Pablo Hernandez is one of the most adored talents at Leeds United but his dwindling form is a telling sign that Marcelo Bielsa needs to sign a player to replace him in the starting XI this summer.
Now, before the vultures come swooping, it’s pertinent to note that Hernandez still has a key role to play at Leeds.
However, at 34-years-old he cannot be relied upon to consistently inject the creative magic into Leeds’s midfield on a consistent basis. The club have often been dependent on his guile and vision to unlock their opponents and it’s generally become accepted that a good game for Hernandez is synonymous with a good game for Leeds.
His return of 12 goals and 12 assists this season underlines his importance to the club’s attacking endeavours, but the fact 10 of those assists arrived before the turn of the year is telling.
Game-changing performances against Millwall and Reading amongst other fine displays in 2019 cannot be forgotten but his consistency has diminished due to an unhealthy reliance on his quality.
Against Derby County he looked sluggish and overly determined to impress, and his mediocre showing underlined Marcelo Bielsa’s need to invest in a new playmaker this summer.
Regardless of whether the club reach the Premier League, Bielsa must focus on signing a midfield wizard to immediately step into the starting XI.
This is not a case of simply dethroning the king and casting him aside. Hernandez’s quality will still be needed but he’s destined to burnout if he is expected to start as regularly as he has this season in the next campaign.
After all, the Leeds fans would rather see a razor-sharp Hernandez start 15 games than a lethargic one start 40.
Signing an adequate replacement will be an unenviable task for Victor Orta and the rest of the recruitment team, such is the scale of the Spaniard’s popularity on the terraces at Elland Road, but it’s a challenge which should be handled with the highest attention to detail; they are seismic and silky boots to fill and anything less than that could have regressive consequences for the club.
On his day the diminutive orchestrator is better than anyone in the division but Bielsa must now maximise the regularity of those days with a ruthless decision to sign a replacement.