This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
It’s not often that Marcelo Bielsa takes a gamble. His squad is thin and he prefers familiarity, making few changes to his side this term.
He’s used a league-low 17 players in the Championship and he’s predominantly only made changes because of injury.
It took a blow to Barry Douglas for Gjanni Alioski to earn his place while the same can be said for Jamie Shackleton who stepped into the shoes of Adam Forshaw.
Helder Costa has since replaced Pablo Hernandez on the right-hand side as well.
Injuries again will force the manager’s hand this weekend as the aforementioned Shackleton and Liam Cooper are set for a spell on the sidelines.
Bielsa hasn’t been shy in revealing his team news ahead of fixtures and before a clash with Wigan, he essentially disclosed his full XI.
He was also far from secretive on Thursday as he detailed the switches to his side he might make when they travel to Millwall today.
Speaking in his press conference, the following was noted:
Pablo Hernandez is improving but he and Forshaw will miss out again at Millwall.
Says Ayling will probably start at right-back with Dallas taking up Shackleton’s midfield position. But could go with Klich and Roberts as the midfield pair. #lufc
— Phil Hay (@PhilHay_) October 3, 2019
It will be interesting to see just how the 64-year-old lines up but taking the decision to move Dallas would be a strange one.
The Northern Irishman has arguably been one of Leeds’ best players this season and has started in all ten league outings so far.
He ranks four-highest for average match ratings according to WhoScored and even popped up with a goal against Stoke. He’s been effective on the right and manages 1.7 tackles and 1.5 interceptions on average each outing.
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The 28-year-old was brilliant at left-back in the dying weeks of last term and scored twice against Derby in the playoffs.
A winger by trade, he’s been moved into both full-back positions and taken on the roles with great professionalism.
There is no doubting he’d do the same in a central role but he’s played the majority of his football in wider spaces, suggesting he might struggle if moved inside.
After all, he’s only played through the middle three times in his entire career. Even if Bielsa thinks he has the qualities, it’s a risk, particularly when the midfield has struggled at times in 2019/20.
They’ve only been involved in two goals between them in the Championship and those are both courtesy of Mateusz Klich.
Dallas’ strong work ethic and ability to get up and down as he does in a full-back role should lend itself to the box-to-box style he’ll have to bring on Saturday but it’s still hugely unfamiliar.
Having made 1.1 key passes he has an eye for a pass but Leeds’ midfield was overrun when Shackleton went off last Tuesday.
They’ll have to ensure the same doesn’t happen with Dallas occupying his role as he did in the final quarter. Perhaps someone more familiar in the middle would be a better option.