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Leeds United hero Jack Harrison on a similar stylistic path to Raheem Sterling

Jack Harrison injected a deft touch of ingenuity into proceedings on Saturday evening to provide Leeds United with a gargantuan three points in the race for promotion.

On the chalkboard

After being denied by a valiant Kieren Westwood on a multitude of occasions, anxiety was rising amongst the Elland Road crowd.

But with Sheffield Wednesday’s goal seemingly boarded up with steel hoardings Harrison sent his mixed reputation into the stratosphere, even if only for a fleeting moment of this turbulent Championship season.

Harrison could have given the hosts a first-half lead when he intelligently arrived to meet a Luke Ayling cross with his head, but his well-placed effort was palmed round the post by that man Westwood.

The Man City loanee wasn’t to be denied his moment though.

With nearly 20 minutes played in the second-half, Tyler Roberts caressed the ball into Pablo Hernandez’s path, the ball was shifted onto his magic wand of a right boot and he slid a delicious ball into the scuttling Harrison, who provided a deft finish which arced right into the very corner of the net.

The celebrations which unfolded in the stands underlined the significance of this moment, yet it seemed almost antithetical that it was one of the more unassuming characters of Leeds’ compelling season who ignited the pandemonium.

But this was not the far cry from the status quo which one might assume. For all of his critics there is no question that the Harrison we saw on Saturday is unrecognisable from the timid, unconvincing and alarmingly mediocre player who started the season.

Bielsa has transformed him into a proper player at this level and when placing his season under the Argentine into the broader context of his career it becomes clear that parallels are there to be drawn between his progress and that of Raheem Sterling.

Shades of Raheem Sterling?

When Sterling started his career he was considered a typical winger: quick, a keen dribbler, eager to do damage close to the touchline and near the byline. Harrison fits a similar profile.

But as the England international, valued at £108 million per Transfermarkt, has developed he has focused on taking up positions in the penalty area from which to provide goals and assists – a stylistic change which has been born by virtue of Pep Guardiola’s man-management.

Leeds’ 22-year-old talent has some way to go before boasting a similar style to Sterling but his development under Bielsa suggests that his manager is also tweaking his style to force him to impact the game in the penalty area.

During a two-year spell with New York City, Harrison made a total of 93 shots, 47 of which were made inside the penalty area – marginally above 50%.

At Leeds, however, Bielsa has encouraged him to find the net from more promising positions inside the penalty area, with 25 of his 37 shots coming inside the box – closer to 68%.

Sterling, meanwhile, struck 29 of his 45 shots from inside the penalty area during the 2013/14 season with Liverpool – roughly 64% – and has hit 79% of his efforts inside the 18-yard-box in the current campaign.

The respective increase in efforts inside the penalty area are symptomatic of the philosophies of their globally-acclaimed managers. Both Bielsa and Guardiola strive to push their full-backs forward to occupy the space which wingers typically operate in, subsequently forcing wide players into areas where they can make a deadly impact.

Not only did Harrison score the decisive winning goal, he also showcased his desire to get into goal- scoring and assist-providing positions just minutes earlier when he squared the ball to Patrick Bamford only for the striker to fluff a golden opportunity with the goal at his mercy.

Harrison’s moment in the beaming Yorkshire sun on Saturday may not be enough to earn him a permanent switch in the summer, but the manner in which he ghosted into the area like a seasoned poacher to strike the knockout blow proved that Bielsa has installed a mentality into his brain akin to that which has seen Sterling rise to infinite stardom in Manchester.

Article title: Leeds United hero Jack Harrison on a similar stylistic path to Raheem Sterling

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