Leeds United

10 recoveries, 1 assist: Leeds United flop serves up roundabout transfer dilemma in Cardiff City draw

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Junior Firpo was handed a rare start for Leeds United yesterday afternoon in the FA Cup, completing 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw with Cardiff City and reminding the fanbase that he’s still around despite the thirst for more left-back additions.

Leeds have brought Max Wober to the club to, presumably, play at left-back. Yet, the versatile Austrian debuted in central midfield yesterday, as Firpo enjoyed a growing influence in South Wales and Leeds rallied from two goals down to clinch a replay.

Jesse Marsch’s side were two goals down at half-time and there was little point scratching around for positives at that point, let alone with Firpo, who had looked nervous and as unconvincing as usual at left-back.

Yet, the former Barcelona left-back moved through the gears throughout the second-half, aided by Leeds’ general improvement following Rodrigo, Cody Drameh and Wober stepping off the bench, to impress in the fightback.

Firpo had two key contributions in the game, firing a shot on goal in the 80th minute after Jak Alnwick had parried Rodrigo’s effort, which was turned around the post by the hand of Joel Bagan. The Cardiff left-back was sent-off, Rodrigo missed the resulting penalty and was denied an FA Cup brace, yet Leeds found their equaliser from Sonny Perkins, who diverted Firpo’s clever back heel beyond Alnwick in the 93rd minute.

The big updated Junior Firpo quiz – Can Leeds United fans score 20/20?

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Who did Firpo start his senior career with?

As per Wyscout, that was Firpo’s only shot on goal and his assist was one of two shooting opportunities he created for his Leeds teammates.

Leeds piling it on Cardiff from 60 minutes onwards allowed Firpo to play his football in the final third, an area of the pitch where he does look more comfortable. He attempted three crosses, had six touches in the Cardiff penalty area and made one progressive run. The 26-year-old also managed an 82% passing accuracy across the afternoon.

Defensively is often where Firpo struggles and, yesterday, the first-half was shaky; he wasn’t the only guilty party when it came to that, though. Marsch’s left-back recovered well, however, finishing the game with an 86% defensive duel success, seven interceptions and 10 recoveries.

Whilst there were positive aspects to Firpo’s performance, he did manage to lose possession on 18 occasions, which is the most in his entire Leeds career and well above his average of 9.61 per 90 since he arrived in West Yorkshire.

You’ve also got to consider the level of opposition Leeds were playing, with Cardiff struggling in the Championship – any praise of Firpo will be matched with a response of “found his level” such has been his underwhelming impact so far.

That’s fair enough, and we aren’t blind to the fact that Leeds need to see more of this Firpo in the Premier League on a consistent basis to even think about putting their chips back on him.

What his performance in the FA Cup did show, though, was the benefit an attack-minded, natural left-back can have. Firpo got forwards so well in the second-half, linking with Willy Gnonto and having the awareness to drift centrally when needed, resulting in Bagan’s red card and Perkins’ equaliser.

Firpo heatmap v Cardiff (Wyscout)

The obvious point to make is that Firpo’s performance was a reminder he’s still here and might offer something. What it might also do is just give the board and Marsch something else to think about with regards to the left-back position and future transfers.

Wober is fine, as is Pascal Struijk when he steps out to left-back. They are, though, square pegs in round holes and Leeds prioritising a natural Firpo upgrade could really benefit this team.

Should Leeds sell Firpo?





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Leeds United Season Ticket Holder at Elland Road for over 20 seasons. Currently nestled in N12, but occasionally offering views from the press box. We’ve been through it all together? You bet.