Illan Meslier deserves chance in Leeds United net but Kiko Casilla likely to bounce back - David Prutton
THERE definitely hasn’t been much love for Leeds United goalkeeper Kiko Casilla in the run up to Valentine’s Day.
Three mistakes that have led to goals in United’s last three games have led to plenty of calls for Illan Meslier to be given a chance in goal.
We have only seen Meslier in the third round FA Cup clash at Arsenal in January when he looked good and very composed on the ball.
But that was one game and I think Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa is looking for the composure that comes with experience to kick in with Casilla.
Casilla has not exactly covered himself in the best light of late and it’s a huge statement dropping a goalkeeper.
But I am surprised that Marcelo has not given Meslier another chance because we are not talking about errors that are debatable.
We are talking about glaring mistakes from a goalkeeper and there is just no hiding place.
That’s just part and parcel of being a player in that position and if you miscontrol the ball then all eyes are on you.
If you look at Casilla’s mistake at Brentford where he failed to control Liam Cooper’s back pass, it’s something that happens to all footballers.
There was not much Casilla could do with the ball back from Liam and even if he takes a touch out to his right hand side then he is getting closed down.
He has got to take it back across his body and clear it with his left foot but it’s the nature of being a goalkeeper that mistakes lead to goals.
If you misplace a pass, miss a touch or miscontrol a ball and you are a midfielder, forward or a defender then you have still got someone else to get you out of the mess.
But unfortunately in Casilla’s case it’s not like that.
I am not really surprised that Marcelo’s stubbornness has led to him saying he will stick with Casilla and say this is how we are doing this.
But it is surprising when you have got a keeper like Meslier waiting in the wings because he looks good and he deserves a chance.
Casilla’s mistake at Brentford quite clearly cost his team two points but it’s been brought into sharper focus because of the general form of the team.
Brentford keeper David Raya made a mistake against Hull City but the fact that Brentford put five past the opposition meant that nobody cared.
But missing chances at one end of the field and gifting chances to the opposition in a wretched run of form just means there is more focus on it.
I can see Casilla bouncing back and the good thing with football is that you can always redress the balance and answer the critics very quickly.
But we have mentioned many times before how the game against Derby County went in the play-offs last May.
Right now we are looking at league games carrying much needed points but the Derby game was not even about points and all or nothing, all about the result.
And in that game you found a goalkeeper there in Casilla who was still found wanting despite his experience.
There is a lot of pressure on him and he has big questions to answer but he seems like a confident fellow and that’s why you get the feeling that you will probably get a pretty decent performance out of him in this afternoon’s hosting of Bristol City.
Marcelo has made hardly any changes to his side during this recent difficult run but Leeds have come this far and if the last 14 games mirror what they did in the opening 14 games then it will be okay.
But fingers are obviously being pointed about the lack of an out and out goal-scoring striker and instead one who can be profligate and the general confidence of the team.
I thought last weekend’s game at Forest was pretty close but Forest raised their game because they were playing against Leeds.
They then went and lost at home to Charlton Athletic on Tuesday night.
But Leeds must know and will see that every single team that comes up against them will raise their game, almost to a man.
Brentford boss Thomas Frank said Leeds are the best team they had played or had the potential to the best team so people know what they can do.
It’s just about doing it and getting over the line.
It’s more about results than performances now and I think Leeds fans would take 14 gritty turgid 1-0 grinds rather than beautiful games just until they get over the line.
United’s next opponents Bristol City were not at the races at all last Friday when they were well beaten at Birmingham City but they then raced into a healthy lead against Derby County on Wednesday but it was slightly jittery towards the end.
Providing their turn up on the day, Leeds should win. But whether it’s their day or not is the question and you definitely have to put Bristol City firmly in the promotion picture too.
It’s now very tight with only three points back from second to seventh and you have got to admire what West Brom have done in recovering from a little mini blip and being ruthless and seeing games out to open up a six point lead at the top.
Leeds have just got to keep pace with that.
If the season ends and the league looks like it does now then job done but it’s going to be very tight and there is going to be a lot of anxiety in these last few months.
As a neutral I find it absolutely fascinating but I could totally see how Leeds fans would be gnawing their fingernails to the bone.