As the news came that Barry Douglas, an important and almost ever-present facet of Leeds’ promotion push this season was facing some time on the sidelines, many Leeds fans immediately racked their brains to recall what we did in the pre-Bobby Dazzler era.
Do we still pay Laurens De Bock? Does Vurnon Anita still register at Thorp Arch on a morning?
The answer it seems will be in the youth. We have seen time and time does not moan like many other managers would, but simply relies on the ‘solutions’ he has within the squad. Here are some possibilities he could go with…
The last time Barry Douglas fell ill prior to kick off against Aston Villa, Marcelo Bielsa turned to Leif Davis. Davis, the 19 year old signed from Morecambe in Summer, had been in fine form for the U23s and was duly awarded with a start against Aston Villa. A league debut at Villa is the football league version of ‘being chucked in at the deep end’, however the left-back put in a steady performance and coped well given the circumstances. His most recent start in the FA Cup fixture against QPR was not so pretty, in a game where it was hard to stand-out, Davis was at fault for conceding the penalty about which there can be no questions. Not for want of trying, Davis put in a respectable performance from there but many would probably conclude that more time is needed for the youngster to develop before he can tuck in to the thrills of the Championship.
Another option is Tom Pearce. Pearce won himself many fans with a number of good performances towards the close of last season. The plaudits even attracted (rumoured) interest from Everton and Bournemouth. However in the summer with the arrival of Barry Douglas from Wolves, Tom has found first-team opportunities hard to come by and though little information was published about it, it became apparent he had picked up an injury. On Sunday, Pearce returned to the first-team picture coming on at half-time. Apparently short on fitness, he was then hooked not too long after, though many might say this was so MB could bring on another attacking option. Despite this, I was encouraged by what I saw. There were a couple of episodes where Pearce looked very comfortable on the ball and was able to distribute and control possession with ease.
A more bohemian move Bielsa might make is moving Ezgjan Alioski to a left-back position. The left full-back position is of course where Alioski started out for BSC Young Boys all those years ago. It wasn’t until his transfer to Lugano in 2015 that the then manager Zdeněk Zeman, who has a thing for wide-play and in particular wingers with an outstanding work rate, that Alioski became a more attack-focused player. Many commentators have noted how fundamental Alioski has been to defending whilst he has played on the wing this season. Who knows? We might just be treat to a cameo of the Macedonian starting out at wing-back against Lampard’s Derby.