Panic button not required but addition of exciting youngster could help Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United with 'plan A'

Marcelo Bielsa felt Leeds United did not deserve to lose Saturday’s clash against West Ham at Elland Road.

Sunday, 26th September 2021, 4:36 pm
Updated Sunday, 26th September 2021, 4:40 pm

You can see why. On another day, the Whites could have been out of sight.

So too could the Hammers and the problem for Leeds is that ruing what might have been is becoming more and more common.

Yet six games in is still far too early to panic for a side who will be intent on executing plan A better although the time also feels right to now unleash Joe Gelhardt too.

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WAITING IN THE WINGS: Exciting 19-year-old forward Joe Gelhardt who was an unused substitute during Saturday's 2-1 defeat at home to West Ham. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

As has been the case with plenty of games during Bielsa’s tenure, Saturday’s clash against West Ham is a difficult one to look back on and assess, hence Bielsa’s analysis in his post match press conference.

“I don’t think that we deserved to lose but I imagine that the opponent’s manager thinks that they deserved to win,” said the Whites head coach.

The stats lean towards any arguments suggesting that the visitors were worthy winners as West Ham side mustered 20 shots on goal of which seven were on target, compared to 15 from Leeds, five of which required saving.

Leeds have now faced the most shots of any team in the Premier League over the first six games of the season - 112 of them - and that is a worry.

But United are always likely to concede chances such is their style of play and that is why it is so imperative that Leeds take theirs.

Albeit after some smart saves from Illan Meslier, there is no denying that United were in pole position to take all three points from Saturday’s contest before badly fading after the break.

There are several factors worth highlighting and the opportunity that Klich rolled wide when Leeds were 1-0 up felt like a pivotal moment in the game.

United were still attacking with pizzazz, players racing forward, and Klich had loads of space and time to produce the desired finish, or to play in a free Jack Harrison on the overlap.

In the end, the Pole whose coolness helped set up Raphinha’s opener could only place his shot wide and within minutes West Ham were level and on their way to victory.

Star winger Raphinha was also forced off just moments after West Ham equalised to be replaced by Tyler Roberts and the wind just seemed to evaporate from United’s sails. It must be remembered that Leeds also had six players out including star striker Patrick Bamford.

Bielsa’s side kept running and trying, as they always do, but their attacking endeavour proved their undoing as Declan Rice was able to race up field from a 90th-minute counter before playing in Michail Antonio who was never likely to miss.

It means Leeds are still seeking a first win of the 2021-22 Premier League campaign and are now in the drop zone, sitting third-bottom on just three points.

The table, albeit an early one, does not make for nice viewing but there was still more than enough in United’s display to suggest they will be more than fine in terms of achieving their first port of call in staying in the division although, as ever, tightening up defensively and taking chances will be key.

Leeds could and should have beaten both Burnley and Newcastle who are both in the bottom four but that aside it should be remembered that United have now faced four of the division's top seven.

But if there is something new to add to the mix then surely it is Gelhardt - the forward who is affectionately known as Joffy and who has looked particularly potent in United’s two last games for the under-23s.

Having scored a ridiculously impressive brace of wonder goals in a 4-0 romp at Liverpool’s under-23s, 19-year-old forward Gelhardt was finally handed his Whites first team debut as a second half substitute in Tuesday night’s Carabao Cup clash at Fulham.

Gelhardt hardly got a kick and the jump between under-23s football and first team action in the Premier League is huge.

But Charlie Cresswell showed it can be done with a stellar display on his league debut on Saturday and Gelhardt looks a very special talent.

Even after no wins in six, this is no time to panic and rest assured Bielsa will be focused on executing his plan better and he probably will.

Beating Watford next weekend also looks very important indeed.

But even if it’s as a substitute, a very talented 19-year-old young forward might well now help United’s cause.

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Thank you Laura Collins