'One Stuart Dallas' - so how will Leeds United adapt without 'heart and soul' Whites star?

Stuart Dallas has played in just about every position during nearly seven years at Leeds United Football Club.

By Lee Sobot
Monday, 2nd May 2022, 4:46 pm
Updated Monday, 2nd May 2022, 4:47 pm

Not up front, and not in goal, although you wouldn’t put it past him.

But Leeds will now be without their versatile reigning Player of the Year for a lengthy period of time and his absence will be felt far more than in just a positional sense.

Leeds United’s weekend was dreadful for a number of reasons, the triple-whammy of defeat at home to Manchester City either side of Burnley’s victory at Watford and Everton’s beating of Chelsea leaving United’s destiny in staying up out of their own hands.

'HEART AND SOUL': Leeds United ace Stuart Dallas, pictured in January's 3-2 victory at West Ham, is going to be a huge miss for the Whites in more ways than one. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

That, though, is based on the theory of relegation rivals Everton and Burnley winning all of their remaining games which is almost certainly not going to happen.

Not impossible, but hardly likely.

The fact also remains that if Everton fail to add another two points then the Whites will survive without needing to add to their tally but that too seems most unlikely given the Toffees’ recent resurgence in form, especially at Goodison Park.

In all likelihood, Leeds are going to need to significantly add to their 33-point haul in their final four games and must do so minus the services of Dallas who suffered a femoral fracture after colliding with Jack Grealish in Saturday’s defeat to City.

Quite when Dallas will return is impossible to predict but United need to ensure they are a Premier League side for when he is mended and the void to fill is twofold, both positionally and in a presence/leadership sense.

When it comes to the latter, Marsch has repeatedly talked about his leadership group which will be needed more than ever without the extremely influential and popular Dallas, a player now dubbed the ‘Cookstown Cafu’.

United’s England international star Kalvin Phillips summed up the feeling about Dallas on his Instagram story this weekend.

“Killed me to see you in so much pain,” he wrote. “You don’t deserve this but you will be back stronger. Man of the people Stuart Dallas.”

Marsch admitted after Saturday's reverse that Leeds had lost a player who is "a big part of the heart and soul of our group."

Without him, United’s leadership group - led by captain Liam Cooper and in which Marsch wants Phillips to become even more influential - will be more important than ever.

But then there is the extremely complicated task of dealing with the absence of Dallas in a positional sense given that the 31-year-old Northern Ireland international provides numerous solutions through his presence.

In Saturday’s clash at City, Dallas lined up as a right wing-back next to a back-three of Luke Aying, Robin Koch and Pascal Struijk as Junior Firpo made his return from injury as the left wing-back.

The terrible injury to Dallas meant another reshuffle at a time when Leeds were already without Cooper, Adam Forshaw, Patrick Bamford, Tyler Roberts and Crysencio Summerville.

Consequently, Raphinha, of all people, moved to the unfamiliar position of right wing-back after Dan James was introduced from the bench. Not exactly ideal for the Selecao star.

But Marsch’s formation at the weekend felt like a one-off, something introduced with City in mind, and without Dallas the likelihood would be that Firpo would start at left-back with Ayling reverting to his natural right-back role.

Cooper, Koch, Diego Llorente and Charlie Cresswell would then be vying for the centre-back positions, assuming Cooper is fit.

Marsch, though, will be left without a valuable option when it comes to shuffling matters around given that Dallas has been able to fill in seamlessly at right-back, left-back or in midfield of late, six years after being signed as a winger.

With Forshaw also injured, Leeds are looking at just Phillips, Mateusz Klich and Koch as the three leading candidates for the two holding roles in front of the back-four.

There are, of course, other younger possibilities from within, Jamie Shackleton as both a right-back and centre midfielder possible.

Lewis Bate has also looked outstanding in the middle of the park for the Under-23s of late. Then there’s the extremely promising 18-year-old Norwegian U21 international Leo Hjelde to consider at left-back so Marsch still has plenty of options.

None, though, quite like the man he lost at the weekend.

“There’s only one Stuart Dallas” chanted the Elland Road faithful and they are absolutely right.