Marcelo Bielsa reflects on Leeds United's tactical switch against Wolves amid praise for Pedro Neto

The Whites fell to a 1-0 defeat at Wolves on Friday night.

Saturday, 20th February 2021, 12:20 pm
Leeds United midfielder Jamie Shackleton in action at Wolves. Pic: Getty

Marcelo Bielsa reflected on a tactical switch for Leeds United that saw Jamie Shackleton move into midfield at Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The Whites were beaten narrowly 1-0 at Molineux in the Premier League on Friday night in a closely-fought encounter.

Nuno Espirito Santo saw the hosts claim the top flight spoils thanks to an inadvertent own goal from goalkeeper Illan Meslier as an Adama Traore shot cannoned off the woodwork onto the goalkeeper.

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Leeds missed a trio of chances through club captain Liam Cooper before striker Patrick Bamford saw a goal chalked off due to an offside flag which VAR ruled was marginally correct.

Bielsa opted to swap his side around for the trip to the Midlands as Tyler Roberts replaced Gjanni Alioski in the starting line-up.

The move meant Stuart Dallas dropped into left-back and Shackleton - who had been deployed at right-back against Arsenal - switched into central midfield.

As a result Pascal Struijk also dropped back to link up with Cooper in his natural position in defence.

Shackleton and Mateusz Klich were called upon to share the defensive load in the middle of the park with Kalvin Phillips remaining sidelined due to a calf injury.

The England international's absence has caused a headache for Bielsa in recent weeks but the Argentine boss felt that despite defeat the solution at Wolves worked to good effect.

"He [Shackleton] defended like a defensive midfielder, but he attacked like an eight," Bielsa said post-match.

"Between him and [Mateusz] Klich they combined the duties of a defensive midfielder and those of a number eight.

"There wasn't an offensive midfielder between the two defensive midfielders and the striker. This meant that they didn't have a defence to pass that was too demanding.

"That meant he had to start in front of [Joao] Moutinho and [Ruben] Neves and to end behind those two players."

Despite missing a number of chances in the opposition box, Cooper again put in a solid performance at the back for Leeds on a testing night.

The 29-year-old helped keep the likes of Traore, Pedro Neto and Willian Jose quiet for much of the encounter alongside Struijk.

Bielsa - who welcomed Diego Llorente back to his squad for the clash - believes his skipper has taken to the top flight with no issues whatsoever.

"From my point of view, with no inconvenience," Bielsa answered when asked about Cooper's step up into the Premier League.

"He’s a player that defends very well. He goes to face very well, he protects well his back. He shines with his aerial game and he’s good with the ball. All of this, he expresses with regularity in most of the games."

Wolves winger Traore took the plaudits post-match for his role in the winning goal, but the Leeds boss picked out another player who caused huge problems for the visitors throughout.

"[Adama] Traore is a forward who is complicated but if you look back on the game, independent of the goal, you can see if he unbalanced the game for them or not," Bielsa added.

"For me personally the number seven [Pedro Neto] was their most important player.

"It's very common that they use this type of resource [switching wingers]. To put a right footer on the left and left footer on the right."