Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa plays down need for fresh faces
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa played down the importance of signing another centre-back before next week's transfer deadline after captain Liam Cooper was added the list of absentees at Elland Road.
Bielsa indicated that he was content with his choice of central defenders despite Cooper joining Pontus Jansson on the sidelines before Tuesday’s 2-2 draw at Swansea City.
Leeds travelled to the Liberty Stadium without Jansson, who suffered a back injury in training over the weekend, and Cooper was unexpectedly withdrawn from Bielsa’s starting line-up shortly before kick-off after pulling a hamstring in the warm-up.
The United boss paired Luke Ayling and Gaetano Berardi, two recognised full-backs, in the middle of his defence and gave 18-year-old Jamie Shackleton a full league debut at right-back, leaving youngster Conor Shaughnessy as cover on the bench.
Bielsa has shown little appetite for recruiting another centre-back in this transfer window, though Leeds took an interest in Kyle Bartley at the start of the summer and approached Everton earlier this month about the possibility of signing Matthew Pennington for a second time.
The club have until next Friday, August 31, to complete any last-minute loan deals but Bielsa, who is trying to avoid a bloated squad, insisted he would not be bounced into bringing anyone in by injuries to two centre-backs in the space of three days.
Jansson’s back problem is not believed to be serious and Leeds are still to fully assess the extent of Cooper’s damaged hamstring.
“Why do you link the transfer window with Liam?” Bielsa asked after his side’s draw with Swansea. “For Pontus it’s not a very important problem. So far we don’t know the diagnosis for Liam Cooper.
“Berardi and Ayling played the role as centre-backs and the game of Gaetano Berardi was very good. Shaughnessy, we also have him and we trust him, we have confidence in him. He hasn’t done the pre-season work so he is a little bit behind compared to the rest of the team but we have solutions for this kind of problem.”
Cooper’s condition is likely to become clearer over the next 24 hours and Bielsa has not ruled out the possibility of Jansson being available for Saturday’s trip to Norwich City,
“I don’t know yet, I just know the injury he (Jansson) has is not a very serious one,” Bielsa said. “I can’t tell you if he will be able to play on Saturday yet.”
The absence of key players has not stopped Leeds starting their season with a five-game unbeaten run in all competitions. Tuesday’s draw at Swansea ended their 100 per cent record but left Bielsa’s side with 10 points from a possible 12.
United have already met two of the clubs relegated from the Premier League last season, Swansea and Stoke City, in an opening month which also threw up away trips to Norwich and Derby County. A home game against Tony Pulis’ Middlesbrough on August 31 will send Leeds into the first international break.
Bielsa said: “The start of the season was a difficult one for us. The rivals were strong in a very demanding sequence. This series of games was the most demanding series among all the teams of the Championship but it’s good we have difficult games at the beginning.
“Our performance (at Swansea) had some defects but the result was a deserved result and it’s an important result. In the last games we dominated, we were better than our rivals. We couldn’t do the same here.”