MOT View: Meslier saying exactly the right thing off the pitch, can he step-up on it for Leeds?
Unless you’ve watched the Leeds Under-23s in action this season, you won’t have seen anything of stand-in keeper Illan Meslier.
Signed in the summer on a season-long loan from FC Lorient, Meslier has been on the bench nine times for Leeds this season, without getting a sniff of first-team action.
He has impressed for the Under-23s, though, and he picked up some fans in the 0-0 draw with Crystal Palace back in September.
Keep popping the match on for a couple of minutes at a time and every time I do Meslier looks absolutely awesome.
— Luke (@TurfLUFC) September 9, 2019
Illan Meslier looks quite the find. Another very, very good performance today #lufc
— Nestor Watach (@NestorWatach) September 9, 2019
The big question among Leeds fans at the moment is whether he is good enough to step-up if Kiko Casilla is banned. Casilla is facing an FA charge of using racist language and could be banned for six games plus if found guilty.
Meslier has experience with FC Lorient in the French second division but they decided to send him out on loan, suggesting his development was far from complete.
They brought in Paul Nardi from Monaco for a fee of £1.35m and only told Meslier he wouldn’t be playing two days before the start of the league. A week later he was at Leeds.
Meslier is currently saying all the right things, though.
In an interview with Goal.fr, he said he’s loving his time at Leeds and sees himself as the successor to Casilla despite just being there on loan at the moment – “Why not? I went there to continue learning and to finish my training. Maybe one day the torch will be passed.”
Few Leeds figures have talked about the Casilla case because it’s an ongoing investigation, but Meslier did and said he was ready to make the step-up if needed.
“If he was cleared, it would be good for Leeds,” said Meslier. “If he was suspended, I’m ready to play. You have to know how to seize the opportunities. Sometimes it’s an injury, sometimes a suspension, and sometimes it’s unusual… But I do not know if he made those comments and I do not have to comment on that.”
“I am gaining strength at Leeds with the new coaching staff, and I am ready to play at any time if there is a suspension or an injury. It will be up to me to seize the opportunities and afterwards, it is the coach who will decide. I feel I’m progressing from week to week. But Kiko is number one and I respect him.”
Is he good enough to step up? It’s hard to tell as we’ve only seen him in the Under-23s and the Championship is a different ball-game, but he’s played for France from Under-18s to Under-20s and was recently called up to the Under-21 squad.
From what we’ve seen of him, he’s a Bielsa-type of goalkeeper, good with his feet and has a wide range of passing. He’s also a solid shot-stopper.
According to WyScout, he made 1.91 saves per game for FC Lorient and had a passing accuracy of 71.1% for long balls and 99.2% for short balls. Casilla has made an average of 2.13 saves per game since arriving at Leeds, with a long-pass accuracy of 63.7% and short-pass accuracy of 97.9%. The stats are very similar.
We do think it will be Meslier that gets the nod if Casilla is banned before Leeds can bring someone else in and we think he will prove the doubters wrong. It’s a big step-up for the 19-year-old, though.
In other Leeds news – Exclusive: Paul Robinson claims Leeds 29y/o is good enough for the Premier League