Leeds United opportunities arise against West Ham and time to sink or swim - David Prutton

Tuesday night’s victory on penalties against Fulham in the Carabao Cup was an important moment for Leeds United.

Saturday, 25th September 2021, 4:45 am

I think Marcelo Bielsa will take any victory in any competition and if you look at the names that were standing out with regards to how he set the team up at Craven Cottage then you can see that Bielsa took it very seriously.

I don’t think that Leeds have got the luxury to be able to prioritise and to just pick and choose, not taking this or that competition seriously.

It is absolutely correct that the ultimate is the Premier League - it is the holy grail for Leeds, they have to stay in the top-flight.

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OPPORTUNITY: Tyler Roberts, above, could get a Leeds United start against West Ham with Patrick Bamford out injured. Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images.

Cup runs are nice but it’s great if Bielsa gets plenty out of his players in games such as the one at Craven Cottage in which he also has the chance to drop in lads that he would like to see a bit more of - the likes of Charlie Cresswell and Crysencio Summerville.

It’s what that competition is for but, ultimately, any kind of victory breeds confidence.

The game against Fulham was obviously decided on penalties but the Carabao Cup games now go straight to a shoot-out which means Leeds didn’t have to endure another 30 minutes or so of tearing around the pitch.

The move towards games going straight to penalties has been widely welcomed and Tuesday evening’s success stands Leeds in very good stead for what is going to be a very tough game against West Ham today.

Leeds have plenty of injuries and I can see Cresswell starting against the Hammers at centre back.

Bielsa opted not to throw Cresswell on in the closing stages of the previous Friday night’s draw at Newcastle United after Luke Ayling became injured.

He chose, instead, to push Kalvin Phillips back into defence. But Cresswell played the full match at Fulham and was able to be part of a team that played well and beat the Cottagers, albeit via the lottery of penalties

That will have given Charlie a good sense of what it is like to play with the likes of Kalvin and the players in and around him.

If he does start today, it will be one hell of a test against West Ham.

They have got the force of Michail Antonio coming back and they have had a good start to the season.

They had a very good victory at Manchester United in midweek, albeit with 10 changes to the side, but they are a very dangerous team and it’s going to be a really tough game.

The only way we are going to find out about Cresswell is to throw him in and give him genuine Premier League minutes.

As is always the case when it comes to young players asserting themselves, it’s then a case of sink or swim.

Maybe that sounds a bit cut and dried but it’s not because Bielsa is very much a nurturing coach who wants the best for his players long term, both footballing-wise and mentality-wise.

But when situations like the current one do occur, players have to step forward. It has always happened - it’s just the way it is.

This is how chances and careers are created.

There’s a door that opens and you step through it and you take it with both hands if that’s what Charlie’s position is going to be later today.

Leeds are going to be without Patrick Bamford against West Ham which means either Rodrigo or Tyler Roberts will play up front.

The position that Roberts has found himself in is playing second fiddle to a striker that has asserted himself as the out and out first choice for Bielsa and Leeds going forward, particularly because of how specific the head coach sets the team up and what he wants from that centre forward and the players who are playing in and around him.

With Roberts, it’s akin to the Cresswell situation, if the door opens then somebody has got to step through it.

You get the feeling that whoever is a striker playing at Leeds, Bamford is going to be first choice and then players are going to have to bide their time, while also being very good team-mates and very good squad members.

If Roberts gets the chance he has got to take it and the same with Rodrigo if he is played there because over the course of his time at Elland Road, Bamford’s shoes have proved to be big ones to fill.

Collectively as a team, there have been bright spots over the course of the opening weeks of the season for Leeds.

But you have got to start getting points on the board and you have got to look at lessons learned from games like the Newcastle one.

West Ham have been wonderful under David Moyes last season and at the start of this one but now is the time to start accruing points.

The games come thick and fast and then we dip off for another international break.

Leeds cannot let any more games slip away from them.

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Thank you Laura Collins