After seeing the summer transfer window shut on Tuesday night, Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa will be glad to have gotten one final signing over the line in the shape of Manchester United’s Dan James.
But, one area in which the Whites failed to strengthen is in central midfield, with a move for Huddersfield Town’s Lewis O’Brien seemingly falling on its head.
In response to a question from a fan about whether the Whites would pursue a late move for the midfielder on transfer deadline day, The Athletic’s Phil Hay said on Twitter: “Not a matter of time. They’re not stretching to £8m+ for O’Brien.”
While Leeds may have baulked against paying that kind of fee for O’Brien, they may take some comfort in the return from injury of Adam Forshaw.
The midfielder has endured a difficult spell at Leeds for well over a year now, with injuries seeing him miss the entire Premier League season – in fact, his only appearance of 2020/21 came at Premier League 2 level when he was given a runout against Aston Villa’s under-23s back in mid-April.
Speaking towards the end of last season, Bielsa himself said of the 29-year-old: “He has basically been not playing for two seasons and to be able to play 90 minutes at a high competition after being healthy – there is still a while to go before you’re ready for that.
“He’s healthy, and has two months left of the season to prove that he is finally over his issues. We all hope it will be like this, because he is a very important player and he has made a massive effort to overcome the situation that he’s been through.”
With Leeds lacking natural cover for Kalvin Phillips, and a new central midfielder not arriving through the door, Forshaw’s comeback from injury is a timely one.
Writing for The Athletic, Phil Hay backed Forshaw to enjoy a redemption season this year, saying: “Can his body hold up? Could he adapt quickly to the pace of the Premier League? The thing about Forshaw is that he is one of Bielsa’s favourite players at Leeds; someone who Bielsa has genuinely been heard to describe privately as having the right attributes for a Champions League side.”
He said: “Forshaw is a player who, when he has played, he is always between the better players of the team.
“He has a feature that is very difficult to get. He defends similar to Kalvin, he attacks similar to Klich. What he does close to Phillips doesn’t impede, it is not a problem for him when he goes close to Klich to attack. You are not going to find a lot of players with this kind of characteristic.”
That is high praise indeed from Bielsa, and he will be hoping that this campaign could be the making of the 29-year-old at the top level.
Now that O’Brien isn’t here and the transfer window has closed, it’s finally time for Bielsa to unleash Forshaw in the Premier League.