The news that Samu Saiz will leave Elland Road in January to return to Spain on a six-month loan deal shocked Leeds United to its core but he will depart with the blessing of the Whites faithful.
That Leeds are set to wave goodbye to Saiz without a hint of bad blood or much by way of feelings of regret serves as a telling indicator of how far the club have come under Marcelo Bielsa.
During the early stages of the campaign, Saiz was an integral component of Leeds’ compelling build up play, oscillating around the final-third in search of the ball, leaving supporters on the edge of their seats in anticipation of a killer through ball.
He is the type of technical talent who stands out in a division containing a crowded contingent of players residing within a similar bracket of quality, but the gulf in class was seldom as obvious as Bielsa would have hoped it would be.
His departure is naturally disappointing but Leeds will feel they have the squad to cope without him, particularly with Izzy Brown’s imminent return looming on the horizon.
Brown, however, is desperately short of match fitness and will unquestionably need time before settling into the side, which begs the question: who else can fill the void left by Saiz?
Well, according to Sky Sports’ Adam Bate, Jack Clarke, 18, could be a surprise candidate to move into a more central attacking midfield role.
Clarke has established a glowing reputation as one of the finest talents to emerge from Thorp Arch with his electric speed and dazzling dribbling closer to the touchline, and his cameo performances this season have largely been out wide.
Despite this, in a feature post dedicated to Leeds’ success this season, Bate had this to say: ‘Jack Clarke is now hinting that he could fill the void left by Saiz.’
While Bate’s admission is certainly based on an instinctive feeling that Clarke already has the ability to make a huge impact this season, which is shared by most Leeds fans, it’s important not to forget how inexperienced he is at this level.
The number ten role necessitates a level of tactical discipline and bravery to collect the ball under immense pressure which takes time to develop, so bestowing that level of responsibility on Clarke’s shoulders is a decision which cannot be taken lightly.
Clarke has the skill, the movement and a whole host of other natural abilities to thrive in Saiz’s absence, but he will need greater exposure at this level in a wide role before moving into the middle.
The exuberance is infectious and the quality is obvious but it seems more likely that Bielsa will move Pablo Hernandez into a central role before throwing Clarke in at the deep end.
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