Leeds gave a great account of themselves against Arsenal, losing just 1-0, but perhaps one of the most interesting things to take away from their FA Cup clash is the partnership between Ezgjan Alioski and Barry Douglas down the left side.
Indeed, it seems as if this experiment may have fixed two problem positions within Bielsa’s squad.
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The Whites have struggled to settle on a first-choice left-back this term due to injuries and rotation with the likes of Douglas, Alioski and Stuart Dallas all having to share the workload in that role.
The Yorkshire outfit haven’t been able to settle on a left-back, and they’ve also had problems on the right-wing.
Pablo Hernandez and Helder Costa have both shared game time on that side, but Costa’s form has been ropey all season as he’s contributed to just four goals in 26 games, while the Spaniard has missed 12 matches through injury.
The main complaints at left-back have been that Alioski is too attack-minded. Phil Hay stated in his most recent Q&A session that he believes the Scot should come in for the North Macedonian for the above reason.
However, the 30-year-old seemingly isn’t trusted by Bielsa and has played just 382 league minutes this term, but partnering down the left side with Alioski seems to have worked a treat.
Both men are just as proficient going forward as they are at the back. The former Wolves man assisted 14 goals for Wolves in the 2017/18 season and his teammate has netted 11 goals over the past season and a half.
This partnership allowed Douglas and the 27-year-old to swap roles as they pleased, and this was never more visible than in the 25th minute.
Nicolas Pepe got the better of the former Wolves defender when Douglas slipped while attempting to tackle the Ivorian and the ball fell kindly to Sokratis. This could easily have been an opportunity to launch a counter-attack, but United had the ball back within seconds as Alioski was there to stop him dead in his tracks.
Another positive of this partnership emerging is the fact that Jack Harrison was able to move over to the right – an area that hasn’t had a consistent threat.
The Man City loanee has contributed to 11 goals this season, and if he can keep up that form on opposing flank side then he can cement that role as his, in turn, allowing this budding partnership down the left to flourish.