This article is part of Football FanCast’s The Chalkboard series, which provides a tactical insight into teams, players, managers, potential signings and more…
Leeds’ underlying problem of 2018/19 is now coming back to haunt them.
Last term they were plagued by injuries and by the time April had come around, 31 individual issues had flown through the squad.
It was a pressing concern for a slim squad but the same fear is now coming back.
Having used just 17 players in the Championship this season, a league-low, they’ve now suffered blows to both Jamie Shackleton and Liam Cooper.
The club captain will be out for up to six weeks and with him, he leaves behind a huge void.
Gaetano Berardi showed signs when he came on against West Brom of reducing the blow of Cooper’s injury but there are still a number of players also capable of playing.
Luke Ayling has the potential to fill in while Leif Davis has played at centre-back in 2019/20 as well.
They could even opt for Kalvin Phillips if a three-man backline is preferred.
But another individual who might be primed to capitalise on the defender’s absence is Pascal Struijk.
The 20-year-old signed from Ajax in 2018 and has yet to earn a first-team debut, despite appearing on the substitutes bench for the Whites last term.
He’s a player that’s featured regularly for the U23s and judging by the fact he’s already been given an element of exposure to the senior side, the centre-back seems more ready than most to make an impact.
The Dutchman recently earned himself a new contract at Elland Road, exemplifying the faith in him but they must show some of these young players there is a pathway to the first team.
Marcelo Bielsa has handed regular opportunities to young players since he arrived and Alfie McCalmont and Mateusz Bogusz have already been trusted to earn debuts this season.
But appearances in the league haven’t been as regular for the younger players unless you consider Jamie Shackleton.
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Berardi has typically been quite an unreliable figure in west Yorkshire, being sent off in last season’s playoffs which happened to be his sixth dismissal in Leeds colours.
His temperament is questionable and whether Bielsa can trust the Swiss remains to be seen. As a result, Struijk is a genuine option. This is especially after comments made by the 64-year-old on Thursday.
On those who could replace Cooper, he noted: “We have Berardi, Davis, Phillips, Pascal [Struijk], Olly Casey.”
At 20 years of age, he ideally needs to start playing first-team football so now could be the ideal opportunity to see what he’s made of.
After all, Ben White, who is just a year older has taken to the division like a duck to water and won the PFA Fans’ Player of the Month in August. Leeds would be overjoyed if they can bring through another similar player.