Former Leeds United striker Noel Whelan believes that any of the Whites’ four centre-back options could start on the opening day of the season.
The Lowdown: Leeds blessed with strong options
Marcelo Bielsa will be looking to enhance his squad this summer in order to keep competition for places strong and allow him to rotate abundantly.
One area which doesn’t need strengthening is centre-back, though, with Liam Cooper, Diego Llorente, Robin Koch and Pascal Struijk all representing good options in that role.
The quartet could all justify being starters for Leeds next season – all four were among the squad’s top 10 performers last term, according to WhoScored – giving Bielsa a selection headache going into their Premier League curtain-raiser away to Manchester United next month.
The Latest: Whelan lauds depth
Speaking to Football Insider, Whelan hailed the Whites’ depth at the back, admitting that it is impossible to guess who will start at Old Trafford. He said:
“It could be any of the four. We are blessed with four quality centre-halves. I cannot remember a time where we have had this much competition in that position.
“It’s going to be a really difficult decision to make. Every single one has got a case to play.
“You have internationals in Cooper, Llorente and Koch and a great young player in Struijk who I thought was excellent last season. He really stepped up to the plate and showed what a fantastic centre-half he is. He just got better and better.
“It is going to be a hell of a jostle in pre-season for those two spots. I am excited by it.
“Llorente really showed what a top player he is when he came in. He got a good relationship going with Struijk. He also had a good one with Cooper as well.
“It is going to be a real tussle between the four of them. You just hope that none of them get any kind of injury that halts their pre-season. Competition is so important to get the best out of players.”
The Verdict: Dilemma for Bielsa
Bielsa finds himself with a genuine dilemma this summer, albeit an enivable one, with four such strong centre-back options from which to choose.
The fact that Cooper made the most Premier League starts (25) out of the centre-backs last season suggests that he is the front-runner to start at Old Trafford on 14 August.
Struijk (22) is second in that respect, but Llorente’s performances improved steadily as the season went on, also making him a strong option. With just 13 starts, Koch is arguably the least likely to play, but again there would be few qualms if he makes Bielsa’s starting line-up for the season opener next month.
Whelan is right – Bielsa could face quite the selection headache when it comes to choosing his two starting centre-backs.
In other news, Leeds have reportedly pulled out of a move for one player. Find out who it is here.
Click here to comment on this articleor
Give us feedback on your Football Transfer Tavern experience