'Focused young man' Crysencio Summerville among Marcelo Bielsa's options for Leeds United's potential FIFA, Brazil and Raphinha situation
If the Premier League’s Brazil row keeps Raphinha out of Leeds United’s clash with Liverpool, Marcelo Bielsa’s solutions include a £25m new signing, a 19-year-old and the player who solves most problems.
Going on past history, if Bielsa is denied the availability of his first-choice right winger, it will be winger-turned-fullback-turned-midfielder Stuart Dallas who fills in and not the man bought from Manchester United on deadline day or the up-and-coming Under-23s prospect.
Dallas began his life in the game as a winger, joined Leeds from Brentford as a winger and spent the vast majority of his first three seasons at Elland Road playing on the flanks.
It is only since Bielsa arrived that the Ulsterman has found himself, more often than not, plugging gaps elsewhere and eventually being moulded into a central midfielder.
This international break should have seen him employing his ever-growing skillset in the green of Northern Ireland, but a personal situation kept him out of action. Yet, even had he been away from Thorp Arch for a trio of games with Ian Baraclough’s side, Dallas would remain the likeliest choice for Bielsa on the right wing against the Reds.
Dallas understands the style of play, the requirements of multiple positions and does a job wherever he plays, to a standard far above the one that might be associated with the term ‘utility player’.
It is that understanding that gives him the edge over James, who did spend the international break playing football away from his new club, with Wales.
Even Raphinha, whose adaptation to Bielsaball was ‘instant’ in the eyes of Leeds’ head coach, had to wait a few weeks for his first start so James walking straight into the starting XI after a day or two of training under the Argentine would feel remarkable. Growing accustomed to the Thorp Arch regime and how Leeds go about their business on and off the ball is something upon which Bielsa’s third option, Crysencio Summerville, can fully educate his new team-mate.
The teenager already had experience of men’s football, thanks to loan spells with FC Dordrecht and ADO Den Haag yet, a year after joining Leeds from Feyenoord, the winger is still working his way up a steep learning curve.
“It’s taken time for Cry to get his levels of performance up and where he is now where he’s constantly causing defenders problems with his pace and his movement,” said Mark Jackson, who has been tasked with tutoring Summerville in the ways of Bielsaball with the Under-23s.
The process has not been easy but progress has been made and, as anyone who has watched the 23s play over the past year will attest, Summerville has already come out on the exciting side of ‘raw potential’ to take on the look of a ‘serious prospect’.
“There’s still a lot more to come from him and he knows that but I’m pleased with the strides he’s made over recent weeks in pre-season. He’s a focused young man and I said to him a while back, ‘Look at where you were when you first came here and look where you are now’.
“He fully agrees it’s been a tough time but he’s developed and got better but, yeah, we’re pleased with where he is but there’s a lot more to come from him as well.
“It’s taken a long time to adapt to our style of play; when he first came in he probably wanted the ball to feet all the time. He understands now there’s different ways to receive the ball in behind and in space, with different movements and his intensity and things like that so, on a daily basis, he’s learning and he’s fully aware of that.”
The more of the learning curve he has conquered, the closer Summerville has come to the first team. Involvement in training has, in turn, led to involvement in matchday squads but a first-team debut has eluded him. His remaining on the bench for the entirety of the Carabao Cup tie at home to Crewe Alexandra came as something of a surprise and suggested that Bielsa is yet to find the right moment for which Summerville is the right man. Jackson is hopeful for his young charge, but his optimism, as ever, is tinged with caution.
“With regards to a set of tools that a player has: pace, trickery and the strength now, he’s got the tools, hopefully, to make an impact,” said the 23s boss.
“Like I’ve said, with every young player, we don’t want to get too carried away with them, we want them to understand that it’s just the first step being involved in and around the first team, and that it takes a lot to maintain your place there.”
The arrival of James pushed Summerville back down the pecking order only for a few hours, Helder Costa’s departure to Valencia for the season showing just where the youngster finds himself in the hierarchy.
A debut will come. For it to come against Liverpool would feel as remarkable for him as it would in the case of James. It’ll probably be Dallas on the wing but you just never know, a happy consequence of which is that Jurgen Klopp doesn’t know.
The most remarkable selection of all, of course, would be Raphinha, but that’s a different story and one for another day, or many other days. It’s over to you, Marcelo.