Leeds United Q and A - Raphinha's fitness, the Whites bargain, Joe Gelhardt's potential, Helder Costa's improvement and season tickets

How close to a comeback is Raphinha? Will Marcelo Bielsa stay beyond this year? Which of the Under 23s will make a breakthrough first?

Wednesday, 4th November 2020, 4:40 pm
CLOSE - Raphinha is close to full fitness again and could be involved at Crystal Palace on Saturday for Leeds United. Pic: Getty

Those are just three of the 28 questions we selected, from dozens submitted, to cover all the major Elland Road talking points in today's Yorkshire Evening Post Q and A.

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Leeds United Q and A

Last updated: Wednesday, 04 November, 2020, 14:21

  • Your questions on the Elland Road talking points

@Calvywalvy2388: Do you think that the absence of fans in the grounds had actually been beneficial to our players? Especially in regards to the Championship run in last season, unpopular opinion I know but I definitely think it has had a positive effect on some players. Although I hate not attending games and the soul of football has been removed I think my point is valid.

I’m fascinated by this as well. I don’t think a player is likely to come out and admit he finds it easier or preferential to play in an empty stadium, because stadiums won’t be empty forever and players are always very cautious not to put themselves in a position where it appears as if they’re criticising fans. There will definitely be moments when the groans of a stand would previously have heightened the tension in a game, whereas now players can misplace a pass and thousands don’t voice their disapproval. For some players, that will help. Stuart Dallas says it doesn’t bother him too much because once the game starts he almost doesn’t notice the noise and atmosphere, others will be like him.

@TBYPHawk: Which of the Under 23s are doing well in training, and can we expect any debuts with the first team in the coming weeks?

The jump to the first team will be harder to make, in the Premier League. But Cody Drameh has looked good for the 23s so far and Joe Gelhardt looks like a player well capable of playing men’s football. He has a strength and a balance to him that marks him out as a bit special and although he’s got a huge job on his hands to break into Bielsa’s first team, he looks destined for good things.

@MJHousley: Who do you see as your first choice centre-back pairing when Koch, Cooper and Llorente are all fit? Surely Bielsa isn’t going to keep a Spanish international and German international on the bench and play a Scottish international, no disrespect to Scotland.

That Scottish international is Liam Cooper, Bielsa’s captain and a player who knows the manager’s football inside and out. When it comes to loyalty, I think back to Bielsa’s treatment of Kiko Casilla last season when he made a number of high profile and costly mistakes. Cooper will continue to enjoy Bielsa’s backing for the meantime, I’m sure of that. It’s an interesting one, though, because you can’t see Diego Llorente being happy to play the Gaetano Berardi third centre-half role for an extensive period. He came to play. So did Koch. 

@AliMcNeill3: How far away is Adam Forshaw do you know? Be like a new signing if we get him back fit soon.

Adam Forshaw hoped to be back in contention for the start of the season and, sadly, was not. When we last asked Marcelo Bielsa the head coach all but wrote off the prospect of seeing Forshaw in the first team any time soon, calling it a long process, insisting there would have to be several Under 23s games first. As yet, there’s no sign of Forshaw in an Under 23s game but every time we talk to the club there are positive noises about his progress. Hopefully it’s not too much longer before he gets himself back on the pitch, but even then there’s a long way to go to get his body completely ready for the demands of first team Bielsaball.

@katie_lufc: Was there any particular reason the De Paul transfer never happened? Seemed very much like it was going to and then just disappeared.

The interest in De Paul was real, contact was made but no bids were ever placed because Udinese’s valuation of the player was above and beyond what Leeds United felt they could or would pay. When I asked Victor Orta this question he said: "[De Paul] was one player we analysed but, in the end, the valuation of his club was at a level that was difficult for Leeds to reach, as a newly promoted club – not just for Leeds but a lot of clubs because, in the end, nobody took him, because of the evaluation of his club, which is fair.”

@elliothorn: We have played seven games so far this season, this time last year we had played 15. Being so used to a Championship fixture list, it seems like there’s an eternity in between each fixtureand I don’t like it! From a coverage point of view do you prefer or dislike the less packed fixture schedule?

Dislike. Strongly dislike. Give me games to write about. Lots of games. There’s a reason international breaks are not popular with newspaper journalists on the club beat and it’s empty pages.

@luke_lufc_wroe: Dallas has now scored inLeague Two, League One, the Championship and Premier League, is he the GOAT Northern Irish player?

He’s not the greatest of all time, but by the time he retires he will have firmly cemented a place among the Northern Irish greats. He’s a hugely significant player for the country with plenty of football ahead of him. 

@tommylufc1: What have you made of Helder Costa since his arrival?

Last season it’s fair to say there were times when Helder Costa did not look like a player worth the amount of money Leeds commited to when they signed him. But I think he’s been getting better and clearly benefitting from time spent under Bielsa. This season I think he’s looked better than he did last season, perhaps with more space to run into in some games, but overall I just think he looks confident of beating players every time he gets the ball and his workrate is impressive to boot.

@LeedsPolska: As you’re there in person why do you think Bielsa got so strict with you journalists at his pressers. I noticed since the promotion he’s no longer giving you long fancy answers, but often one sentence. Why do you think that is?

I think what few people realise is the huge increase in media demands when a team is promoted. Bielsa himself was taken aback by it, but knows his obligations and fulfils them. A pre match press conference might previously have attracted one national journalist, now there are several, along with extra broadcast organisations. If he gave everyone a long answer, the press conference would take two hours. I’m up for that, I’m not sure he is and I’m not sure he has enough time in his day to facilitate it.

You’re not wrong, we have had some press conferences this season when he hasn’t given the same long answers that flowed from him last season. When something irks him, however, you tend to find he will devote more and more time to talking about it. 

@IasonDP: Is our defence a concern considering that last season a lot of our success was based on being defensively very robust, as our attacking efficiency wasn’t reaching the same heights? Are we seeing the higher quality in opposition attacks exploiting our flaws or is it a case of new defensive members needing more time?

Bielsa said it himself, with a wry smile, that in the Premier League mistakes equal goals. When you have players like Jamie Vardy in opposition line-ups, then errors will be pounced upon. At Championship level, strikers generally need more chances to score goals and won’t punish you to the same degree. I wondered about Cooper and Koch needing time to gel, but Bielsa pointed out after the Fulham game that none of their issues in that fixture were caused by a lack of time together, it was simply the quality of Mitrovic. But there has to be an element of settling in. Koch, as it turns out, has settled very nicely and until Leicester had barely put a foot wrong.

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