Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship table on Sunday afternoon after they claimed a 2-1 victory over Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium on an afternoon when David Whelan waved goodbye to the Latics.
The end of an era at Wigan which has allowed the club to triumph in ways supporters could never have dreamed of before Whelan took charge reached its conclusion yesterday with a telling reminder of how change should both be welcomed and embraced.
Leeds are a case in point; the sum of their parts may not be totally different to the one which Thomas Christiansen and Paul Heckingbottom had at their disposal last season, but Marcelo Bielsa’s influence has served to prove how progressive fundamental changes in leadership can be.
El Loco’s credentials to take Leeds to the top-flight are both legitimate and realistic with one third of the season already completed. Much of Leeds’ success has been attributed to Bielsa’s ability to bring the best out of players who struggled to excel under his successors, with the likes of Kemar Roofe, Mateusz Klich and Pablo Hernandez receiving esteemed praise throughout the media.
But it was the return of one of Bielsa’s most integral summer signings, Barry Douglas – a player whose influence has been sorely missed in the four Championship fixtures he recently missed through injury – who caught the eye of the YEP reporter Phil Hay in his post-match analysis.
‘Douglas’ availability was a bonus, restoring balance to the left side of Leeds’ defence,’ and Hay later went on to add: ‘Douglas’ presence gave Leeds width and gave Wigan a headache, down their right and from set-pieces.’
Without Douglas in the side Leeds have been missing a crucial cog in the machine, and his influence in Greater Manchester yesterday was a timely reminder of his excellence at this level.
Signed for a measly fee of just £3.06 million in the summer after playing a starring role in Wolves’ title victory last season, Douglas is already looking like Victor Orta’s shrewdest pieces of business to date.
His natural tendency to utilise his crossing prowess in the final-third by marauding forward at every opportunity not only provides Leeds with a player who guarantees regular assists, but also a tactical pawn who drags defenders out of position and facilitates the success of Biesla’s free-flowing system.
While Hernandez and Roofe will continue to dominate the headlines for their glowing performances on Sunday, it’s important that Hay’s recognition of the enormity of Douglas’ impact is noted and valued with equal measure.
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