This article is part of Football FanCast’s In Numbers series, which takes a statistical look at performances, season-long form and reported transfer targets…
Stuart Dallas is a wide player. Nothing more, nothing less.
It’s something that makes Marcelo Bielsa’s idea of playing him in the middle of the park rather bizarre.
He featured in that role for the final quarter against West Brom while he would likely have played a considerable part there if Gaetano Berardi wasn’t sent off last Saturday too.
The Northern Irishman has been one of Leeds’ most consistent players this season and that can be seen in the fact he’s their fifth-highest player for average ratings via WhoScored.
That doesn’t tell you a great deal but the way supporters have been raving about him does.
He’s stepped into the shoes of Luke Ayling at right back in comfortable fashion and isn’t just proving an influence in attacking phases, scoring against Stoke and being involved in the own goal versus Derby, but defensively he’s also been superb.
Ayling’s immediate return to the side has come as a result of injuries in the team. Surely if Jamie Shackleton and Adam Forshaw were both fit then the former Arsenal man would remain on the bench.
That hasn’t been the scenario that’s played out but Dallas’ performance for his country on Thursday only shows why Bielsa’s thinking is flawed.
The 28-year-old was back in a favoured wide position for Northern Ireland as they suffered a late defeat against the Netherlands on Thursday.
Dallas was supposed to be playing in an advanced role on the wing but because of the opposition’s attacking nature he was essentially playing as a wing-back.
This is demonstrated by his heatmap from the game below.
He looked assured and comfortable even at the top level and played a vital hand in giving his side the lead.
Dallas made a mockery of his marker at the byline and then dinked a cross over the imperious Matthijs de Ligt for Josh Magennis to head home.
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It was typical of the right-sided player who put in three crosses but also performed admirably from a defensive point of view.
When he was in action further back, he completed four tackles but also won a mighty seven ground duels according to SofaScore.
This all came down the right flank and shows why he simply has to continue to play there. If Dallas can perform against a top European nation, he deserves to be back in a role he’s played so well in for Leeds.
Bielsa would only get things wrong again if he selected him in central midfield.