'Identical' - Marcelo Bielsa on Premier League treatment for exciting Leeds United youngsters like Joe Gelhardt

Whether or not Joe Gelhardt is ready to become a regular Premier League player, Leeds United are treating him like one.

Friday, 29th October 2021, 4:28 pm

Marcelo Bielsa' s player development system, which sees the club's youth teams playing the same style of football as the first team, brings youngsters into contact with the senior squad on the Thorp Arch training pitches long before they're involved in top flight football.

Up and coming players are well drilled in Bielsaball through weekly murderball sessions and well accustomed to the seniors they hope to call team-mates, months before they make debuts under Bielsa, as Gelhardt has this season.

The striker was first seen as a second half substitute in the Carabao Cup penalty shootout win over Fulham, then made a pair of Premier League appearances from the bench against Southampton and Wolverhampton Wanderers. His impact in last weekend's Elland Road draw with Wolves was considerable, getting on the end of chances and helping to create significant danger.

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He won the penalty that Rodrigo converted to give Leeds a 1-1 draw and could even have won the game with another run into the area, his shot deflecting wide of goal in the final action before the full-time whistle.

Gelhardt played again in midweek, replacing Tyler Roberts in the second half at Arsenal in the Carabao Cup, but was unable to tip the game back in Leeds' favour.

Bielsa has previously said that it's impossible to know if a player is ready for the Premier League until he plays and amid growing excitement over the 19-year-old's potential and an increasing desire from fans to see him start, the head coach has once again urged caution, suggesting any analysis of the forward's readiness for the top level must be continuous, balanced and detailed. The context of the games in which he plays must also be taken into consideration.

“These are things you can’t calculate," he said.

READY YET? Marcelo Bielsa says Leeds United must analyse Joe Gelhardt's performances and the context of the games in which he plays. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

"We have to go evaluating his participation and his interventions in the games. There is an important question to ask ourselves to resolve this, if player that is coming, being a young player especially, does it to resolve the needs of the team or if he comes on for a team that is predominating and that needs a few touches.

"If we compare the game against Wolverhampton, he came on in a team that was predominating and that needed some corrections and he managed to achieve it. If we compare what he did in the second half against Arsenal, he came on for a team that was not predominating in the second half and he couldn’t change the course of the game by himself, as is natural. So the precisions that you are demanding, can’t be answered easily.”

Until such a time as he becomes a Premier League regular, however, Gelhardt will continue to enjoy the same treatment as senior strikers Patrick Bamford, Rodrigo and Tyler Roberts.

Bielsa's approach to pre-game preparation remains the same for each player, he says, regardless of age.

"We use all the resources that we use for a player that usually plays in the Premier League," he said.

"It’s the same that we use for the development of the youngsters. The treatment that a player from the under 23s receives is exactly the same as that as a first team player. I am referring to training, nutrition, control of their performances, theoretical preparation, evaluation of their physical performances, all of the evaluations and all of the things that we could do are identical.”