David Prutton: Why Pablo Hernandez is proving age is no barrier at Leeds United under Marcelo Bielsa

YEP columnist David Prutton pens his weekly thoughts as Leeds United prepare for a trip to Luton Town this afternoon

By Joe Urquhart
Saturday, 23rd November 2019, 6:00 am

There’s no better place to start than Pablo Hernandez and his new deal; a player who epitomises the craft and skill Marcelo Bielsa has implemented at Elland Road since his arrival.

Pablo has been a great servant to Leeds since he arrived and I think it’s a wonderful statement and a nice touch from the club because of the length of it.

As we all know, once you start creeping upwards in your thirties, players for some reason are viewed with a bit of suspicion but Pablo seems to have got increasingly better as time has gone on.

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Leeds United's Pablo Hernandez celebrates.

He’s such a wonderful, creative footballer and so important for the side that he’s been quite rightly rewarded.

Obviously a few eyebrows were raised that it was a two-year extension and then you add in the fact that he will be 37 when it expires but I think Leeds realise just quite how unique he is because he offers things that other players simply don’t.

He’s part of a hard-working dressing room and a big role model for the youngsters at the training ground. It’s great credit to both sides that they recognise the benefits of keeping him at Elland Road for the next couple of years at least.

Who knows if it could even be longer?

There’s been talk of him being used differently and it will be up to how fit he feels and what his numbers are looking like as to whether you think as his contract runs on that it might be the case.

He was a real talisman for Bielsa last season and you look at perhaps the way that David Silva has been used at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola recently as a possible avenue in future.

There’s a slight difference in the approach and they’re not exactly the same player but when you’re talking about influence on their individual teams then there are certainly parallels.

It comes with any footballing career that your mind is willing but sometimes as you get older your body can’t keep up but with Pablo I don’t see that at all yet, and it’ll be up to Bielsa to monitor that situation and address it if it’s ever needed.

Maybe towards the end of the two years it might be the case but even if it was he doesn’t strike me as a player who would kick up a fuss in that situation.

His worth to the club, the fans and the rest of the team is probably what makes it a great deal to have done. He’s still one of the best players in the Championship and that’s in a division which is seen as extremely unforgiving and physical.

He has the ability to always find space and that old cliche of always seeming to have so much time on the ball compared to everyone else. That type of positioning has been and will be crucial as he does get a little older.

When I was playing, you saw it with a few players that it was all in their heads as they entered their later years. It didn’t really matter if they weren’t as quick as everyone else around the pitch because they just thought quicker; it’s a special talent.

People have started comparing Tyler Roberts and looking towards him as a potential player to fill that creative void in the future and there are certainly elements that are similar between the two.

I think they are very much their own men and they’d both want it that way, but if Tyler can take Pablo’s lead and dovetail it into facets of his own game then he will be onto a winner.

Tyler is in the perfect place to learn from a fantastic head coach and a phenomenal team-mate who has mastered the position he is still very much learning.

We’re obviously hurtling towards the Christmas period and a lot of people put weight into the importance of it due to how many points can be won and lost in quick succession.

There’s a chance to string results together but I think the first port of call has to be just trying to maintain the pace for Leeds. If a bad result drops, you have chance to put it right very quickly and a lot of players and managers love that aspect.

Bielsa has already spoken about wanting two players for each position over this run and that is a very strong place to be in as a squad.

He’s had a number of injuries already but it has looked seamless watching on the way they all know their positions and where they are required to be.

Stuart Dallas is probably someone who epitomises the ethos Marcelo has created.

I think I’m right in saying he played four positions for Northern Ireland last week against the Netherlands.

As someone who could just about play one to a decent standard I find that incredible and what a tip of the hat it is to both Bielsa and Stuart that he feels comfortable and confient in doing that.

Before we get to the festive period Luton will be the focus first of all and you can’t help but admire how they set up and the style of football they try to play.

They’ve risen very quickly back up the Football League after a torrid few years where they dropped out with almost a swagger.

Maybe people have been expecting a little more from them this season but I believe – and this isn’t meant to be condescending – that if they’re above the dotted line at the end of the season then that is progress.

Graeme Jones will, of course, have aspirations that are higher than that and Leeds will, as ever, have to be ready for another tough Championship battle.