary because the football teams that remain standing get overtaken.

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It wasn’t just the injuries that made it harder to recreate last season’s thrilling form. Jack Harrison and Stuart Dallas are among the stalwarts who fell short of the standards they always set under Bielsa. Until football is played by robots, it will always be so.

Immediate impact: The highly rated Leeds forward Joe Gelhardt above could make his Norwich debut. Photo: Bruce Rollinson

Dallas recently revealed that the death of a close friend was behind him and that he was missing Northern Ireland’s September games against Lithuania, Estonia and Switzerland. He also had Covid-19, which also hampered Harrison, Mateusz Klich and the summer signing of Junior Firpo.

Raphinha missed the last Premier League away game in Southampton because he had just returned from three World Cup qualifying matches, so his latest call-up in Brazil won’t really get the dance on the streets of Beeston.

At least the turnaround this time is softer – Argentina will be out Tuesday / Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur not until Sunday.

The winger missed the last game, at Arsenal in the League Cup, after being brutalized by Romain Saiss of Wolverhampton Wanderers. Bielsa was content to simply agree with the reporter who asked if his player was lucky enough to miss just one game.

Role to play: Leeds winger Jack Harrison retains all the confidence of Marcelo Bielsa despite his struggles this quarter. Photo Bruce Rollinson

Managers usually repeat that the absence of one player means an opportunity for another, and it is true.

Already this season four players – Crysencio Summerville, Charlie Cresswell, Cody Drameh and the most exciting Joe Gelhardt against Wolves – have made their debuts at Leeds. Sam Greenwood’s appearance on Tuesday was only his second.

Gelhardt’s cameo at Elland Road, which included the penalty win as Rodrigo scored a late equalizer, will have a lot of clamor for a first start today. They want to see more than one possible star from the future. Generally, Bielsa refused to go too far on this when speaking to the media yesterday.

“These are things you can’t calculate,” he replied, boring and absolutely correct. “We have to evaluate his participation and his interventions in the games. There is an important question to ask, especially of a young player: is he playing to solve the needs of the team or is he coming for a dominating team and he needs a few touches?

Show of faith: Marcelo Bielsa gave Leeds United youngsters a chance in the face of numerous injuries. Photo Bruce Rollinson

“Against Wolverhampton he got into a dominating team and needed some corrections, and he managed to achieve it. Against Arsenal he entered a team that did not dominate in the second half and could not change the course of the game on his own, as is natural. So the question cannot be answered easily.

What can be said is that the young Leeds players – including Jamie Shackleton, rising to a level this season in Ayling’s absence and fit to return to right-back today – seem comfortable at this higher level because they have to be with the way the team is built. Many have served their sentences as unused substitutes on youth benches constituting the exhausted numbers.

“We use all the resources that we use for a player who usually plays in the Premier League,” says Bielsa of how young players are acclimated before they even get to the first team photo.

“The treatment an Under-23 player receives is exactly the same as a first-team player. I’m talking about training, nutrition, checking their performance, theoretical preparation, evaluating their physical performance, all the evaluations and all the things we could do are the same.

As for Harrison’s declining form, it’s frustrating considering he’s been so fundamental for Leeds de Bielsa during his three seasons as a lender at Manchester City, although at least Dan’s arrival James in August means that the quality of the alternatives is better.

“What happens to Harrison happens to all the players on our team where they have better or worse times and no one is able to maintain a consistent consistency in their performance, especially when playing on offense,” Bielsa argues. “Harrison is a player with a lot of resources to play on both wings and we appreciated his contributions.

“Harrison will shine again in proportion to the faculties he has and it’s my job to put him in situations in the game where he’s able to shine and make him feel as important as I think he is. “

The Argentine coach is certainly not going to denigrate his 24-year-old winger.

“Of course, any question that invites public criticism from my players, I reject it,” he concluded sternly.

But Harrison’s – temporary – slowdown, Dallas’ off-field struggles, and previously indestructible Bamford and Ayling injuries are a reminder that in football you can never know where the next hole is, the next opportunity for a young player. emerge, will open upwards, only that they have to be ready to grab it when they do.

Gelhardt in particular got off to a good start by becoming an important part of this evolving team, but as Bielsa would no doubt like to point out to us, this is just the start.


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