Jesse Marsch has unexpected golden opportunity to fix Leeds United defence, Liam Cooper needed
The sudden postponement of matches in the wake of the Queen’s death must be used by Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch to fix up his defence before further damage is done.
The decision to suspend football while other sports go ahead has not been universally popular but it has handed the Whites manager an unexpected chance to address the main issue for his side.
A strong start to the season, which culminated in the 3-0 thrashing of Chelsea, has given way in recent weeks to a more fragile situation that has seen only a point gained from a frustrating draw with Everton in the past three games.
The 5-2 thrashing at Brentford last weekend (3 September) was a chilling reminder of the collapses that plagued the relegation battle last season, and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency to retain some of the optimism the good early season work brought.
Leaving aside the disappointment and distrust of the end of the transfer window, and particularly a ridiculous deadline day, the team needs to up its game and that starts with the Leeds United defence.
As the scoreline might suggest, the loss in west London was one where those at the back undercut any of the good work happening further forward.
Although early-season goal-threat Rodrigo was missing through injury and star man Jack Harrison was off form, there was still a lot to like from the likes of Luis Sinisterra and Joe Gelhardt before Marsch confusingly took them both off.
Brenden Aaronson looked sharp again, and even Patrick Bamford added something despite the incredible open goal miss he somehow produced.
At the back however, Diego Llorente had a pretty catastrophic game, and centre-back partner Robin Koch was not much better.
With captain Liam Cooper fit enough for the bench, and likely to be that much further recovered once United do play their next game, he simply has to come in for one of the two to add some organisation and stability.
Pascal Struijk has filled in all season at left-back so far, and has done surprisingly well going forward, but has often been left out of position on the counter-attack.
Junior Firpo, the only natural in the squad at the position and tipped to be back next weekend by Premier Injuries, is unlikely to be thrown straight in after a long time out, but Marsch may want to consider that switch sooner than later, possibly even switching Struijk into the middle next to Cooper in light of the nightmare Llorente and Koch had last time out.
On the right hand side Rasmus Kristensen is also pencilled in for a return from injury around the same time as Firpo, having missed the Brentford game with Cody Drameh starting.
The Dane hasn’t taken to the Premier League that smoothly yet, while the late cameo from Luke Ayling in the capital likely put him back in the front of his manager’s mind, although he has his own injury issue to recover from now.
Marsch cannot allow the same disarray that threatened the club’s top flight status last year to creep back in at the back, especially if the attackers are keeping up their end of the bargain.
He is likely to have all of his defensive options available to him given the unexpected time off, and that is a golden opportunity for the American to settle on a line-up to move forward with based on their specific abilities together rather than fitting around absences.
Time to work in training and heal up without a game, or possibly multiple games, before the international break could not have been foreseen, but now it has happened it needs to be used to benefit the squad just as a slump is threatening.
Cooper feels like a must, and the likes of Ayling, Drameh, and even Firpo certainly require consideration based on what Marsch sees at Thorp Arch.
In other Leeds United news, new major joint sponsorships in conjunction with the 49ers are in the cards.