MARCELO BIELSA’S movements speak volumes about how the Leeds United head coach views this summer’s pre-season.
As a squad of 16 departed for the club’s pre-season tour of Australia on Saturday, Whites head coach Bielsa stayed put with those left behind at Thorp Arch.
Helder Costa, Mateusz Klich, Jack Clarke, Ben White. The list goes on.
Big players giving the pre-season tour of Australia a miss to concentrate on fitness work at United’s training ground just outside Wetherby.
Leeds might be taking on big rivals Manchester United in Perth today with Bielsa flying in for the game but there is much more to Leeds’ summer and preparations for the new season than the club’s pre-season tour of Australia.
Yet while the importance of the ongoing fitness work at Thorp Arch for those left behind cannot be doubted, all eyes will be on United’s two games Down Under which ultimately could present five youngsters in particular an optimum moment to shine.
Bielsa has opted to split his squad with 16 players waking up to their third morning in Australia today but with some of United’s summer signings and those having recently faced international duty left at home.
Marquee summer recruit Costa heads those left behind along with fellow new acquisition and Brighton loanee White as well as Tottenham Hotspur’s new recruit but now Leeds loanee Clarke.
Polish international Klich, new England under-20s midfielder Jamie Shackleton, Macedonian star Alioski, and Northern Ireland’s Bailey Peacock-Farrell fall into the category of those to have recently faced international duty though the same is true of Peacock-Farrell’s international team-mate Dallas who is part of the group in Australia.
Big-name players Luke Ayling and Tyler Roberts are also staying behind after recent injury problems which all in all left Bielsa with essentially 11 recognised first teamers heading for Australia in Kiko Casilla, Barry Douglas, Liam Cooper, Gaetano Berardi, Dallas, Kalvin Phillips, Adam Forshaw, Jack Harrison, Pablo Hernandez, Kemar Roofe and Patrick Bamford – the possible starting XI against the Red Devils in Perth today perhaps.
But Bielsa needed a squad and not just an XI to send Down Under with young goalkeeper Kamil Miazek sent as back up to Casilla along with Jordan Stevens, Mateusz Bogusz, Clarke Oduor and Bryce Hosannah.
Wherever the priorities lie, a large group of talented youngsters including Pascal Struijk, Robbie Gotts, Leif Davis, Ryan Edmondson and Kun Temenuzhkov have been left behind with the spotlight potentially now falling on Miazek, Bogusz, Stevens, Oduor and Hosannah Down Under.
Of that travelling quintet, only 19-year-old winger Stevens has a Whites first-team league outing to his name with the teen brought on with 14 minutes left of January’s Championship clash at Stoke City and in difficult circumstances with Leeds 1-0 down and down to 10 men after the sending off of Pontus Jansson.
But Stevens continued to impress for United’s under-23s with the teen winger then making the bench for April’s 2-0 win at Preston North End and selected amongst the substitutes ahead of fellow forwards Jack Clarke and Izzy Brown, the Chelsea loanee.
“He has all the necessary skills to play on the side in attack,” said Bielsa of Stevens in April.
“He has good quality and speed too.”
Signed from Forest Green Rovers in January 2018, the tour of Australia gives Stevens another chance to impress and the same is true of Bogusz who is quickly making an ascension towards the top.
Just 17, Bogusz is arguably already even higher up the pecking order than Stevens albeit in a different position with the Polish attacking midfielder only joining Leeds from Ruch Chorzow back in January but quick to make an impression with United’s under-23s.
Alongside another youngster who Bielsa rates highly in centre-back Struijk, Polish under-20s international Bogusz then made the bench for both legs of United’s Championship play-off semi final.
Asked about Bogusz back in March, United’s star Polish midfielder Klich’s response about his country compatriot spoke volumes.
“It’s not like I can give him any advice because he’s 17 and going to probably be better than me!” said Klich.
“If he needs anything, I am here for him. I’m very curious about him because he looks like a good player.”
Praise indeed for an attacking midfielder who netted the winning goal in the 2-1 pre-season victory at Guiseley last week with a place on the plane in Australia presenting another opportunity to excel.
And the same is true of Miazek, Oduor and Hosannah with 22-year-old Pole Miazek having been given the nod as the no 2 shotstopper Down Under at a time when the goalkeeping position at Leeds remains under much scrutiny.
Casilla will be looking to steady the ship and quickly move on from his play-offs mishap in Australia but Polish under-21s international and 2017 recruit Miazek will also be looking to impress to push himself up the pecking order as another player who has already made the Whites bench.
Nairobi-born Academy graduate Oduor, meanwhile, is the only other member of the young Whites quintet to have already made a first-team appearance having come on as an 87th-minute substitute in the 2-1 loss at QPR back in January in the FA Cup third round.
The versatile 20-year-old Kenyan winger signed a new two-year contract only in February and will be taking inspiration from the rapid emergency of Shackleton last term with Oduor also held in high regard.
And former Crystal Palace youngster Hosannah travels as arguably the most to gain with the 20-year-old London-born right-back who has also impressed for United’s under-23s the only travelling member of the party yet to make the Whites bench.
With only 16 travelling, the September 2017 recruit will definitely make the bench against Manchester United and what a chance to impress for all five youngsters both against the Red Devils and on tour as a whole.