There was a period of time when the mere thought of dropping Mateusz Klich from the Leeds United team was unheard of.
Axing him from the starting XI would have sent shockwaves around Elland Road and it’s clear to see why.
The Poland international was a dedicated and influential figure, one that typified Marcelo Bielsa’s brand of football.
Klich could do it all; defend fiercely but also provide a spark in the final third.
At one stage, he’d started 92 consecutive matches under Bielsa but the brutal cutthroat nature of the Premier League has gobbled him up and spat him back out for the media and supporters to tuck into their own feast of criticism.
The 31-year-old stands proud at the moment as one of the best players to grace Leeds in recent memory. He is a promotion-winning midfielder and has played for the Whites on 176 occasions, scoring 22 times in the process.
His partnership with Pablo Hernandez was a sight to behold in the second tier and it’s remarkable he even had the chance to establish that connection, let alone become a Premier League regular.
Bought to the club in 2017 as Thomas Christensen’s first signing, he was soon exiled on a temporary basis.
Yet, enter Bielsa, a man who not only transformed Leeds but rescued the career of Klich, a battling technician who was in danger of throwing away his prime years.
The Pole was nearly out the door until a meeting between him and Leeds’ former manager changed things.
Sadly, five Premier League goals later and his career is diminishing again. Many at LS11 can be accused of underperforming this term but Klich is surely one of the chief suspects.
Dubbed “non-existent” by Sky Sports pundit Clinton Morrison at one point this season, it’s not hard to see why that assessment has been brought into play. Klich has recorded a SofaScore average match rating of just 6.69 which paints a sorry picture.
He has found the net just once all term – a strike against Everton on matchweek 2 – and his performances lead us to believe that he should never be considered to start again by Jesse Marsch.
His display versus Arsenal on Sunday afternoon was particularly ropy too, with the lowlight including a rash and cynical tackle on Granit Xhaka that prompted a yellow card and some minor handbags just inside the hosts’ half.
Substituted during the interval, it was a symbol that even when the going gets tough, Klich cannot be relied upon anymore.
He no longer has Bielsa to comfort and cradle him and in Marsch, perhaps he finally has a coach who can get the best out of Leeds without him.
He lost the ball eight times during his 45 minutes on the field, meaning he lost it every 4.1 touches and 5.6 minutes.
Furthermore, the experienced midfielder completed just a mediocre 79% of his passes and lost a whopping 84% of his defensive battles.
If that wasn’t bad enough, he made only the solitary tackle and played 0 key passes. His influence on the game was significantly less than young Lewis Bate who after being introduced in the second period, added a purpose to the Whites’ play. The highlight was a delightful cross-field ball into open space on the left that picked out the man perfectly. Right there we saw the future of Leeds; not Klich.
With that in mind, Marsch must take the bold decision to keep him from the starting XI between now and the season’s end. It could just keep Leeds in the division.