Marcelo Bielsa's options for Leeds United's clash against Wolves and whether potential gains outweigh possible pitfalls
Marcelo Bielsa will still be without five key options for Saturday's Premier League showdown against Wolves. Four but in reality five.
Patrick Bamford, Luke Ayling, Robin Koch and Junior Firpo remain out injured and the pictures of Kalvin Phillips training this week were not a sign that the England international was about to make a return.
After three weeks out, the Yorkshire Pirlo, says Bielsa, will need more work before taking his place back in the Whites side.
Apart from star winger Raphinha returning, it means it's as you were, Bielsa left with the same options as when heading to last weekend's clash at Southampton, a game in which the Whites failed to muster a single shot on target en route to a 1-0 defeat.
After what he admitted himself had been a very sad week, United's head coach must now decide if there are more potential gains than pitfalls in shuffling his pack for today's clash against Wolves.
One change at least, on the right wing that is, looks certain.
Bielsa decided that star winger Raphinha should not be risked for last Saturday's clash at St Mary's having only completed international duty for Brazil in the early hours of Friday morning.
Despite a rapid return back, the 24-year-old did not even make the bench at Southampton, a bench which featured midfielder Adam Forshaw alongside a host of youngsters.
Bielsa has reported that Raphinha has now acclimatised following his return from Brazil and it seems a no brainer that a player who is fast becoming a Brazilian superstar will start.
That would mean one out of United's two other wingers Jack Harrison or Dan James making way, unless Bielsa opted to shift one of them into a more central role, either as a no 10 or upfront.
On the face of it, that would seem unlikely but James has excelled for Wales as a striker whilst Harrison was occasionally deployed as a central forward player in the earlier days of his time at Leeds.
When established options are thin on the ground, it is something for Bielsa to consider.
Raphinha, James and Harrison, after all, are undoubtedly three of United's best players and can Bielsa afford to be leaving one of them on the bench?
Yet during defeat at St Mary's, Bielsa decided that changing the midfield should be the first port of call as Adam Forshaw replaced record signing striker Rodrigo four minutes after the hour, Tyler Roberts consequently pushed up from the no 10 role to become United's striker as Mateusz Klich moved from no 8 to no 10.
The fact that Forshaw was the first player called for clearly highlighted how prominent he is in Bielsa's thoughts with his injury nightmare now seemingly behind him.
But Leeds failed to improve after the switch at St Mary's, or when youngsters Joe Gelhardt and Cryesencio Summerville were brought on as the second and third changes for Klich and Roberts.
United ended a hugely disappointing afternoon with exciting teen Gelhardt playing upfront on his Premier League debut, supported by Roberts but with three wingers also on the pitch in James, Harrison and Summerville.
Gelhardt and Summerville looked to add energy to United's display but Bielsa himself admitted that Gelhardt would not have been able to show what he was capable of given the late stage at which he was introduced - in the 77th minute.
Summerville was given even less game time than his under-23s team mate in being introduced with just nine minutes left
Wingers is the one commodity Bielsa is not short of so Summerville remains one for another day but is the time for Gelhardt here and now?
If 13 minutes is not long enough to show what he can do then should the 19-year-old not be given much longer, especially with Rodrigo and Roberts not setting the bar high at St Mary's.
It is something else for Bielsa to consider, in addition to who starts in the middle of the park, an area Leeds were clearly lacking in at St Mary's although a switch from a 3-3-1-3 to a 4-1-4-1 looks likely against Wolves who have often lined up with a front three so therein one through the middle.
To a degree, given the injuries, Bielsa's hands are tied.
In the absence of Firpo, Stuart Dallas will almost certainly at left back and highly likely next to captain Liam Cooper and Diego Llorente at centre back.
But could and should Jamie Shackleton be moved into centre midfield rather than cover for Ayling at right back and consequently Cody Drameh be let off the leash on the right side of the back four?
Is it too soon? Or is it needs musts? A move that would make Pascal Struijk another centre back option, as opposed to being the likely CDM.
And is it time that summer Academy recruit Lewis Bate was finally introduced to the Whites first team as an another option in the middle of the park?
They are all points for United's head coach to consider but it might well be that the potential gains now outweigh the pitfalls of changing things up.
Bielsa won't alter what he is trying to do, that has been common knowledge for some time. Plan B, after all, is to make plan A better.
The question, though, is whether there are now better options to put that plan into place.
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Thank you Laura Collins