By George Overhill

19th Nov, 2022 | 11:10am

Victor Orta has Wilfried Gnonto-style Leeds United emergency option in Charlie Cresswell

Victor Orta has the option to break glass in case of emergency if the Leeds United January transfer window fails, by bringing back Charlie Cresswell.

After aborted moves for Cody Gakpo, Bamba Dieng and Hwang Hee-chan at the end of the summer transfer window, Wilfried Gnonto’s planned January arrival was brought forward on deadline day as a last resort.

The Italian international wasn’t the senior option to push Patrick Bamford that the fans wanted, but the teenager has helped the punt pay off in recent weeks with key contributions in the dramatic wins over Liverpool and Bournemouth, and the United centre-back on loan at Millwall could do the same in the second half of the season.

With Leeds United going into the World Cup break with the attack suddenly in great rhythm after scoring nine times in the past three matches, it is painfully clear that the defence needs the most help in the winter window.

Diego Llorente lost his place after the 5-2 horror show at Brentford on 3 September, and didn’t do anything to stake his claim for a return when he played in the 2-0 loss to Leicester on 20 October.

Robin Koch was every bit as bad in the Bees defeat, and was substituted at half time after scoring an own goal and getting booked at the King Power, yet has started every game this year.

Captain Liam Cooper replaced Llorente in the line-up and has marginally outperformed both, but with Koch dreadful and his skipper only slightly better in conceding seven times across the 4-3 win over Bournemouth (5 November), and the 4-3 loss to Tottenham (12 November), something needs to be done.

One option is to finally sign a left-back to come in ahead of Junior Firpo, who has again struggled in limited action, which would allow Pascal Struijk to have a go at his preferred position in the middle, and another option would be to bring in a centre-back in the window.

The third avenue is to end Cresswell’s Lions loan at the half way stage and have him graduate to the first-team sooner than expected.

It was less than a month ago that a January recall looked likely anyway according to Phil Hay with the 20-year-old out of Gary Rowett’s squad following a formation change, with an alternative loan a possible solution.

But he has since got back into the starting line-up, and now has a total of 14 appearances this season, which is the same number of Premier League games Koch has played, while scoring four times.

It would not be the ideal scenario as the youngster could probably do with a full season of senior experience before he makes the step up, but Gnonto’s plan was scrapped when it had to be and appears to be starting to come good all the same.

Bearing in mind the mess that led to the young forward’s arrival, as well as the barren January transfer window last season when Marcelo Bielsa’s side desperately needed reinforcements during an injury crisis, there won’t be a limitless supply of optimism that Orta and company will come up with the defensive goods in two months’ time.

But if they don’t Cresswell could be the answer, having acquitted himself well in south London so far, and if Jesse Marsch is willing to take a chance on him he can’t be a great deal worse than what the American has been selecting lately either way.

In other Leeds United news, another talented youngster looks to already be slipping through the club’s fingers based on what the manager revealed recently.