Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has been known for his preference for working with small squads throughout his career, but the constant demands of the English Championship and the current injury problems at Elland Road could force the Argentine to call up even more young players into his squad than he currently has.
Luckily for the former Chile and Argentina boss, the Leeds academy is well known for churning out players with real quality who have gone on to have long and successful careers such as James Milner and Danny Rose in recent years.
With this season’s star striker Kemar Roofe and big-money summer signing Patrick Bamford both sidelined with injury at the moment, Leeds have seen a downturn in their form and have slipped into a battle for top spot with Middlesbrough and West Brom.
With experienced attacking midfielder Pablo Hernandez and defender Gaetano Berardi, who started the season at centre-back under Bielsa, having also missed a number of weeks now it looks as though this could be a crucial period in the season where the Whites are finally in with a chance of returning to the Premier League.
Bielsa has included a number of youngsters on his bench in recent games, but here at Football FanCast we’ve taken a look at some of those who are yet to be promoted to the first team but could almost certainly do a job for the Elland Road outfit.
With the aforementioned problems upfront, 19-year-old Tyler Roberts has been first choice recently. However, the West Brom academy graduate has only netted three times in his seven appearances, with two goals coming in the 3-0 win over bottom club Preston North End and the only goal of the game against struggling Hull.
Bielsa then should look to his U23 squad. 17-year-old Jack Clarke has recently been on the bench, but former Barcelona youngster Hoskun Temenuzhkov must be given the chance to prove why Leeds originally signed him from the Spanish giants despite interest from Manchester City and why he is consistently called up to the Bulgarian national youth teams.
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Dalby joined the Leeds youth system in January this year after beginning his professional career with Leyton Orient. Now 18-years-old, he will also hoping to get a chance with Roofe and Bamford out. Dalby has experience of senior football thanks to his two National League and 16 League Two appearances for Orient, meaning he is perhaps in the best position of all the youngsters to come straight into the side.
With Berardi out, Leeds have a real lack of options in the centre of defence at the moment. Full-back Luke Ayling has provided cover but his talents are far more effective going forward. Perhaps Bielsa’s best option here then would be 21-year-old Hugo Diaz.
The Spaniard arrived at Thorp Arch on a free-transfer from boyhood club Deportivo La Coruna in the summer of 2017 and made his first-team debut in April last season, coming off the bench for the last half-hour of the defeat to Preston. He is yet to be used by Bielsa but it may not be too long until the boss is making the call to U23’s manager Carlos Corberán.
So, Leeds fans, would you like to see Bielsa using more of the U23s squad or would it be a risk when chasing promotion? Have your say voting in the poll below.