Two heavy defeats within a fairly miserable week saw Leeds United’s goals against number grow to a joint-Premier League-high seventeen.
While a semi-exposed defence may be an inherent risk of Marcelo Bielsa’s famed style of play, the Whites did build their Championship winning-campaign on a certain amount of solidity at the back, forming the tightest backline the division.
With that in mind and considering some of the frailties exposed in two consecutive 4-1 losses, news from The Athletic will be welcome.
They reveal that summer signing Diego Llorente is making gradually making progress on the groin injury that has ruled him out of any action so far.
Whether or not his presence alone will be enough to help plug the gaps emerging in the rearguard remains to be seen of course but Bielsa spoke highly of the Spanish international upon his arrival at Elland Road.
Quoted by Sky Sports following his signing, Bielsa said ‘he has a sufficient quality to play in the Premier League’.
Indeed, looking at his passing stats above, it’s easy to see what he’d bring once fully fit and raring to go.
While his numbers in terms of purely defensive metrics aren’t wholly different to that of Liam Cooper’s, Llorente does marginally beat him in terms of passing. Should he operate alongside Robin Koch in a two or even next to both in a three-man unit, perhaps he could help bring a further element of control to proceedings.
In theory, having a player capable of keeping a hold of the ball even slightly better should help lower the chance of potentially being hit on the counter, an issue Phil Hay pointed out in the same report in regards to Crystal Palace’s opener.
None of this is to undermine Cooper’s importance to the cause (no one in their squad has won more aerial duels this season) but the return of Llorente will make their ability to play out from the back stronger.
A difficult period for Leeds United but things could soon get better.
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