Leeds United: Stats say De Bock over Anita but should Pearce be given his big chance at left back?

HIGHLY RATED: And there are plenty of calls for youngster Tom Pearce, right, to be given an outing in the Leeds United first team.
HIGHLY RATED: And there are plenty of calls for youngster Tom Pearce, right, to be given an outing in the Leeds United first team.
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LEEDS UNITED'S troubles extended to just about every area of the pitch during Wednesday night's 3-0 loss at home to classy Championship leaders Wolves.

But the club's problems at left back have been an ongoing theme with Vurnon Anita given the nod for the third game running above January recruit Laurens De Bock.

De Bock has not played for United since enduring a nightmare second half in the recent 2-2 draw at Derby County with the Belgian omitted from the matchday 18 altogether for the subsequent 1-0 win at home to Brentford in which Anita had a fairly steady game.

But against an admittedly devilishly difficult opponent in Ivan Cavaleiro, United's left back woes continued against Wolves with Anita given the runaround.

So is it time for Whites head coach Paul Heckingbottom to make another change at left back and moreover should the performance of young 'keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell prompt an opportunity for Tom Pearce or Tyler Denton?

Heckingbottom has twice gone on record in recent weeks to stress that opportunities for the club's younger players would "have to be earned" but United's first-teamers have now posted a measly return of just seven points from a last possible 36.

After continued mishaps in goal, one mistake too many cost German 'keeper Felix Wiedwald his place for the clash against Wolves as Heckingbottom took a punt on 21-year-old Peacock-Farrell in just his second start for Leeds and first for two years.

Peacock-Farrell produced a sterling display - notwithstanding an error for the third goal - yet but for his interventions, United would have been on the receiving end of a hammering.

Given the continued problems at left back, there are now strong calls for Heckingbottom to make a similar change in that position and in particular promote Pearce who has been earning rave reviews for United's under-23s.

The 19-year-old has yet to make a single appearance for Leeds but the defender has already trained with the first team and has also sat on the substitute's bench suggesting his turn may be close.

The former Everton youngster - who can also play on the left wing - quite clearly advertised his claims in no uncertain terms when scoring one and setting up two in the recent 5-1 win for United's under-23s against Nottingham Forest.

And Heckingbottom has another young option in 22-year-old Denton who is back at Leeds following a productive loan spell in League Two at Port Vale for whom he appeared 21 times.

Denton has so far made just the three appearances for the Whites with the defender scoring a stunning goal on his debut in the first round EFL Cup win at Luton Town in August 2016.

Two less impressive displays followed in FA Cup clashes at Cambridge United and Sutton United but Denton remains highly thought of by Leeds and signed a new three year contract last August.

But high profile recruit De Bock signed for United on a four-and-a-half-year contract from Club Brugge in January with the 25-year-old joining Leeds for a fee in the region of £1.5m.

Heckingbottom also has the option to play Gaetano Berardi at left back but Berardi is naturally a right back and the 29-year-old looks set to stay in that position for the remainder of the season while Luke Ayling remains out injured. How he has been missed.

Heckingbottom, then, appears to have a choice of four players for the left back role and essentially needs to decide who comes out on top out of Anita versus De Bock and also Pearce versus Denton and thereafter who should be given the nod to start.

Anita - who it must be remembered is more naturally a centre midfielder - has featured 20 times for United this season, averaging just 2.2 tackles per game, 2.9 clearances and 1.1 interceptions.

The Dutchman has, though, made an average of 29.8 passes per game with a successful pass rate of 79.8.

In 14 displays this season for first Brugge and then Leeds, De Bock comes out on top on the figures having made an average of 5.8 clearances per game, 2.7 tackles and 1.2 interceptions.

De Bock has also offered more offensively and while his passing success rate is slightly lower than Anita's at 75.8 per cent, he has averaged more passes overall per game at 36.5.

The figures suggest that De Bock should start over Anita and the Dutchman would almost certainly still be first choice left back but for his nightmare experience in the second half at Pride Park.

Perhaps that display now needs forgiving.

Or perhaps it is time for Heckingbottom to again place his faith in youth with both Denton and Pearce champing at the bit to follow Peacock-Farrell into the side.

'I am Doner' in Headingley, which has just won the Just Eat Best Delivery award at the British Kebab Awards and also been shortlisted in the Best Newcomer Outside London and Best Takeaway Outside London categories.'28th Febuary 2016.'Picture Jonathan Gawthorpe

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