Leeds United has been in decent form in recent weeks, and they have found themselves in the top half of the table again as they overtook Arsenal after their convincing 3-0 win against Southampton in their Monday night game against Southampton.
Goals from Stuart Dallas, Patrick Bamford, and Raphinha sealed a comfortable away win for the men in white. However, what must have impressed Marcelo Bielsa more is his team’s defensive performance, as they managed their 2nd clean sheet in nine games.
Leeds United, for a club, promoted back to the big time has been incredibly good on the attacking front. However, they have been equally poor defensively and have all the frailties of a club that just got promoted to the Premier League.
They have conceded 43 goals in 25 Premier League games this season, with only West Bromwich Albion conceding more than them with 55. Marcelo Bielsa was aware of this defensive issue of his team, courtesy of which, Leeds United went out in the summer and splashed 17 million Euros for Diego Llorente, the Spanish center-back who had long impressed with his performances at Real Sociedad.
Diego Llorente is a proper commander of a backline and what sets the Spaniard apart from his compatriots is his immense concentration in the defence and his ability to play out from the back. However, things did not work out the way Llorente would have wanted them to with the 27-year-old getting injured soon after he was brought to Elland Road.
The defender made his debut in early December when he came on against Chelsea for the injured Robin Koch. The Spaniard had yet another injury that kept him out for one more month, after which he was named in the starting XI for the Whites against Newcastle United towards the back-end of January. But as fate would have it, the defender had a muscle strain in the 10th minute of the game and had to be substituted after which Marcelo Bielsa was sure that the defender could be out for more than 4 weeks this time.
But in some good news for Leeds United, Diego Llorente joined up with the team earlier than expected and was fielded against Southampton on Monday night and the defender provided an assured performance at the back.
THE SPANIARD’S RETURN COULD NOT HAVE COME AT A BETTER TIME:
Leeds United have recently lost about 4 games in which the difference between the two teams was only 1 goal and they have lost some important points here. The reason for these losses could be a lack of attacking creativity but was also their defensive woes at the back. Diego Llorente could solve them in a pinch as he looked his sure self again when he started the game against Southampton as he looks to justify the 17 million Euros that was spent on him to bring him to the club. Llorente’s range of passing is something Leeds United clearly missed, while the 6ft 2inch defender is also a big aerial presence in the air and a threat during set-pieces.
Leeds United’s game plan focuses on a high-intensity press and requires the players to run with the ball in possession and to chase down the ball efficiently when the team loses the ball. It may not always be a good idea to press opposition teams, as experienced teams like Manchester City know exactly how to work past a press and create several chances behind opposition lines.
When you are playing in such a team, it is always good to have somebody like Diego Llorente, who can play the right pass out from the back while also commanding the backline to stop any opposition counter-attacks. A great example of this is Virgil Van Dijk. Liverpool operates in a similar high functioning press and are prone to counterattacks. However, the center back’s pace and tactical awareness help Liverpool retain the ball back quickly and attack the opposition almost immediately.
Diego Llorente has similar traits to the Dutch center back and is great at sensing out danger and helping his team counter-attack opposition lines immediately. What Llorente also possesses is stepping into midfield and breaking up play or also creating an extra man in midfield to outnumber the opposition in that zone and create goal-scoring opportunities for the wing-backs and the attackers.
Leeds’s high flying pressing game must have worked them in the Championship, however, they are in the Premier League now and Marcelo Bielsa must understand that there is time to attack and a time to defend. Diego Llorente is somebody who understands the distinction, which is why the defender is such a calming presence in an otherwise chaotic pressing team. However, Bielsa must use the defender wisely, as he is just back from injury and the last thing Leeds would want now is another injury to Diego Llorente.