Leeds defender Leif Davis could fix their big pre-season concern

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“Very good, Davis, very good”

They were the words bellowed by Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa at Leif Davis when the club drew with Cagliari in pre-season.

The youngster has come on leaps and bounds over the past year or so, initially earning his first-team debut under the Argentine in 2018 against Aston Villa.

Davis started at left-back, stepping in for Barry Douglas as a late replacement in the starting XI.

During that match, according to stats based Twitter account LUFC Data, he recovered the ball nine times, more than anyone else on the pitch.

For Bielsa, that was one of the first incidents where, as he once quoted, Davis was very good.

That hasn’t stopped there, however, and the new campaign has seen him take on greater responsibility within the Leeds side.

With Tom Pearce departing the door has  opened for the 19-year-old, who has played three times already this term.

He earned starts against Salford and Stoke in the Carabao Cup, as well as featuring for five minutes vs Bristol City on the opening weekend.

As we enter September, he sits just two appearances off the number he managed last term.

Across 2018/19, Davis appeared four times in the league as well as getting a chance in the FA Cup.

It hasn’t been until this season that he’s truly been considered as part of the senior team and when he’s been granted an opportunity he hasn’t looked out of his depth.

After his outing versus Stoke, Bielsa said: “He was one of the players that had a positive performance in that game. He didn’t make the mistakes he made in previous games. He made corrections.”

That shows a growing maturity in Davis but it also demonstrates why the 64-year-old has such faith in the left-sided player.

Initially rising through the ranks as a left-back, he’s now making his name in the centre of defence.

With that in mind, he could prove an unlikely answer to one of Leeds’ pre-season concerns.

Before the campaign got underway, there were question marks over their defence as supporters were quick to voice their feelings on the lack of depth.

Indeed that could still prove an issue but by moving Davis into centre-back, it’s perhaps proving why they were right not to bring in someone else alongside Ben White.

The former played in a defensive two against Bristol City for the U23s last Sunday but came off with an injury, one that Leeds will be hoping doesn’t impact him too badly.

However, playing in a three-man defence is where he’s looked particularly impressive, showing qualities that prove he’s capable of filling in if and when Leeds have fitness issues.

Against Salford, he won a game-high nine duels. He also managed the most take-ons and made four interceptions.

For a player so small in stature, standing at 5 foot 4, it may come as a surprise that he can actually perform in this role.

When Leeds lost on penalties to the Potters a few weeks ago, he won six aerial duels, recovered the ball seven times and also blocked two attempts at goal, per LUFC Data.

If that wasn’t enough, he even picked up an assist for his troubles.

The teenager’s all-round game catches the eye and even at such a young age, he appears to have all the qualities required.

He reads the game well, is solid in the air and knows how to pick a pass.

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It’s easy to get carried away with academy graduates but Davis is living proof of the young talent the Whites have at their disposal. Already this term Bielsa has handed senior debuts to Mateusz Bogusz and Alfie McCalmont.

Concerns at the start of the season over Leeds’ defence were warranted. They’d lost Pontus Jansson, a man who was named in the PFA Team of the Year, which left the possibility of Gaetano Berardi picking up more game time.

During his stay at Elland Road, he’s picked up six red cards. Fears over whether he could cut it were completely understandable.

Davis, though, is someone that may just be able to take over the mantle from the 31-year-old Swiss in the years to come.

Bielsa has been clever in adapting his young prodigy to play in a more central role and so far it’s paying off, largely because it’s adding depth to an area that clearly lacks meat on the bones.

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