Jesse Marsch’s Leeds United head into tonight’s Premier League meeting with Chelsea knowing that, should they wish to give themselves the best possible chance of avoiding the drop this season, they simply must pick up some kind of result at Elland Road against Thomas Tuchel’s third-placed Blues.
However, with right-back Luke Ayling being shown a straight red card in the 2-1 defeat at Arsenal last time out, in addition to the form of several of the Whites’ regular first-teamers having fallen off a cliff in recent weeks, the 48-year-old manager has a number of big calls to make concerning his starting XI.
One such call will undoubtedly be in central midfield, a position in which, following Adam Forshaw’s season-ending injury, the American manager has struggled to find a suitable counterpart to the unflappable England international, Kalvin Phillips.
At The Emirates, Marsch started Mateusz Klich alongside the 26-year-old, however, with the 31-year-old turning in yet another abject display against the Gunners, it would appear an extremely wise move for the 48-year-old to drop the Poland international for what could well be a season-defining fixture this evening.
Indeed, over his 45 minutes on the pitch last time out, the £3.6m-rated midfielder was something of a passenger in the middle of the park, enjoying just 33 touches of the ball, completing 79% of his passes, ceding possession for his side on eight separate occasions, being beaten by an opponent twice and losing five of his six duels – a failure rate of 83%.
These returns saw the £34k-per-week player who The Short Fuse dubbed “embarrassing” and one prominent Leeds supporter dubbed “awful” average an extremely disappointing SofaScore match rating of just 6.0 – the joint third-worst score of any player to feature in the match – with Marsch hooking the 38-time capped international at the break.
As such, with Lewis Bate having highly impressed upon replacing Klich last time out, and while it is true that the likes of Raphinha and Jack Harrison also failed to make any sort of mark against Arsenal, it is the Pole who Marsch simply must axe from his starting XI against Chelsea, as the midfielder could cost the Whites big-time against the Blues.