Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has endured quite the defensive injury crisis this season.
Currently, the Yorkshire giants have no senior central defender available for selection, which is partly why we have seen Spurs score three, Manchester United score six. Even goal-shy Newcastle United find the net twice against them in recent encounters.
It’s led to the Argentine having to shift right-back Luke Ayling into the middle, and then subsequently having to force square pegs to fit round holes.
This is especially the case for the other full-back spot as technically, following the departure of Barry Douglas, the Whites do not have a proper left-back.
Bielsa has turned to Gjanni Alioski in these times, a winger by trade, though he should probably reconsider – don’t let that strike against West Brom fool you, he’s been holding Leeds back lately.
In terms of average rating for the season, the Macedonian livewire ranks as the worst player (6.61) of anyone who has started nine or more matches, per WhoScored.
Against Spurs and United, the 28-year-old failed to manage higher than a 5.63 rating too.
In the last two matches alone, Alioski has also committed five fouls and has delivered only one cross in his last four outings, via WhoScored.
Only Mateusz Klich manages more fouls per game than the long-serving winger, so clearly, there is work to be done here defensively.
Beren Cross at LeedsLive wrote similarly in a column this week. He said: “Steven Bergwijn and Son Heung-min had their way with Alioski. He did not seem able to stick with them or read their movements, which can be fatal at this level.”
Indeed, Bielsa cannot afford to continue risking Alioski in defence – it is no wonder that he’s been dubbed a “liability” by respected former player Noel Whelan in the past too, he told Football Insider:
“His defending at time is very lacking in quality, he can be a liability. It’s a big worry for Leeds if he doesn’t learn from his mistakes.”
It’s time for the £55k-per-week enigma to sit a few matches out unless there is a place for him further up the field. It’s a ruthless but necessary call to make.
Jamie Shackleton’s emergence could allow Stuart Dallas to return to his left-back position and there can surely be no harm in giving Leif Davis a runout either.
All are more viable defensive options in the role than Alioksi. Only the Baggies have leaked more goals than United this term. That issue has to be fixed.