Junior Firpo’s recent absence from Leeds United’s matchday squad has certainly raised a few question marks as the summer signing was widely expected to return following injury.
And now LeedsLive reporter Beren Cross has delivered his verdict on the situation, outlining his concerns that there could be a fresh issue to deal with.
The club haven’t provided any indication over why the 25-year-old defender missed the clash with Leicester City, having played over a week earlier for the U23 squad.
Whites boss Marcelo Bielsa claimed he would “assess” his left-back ahead of kickoff but with Jamie Shackleton also absent through injury, the Argentine had to deploy towering central defender Pascal Struijk in an unfamiliar role.
“[Bielsa] hasn’t said this as such, but I can’t work out if Firpo hurt himself in that Friday night game [vs Arsenal U23s] here, because he came off at half an hour, and obviously didn’t then go to Norwich [in the Premier League],” claimed the journalist on LeedsLive’s Facebook stream.
“I think we all just assumed that it was because it was too close to Norwich, but then he obviously missed today [vs Leicester City]. And the inference is that there’s either a new problem or he had maybe a setback in that Friday game.”
It is certainly strange that the Dominican Republic-born star featured for the youth side for just 30 minutes ahead of Leeds’ trip to Norwich but then has not been seen since.
United have struggled for form so far this campaign and find themselves in 15th place, just three points outside of the relegation zone – a stark contrast to last season, where they finished inside the top ten and stunned teams like Man City, Spurs and Liverpool with impressive displays.
Bielsa was already light in the full-back positions heading into the 2021/22 season, especially after the exit of Gjanni Alioski, so to not have Firpo available for so long is certainly frustrating and it has not helped their fortunes whatsoever.
The longer this mystery goes on, the more the Elland Road faithful will become worried if not fuming.
Struijk is not a left-back and whilst he deputised sufficiently, Leeds cannot afford to head into a hectic fixture list by putting square pegs in round holes. It’ll only make things worse and put pressure on everyone in the dugout.
The £12.8m-rated dynamo, who is thought to be earning around £55k-per-week, now has two weeks to get fit and ready for the Whites’ return to action after the international break, when they head to north London to face Spurs.
Bielsa will want to have his first-choice left-back available for such a tricky encounter but Cross’ verdict is far from encouraging.