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Bielsa happy with defensive options
Wednesday, 22nd Aug 2018 22:52 by Tim Whelan

Marcelo Bielsa says he isn’t looking to sign another central defender on loan, although some reports have linked us with a move for West Ham United’s Reece Oxford.

Leeds were forced to field a makeshift defence at Swansea last night, with Jansson already out with a back problem and Cooper pulling up in the warm up due to a hamstring injury. Consequently we had to play two full-backs out of position in the centre, and our defence suffered from a lack of height throughout the game, though Conor Shaughnessy remained on the bench.

This certainly played a part in Swansea’s second goal, when McBurnie was able to outjump our central defenders to direct a header into the corner of the net. Yet when Bielsa spoke to the Yorkshire Post he insisted that he is happy with his options in these positions, as the problems faced by Cooper and Jansson are both short term.

“Why do you link the transfer window with Liam? For Pontus it’s not a very important problem. So far we don’t know the diagnosis for Liam Cooper. Berardi and Ayling played the role as centre-backs and the game of Gaetano Berardi was very good. Shaughnessy, we also have him and we trust him, we have confidence in him. He hasn’t done the pre-season work so he is a little bit behind compared to the rest of the team but we have solutions for this kind of problem.”

Jansson may have recovered sufficiently to face Norwich on Saturday, and Leeds will know more about Cooper’s condition in the next 24 hours. But even if both players are back in action by the end of the month, I still think that we need at least one more central defender in the squad as cover for the first half of the season.

Apart from the risk of further injuries to our first choice pair, the disciplinary record of both players has never been great, and it’s always likely that they might have to serve a suspension or two in the months to come. We did try to re-sign Kyle Bartley at the start of the summer and have also been in touch with Everton about the possibility of another loan spell for Matthew Pennington.

Some reports today have suggested that Leeds might make a move for West Ham’s rising star Reece Oxford, who spent last season on loan at Borussia Mönchengladbach. 19 year-old Oxford is 6ft 3 in height and can operate as a defensive midfielder or in central defence, so he would certainly be a handy addition to the squad.

Oxford has only made 17 appearances for West Ham’s first team so far, but after their poor start to the season, quite a few of their fans reacted to the news of a possible loan spell with fury on twitter, as they reckon they need him at the London stadium. That’s always a good sign for us, but it seems that if we do want the player we will face competition from a host of clubs in Germany, Spain and France.

One player who certainly won’t be helping to make up the numbers in our defence is Laurens De Bock, who is heading out of Leeds to join Belgian side K.V. Oostende on a season-long loan deal. He is also able to operate as a central defender when required, but it seems that we’re a long way short of being that desperate that just yet.

The £1.5m we paid to sign him from Brugge now looks like a colossal waste of money, as the left-back managed just seven appearances before being dropped. He was signed while Christiansen was in charge and looked a reasonable signing in his first couple of games in what had become a problem position for Leeds, at least going forward.

But that all came to an end one night at Derby, when his appalling lack of concentration led to one of their goals in a 2-2 draw, and could have cost us a couple more. New manager Paul Heckinbottom dropped him in favour of academy product Tom Pearce, and he was never to make it back to the first team.

The Heck was ready to ship him out as soon as the season ended, but after his sacking Bielsa decided to give him a chance, despite having watched him in his video collection of all our games from last season. De Bock says he enjoyed the pre-season training, but he knew the writing was on the wall as soon as Leeds signed Barry Douglas in his position.

We can but wish him luck back in his native land, and hope he’s learnt from his short time under Bielsa. And we can also keep our fingers crossed that if Leeds don’t take another defender before the loan window shuts at the end of the month we don’t end up regretting it by Christmas.


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