Former Leeds United forward Noel Whelan has backed Marcelo Bielsa to bench first-team regular Ezgjan Alioski for the visit of West Bromwich Albion to Elland Road, after the North Macedonia international struggled against Charlton Athletic.
Alioski began the Whites’ trip to the Valley on Saturday once again at left-back, which was the 27-year-old’s sixth start and eighth outing of the term (WhoScored), having returned to the role against Brentford after Bielsa initially favoured Barry Douglas.
Bielsa was forced into the change midway through August when one-time Scotland international Douglas was sidelined through injury, with the Glasgow-born defender resigned to just 23 minutes from the bench since last starting a game for the West Yorkshire outfit (TransferMarkt).
Whelan now feels Bielsa is ready to once again roll the dice with his selection at left-back, having hauled Alioski off at half-time on Saturday after being left unimpressed by his defensive efforts.
“He took him off at half-time against Charlton to go to three at the back, and that tells you Bielsa wasn’t happy with him,” Whelan told Football Insider. “Alioski has great energy and will run all day but, when it comes to defending, he goes to ground and sells himself too often.
“Bielsa is worried about him in defensive situations. He should be, as Barry Douglas is a better defender and a proven left-back. Alioski has plenty to offer and you always get 100 per cent from him, but Bielsa may be thinking the West Brom game is the ideal time for a change, with the matches coming thick and fast.
“We know Bielsa doesn’t like to rotate or make changes, but it’s an obvious decision to make.”
Before his departure from the action at Charlton, Alioski had won just one of his three attempted tackles and offered no clearances or interceptions, which was the lowest tackle success rate of any Leeds man at that stage (WhoScored).
Alioski also offered little defensive support in the home defeat against Derby County the week prior, as well, as he only recorded one interception and one clearance in a display that featured no successful tackles.
Those games were of stark contrast to his efforts against Barnsley, Swansea City and Stoke City, where he penned four, six and three tackles respectively. [via WhoScored]
If Bielsa is concerned that his latest tendencies are a sign of what is to come, restoring Douglas to the starting line-up like Whelan has suggested would not be a ludicrous move by the Argentine, as the Queen’s Park product is a much-more known quantity defensively, having averaged 2.4 successful tackles from 3.3 attempts last term alongside 2.3 clearances and 0.8 interceptions.
Eddie Nketiah or Patrick Bamford?
Leeds fans, who would you start at left-back against West Brom on Tuesday? Let us know in the comments below…
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