After making the decision to drop Jack Harrison to the bench against Aston Villa in the Premier League, Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa will no doubt have been hoping, and even expecting, Helder Costa to make good on his rare opportunity.
It was the Portuguese man’s first start in the top-flight since the 4-1 defeat to Crystal Palace back in November, and he’s found himself on the side-lines as both Harrison and Raphinha have nailed down the starting wide positions.
But after Harrison’s poor form in recent weeks, it was the perfect time for Bielsa to unleash Costa. Sadly for both the manager and the player himself, he cut a completely anonymous figure and let his manager down with a woeful display.
He completed just one of the four dribbles that he attempted (only Mateusz Klich had a worse success rate with zero from two), provided no key passes whatsoever (the only starting midfielder/winger not to do so), and won just three out of his eight duels.
Such was Costa’s poor performance that Bielsa took him off after the hour mark, with Leeds Live’s Beren Cross noting in his post-match player ratings that it was “very much like the displays we have seen from the Portuguese across his time in West Yorkshire. Entirely ineffectual.”
And, speaking after seeing his anonymous display against Villa, former Leeds man Noel Whelan tore into Costa, saying: “Costa was given his opportunity and once again he did not take it.
“We are talking about a £16m player here who did not effect the game in any way shape or form. He needs to show consistency. You need to make that position your own when your manager puts his trust in you from the start.
“I saw absolutely nothing from him against Aston Villa. Nothing suggested to me that he has given Marcelo Bielsa a headache with that performance.”
The £70k-a-week earning ace made a mockery of Bielsa’s decision to place his trust in him, and while the Leeds boss has come to be known as someone who is fiercely loyal to his players and doesn’t just chop and change his starting line-up that often, Costa’s shocking display surely warrants him being axed from the team.
Being dropped to the bench may have just given Harrison the proverbial kick up the back-side to get his tail up again, and would also have given him a much-needed breather too after playing so many games this season – he’s missed just one Premier League game all campaign.
It would certainly be a ruthless call to drop Costa just after one game after putting him back into the team after such a long time away from it, but it’s the one Bielsa simply has to make.