Leeds United are heading into the hectic festive calendar in difficult circumstances after Marcelo Bielsa was hit with yet another injury blow during their 6-2 beating this weekend.
The Whites have now lost their skipper, Liam Cooper, to injury as he hobbled off at Manchester United on Sunday, which means the Argentine is now without any of his senior central defenders going into this weekend’s encounter with Burnley.
Diego Llorente and Robin Koch are already on the treatment table, and now their industrious talisman is too.
Indeed, there is a major defensive crisis emerging at Elland Road right now.
Bielsa has turned to the versatile Luke Ayling in his time of need, but now he’s certainly going to have to drop into the youth team to find him a partner unless he wants the 29-year-old back in his natural right-back position, then he’ll need to find two options.
He went with 5 foot 8 left-back by trade Leif Davis for the final 18 minutes of the match, and he helped stop a rampant United scoring anymore past Illan Meslier.
Having two diminutive full-backs in central defence against Chris Wood, who Leeds know all too well, ultimately, already spells disaster for Bielsa.
Instead, the 65-year-old mastermind ought to turn to teen sensation Charlie Cresswell after an impressive display for the U23 squad this week.
The youngster’s performance caught the attention of many supporters, and as a result, they have launched desperate calls for Bielsa to start him against the Clarets this Sunday.
LeedsLive claimed the 18-year-old ‘starred’ for the youth team as they stuck seven goals past a helpless Fulham academy outfit. They wrote in their post-match ratings:
“Charlie Cresswell – 9/10 – If Leeds had secured a clean sheet, this would have comfortably been a 10 out of 10 performance from the youngster. Cresswell set the tone for the game by going close to connecting with the ball at an early corner, but made no mistake at his second attempt, crashing one into the back of the net.
“His security on the ball was convincing, even indulging in a Cruyff turn inside his own defensive third to evade danger in the second half. Perhaps the best action of his during the game was the frequent interceptions he made. Cresswell read the play excellently, seizing on forward passes as Fulham looked to break, turning the visitors’ attacks into countering opportunities for the Whites.”
At 6-foot, he’s a far more imposing option to have in the backline than either Ayling or Davis, and that’ll be what’s needed to thwart all 6 foot 3 of Wood at Elland Road.
It would be a fine reward for his recent form if he were to come straight into the senior starting XI in the Premier League.
Former Whites talisman Noel Whelan is a big fan of the defensive starlet too, he told Football Insider last month:
“Fantastic. It’s a contract that I’m very happy to see signed. He is the future. At that centre-half position, he’s got great attributes. He’s very calm on the ball, a great size to him, he’s quick, he can head, he can pass. He’s the modern-day, young-centre half.”
There isn’t a better time to see Cresswell in action than now.
Bielsa is desperate, and by pulling off this calculated risk, he could unleash a secret weapon that’ll only bolster their chances from now on.
Forget Davis. The 18-year-old must start vs Burnley.