Despite losing their first game of the season last night, Leeds have played some of the best football not just in the Championship but also in the country.
Although Marcelo Bielsa is the new manager at the club, Leeds haven’t brought in too many changes to the first-team squad. Instead, the Argentinian has mostly used players that were at the club before but has also chosen to use academy product, Jamie Shackleton.
Named in the Leeds squad to play in their pre-season friendlies in Myanmar at the backend of last season, Shackleton made his first start for the club in their pre-season friendly against York City. Sometimes with the introduction of a new manager, a young player can struggle to progress but under Marcelo Bielsa, Shackleton was kept in the squad and made his debut against Derby in Leeds’ 4-1 win.
Since then, he has gone on to make two more starts for the club, both at right-back. Although he is primarily a midfielder, in both occasions he’s done very well at full-back and even grabbed an assist against Swansea. Such were the impressive performances of the 18-year-old that Barry Douglas praised him following the draw with Swansea.
Although he’s done well at right-back, ultimately his future lies in midfield. A small and creative player, Shackleton is a technically gifted midfielder. Capable of picking the ball up from the back but also bursting forward, Shackleton is a very dynamic player and isn’t just one to play the easy pass. In Bielsa’s midfield, the 18-year-old could fit easily into Kalvin Phillip’s role at the base or even Mateusz Klich’s – pushing further forward to support the attack – and he can make the fans forget all about the summer loss of Ronaldo Vieira in the long-term.
Defensively, he still needs to work on his game but with time and experience he will improve on that front. Moreover, while his stature may be less of a problem going forward, in defence, he could be exploited.
Over the season, he will certainly see more game time as Bielsa’s high-tempo style of football takes its toll on the squad. The Argentinian has employed a high press and quick transition style of play, Phillips and Klich have done well so far this season, but Shackleton’s dynamism is going to be crucial to keep up the team’s energy.
It may be a bit of a gamble but if he can stay fit throughout the season, the midfielder is not only going to develop his game massively but he may also be a key factor in the club’s promotion push.