Marcelo Bielsa has issued his strong backing to Leeds United midfielder Jamie Shackleton despite his consecutive starts coinciding with successive defeats.
Shackleton was named in the starting XI for recent losses to Arsenal and Wolves but played in different positions in both.
He was hauled off for Pablo Hernandez midway through the second half of Friday’s defeat but Bielsa has compared him to Pascal Struijk, another youngster who has impressed of late and asserted himself as a first-team fixture amidst a spate of defensive absences.
As reported on the Leeds Live website, Bielsa told reporters he has the utmost faith in the 21-year-old, saying: “I believe in Shackleton as an important alternative for Leeds United. He’s in a similar process to that of Pascal.
“The only thing is that Pascal has a continuity that Shackleton hasn’t been able to have. I consider him a player that I can trust and I’m satisfied with what he has brought to the team.
“Apart from that, he is a very serious player, very applied and very conscious of what is needed to play at this level.”
The Whites blueprint is there
Shackleton might very well take a leaf out of Struijk’s book.
The Dutch youth international started the first game of the season against Liverpool and played once more in the Premier League before a dismal 20-minute showing against Aston Villa on October 23 saw him substituted in the early stages, ironically for Shackleton.
Struijk only appeared in one of Leeds’ next seven games before injuries to the likes of Diego Llorente and Robin Koch saw him called upon again in December and he has not looked back since, starting every one of the last 11 games and earning praise from many quarters.
He even grabbed a goal at Arsenal and was dangerous against Crystal Palace as his new-found confidence comes to the fore.
We’re not suggesting Shackleton has been particularly bad or has been a reason for our last two losses but Struijk’s ability to learn and embed himself as a crucial member of the team, despite all the injuries, should act as encouragement to him as he bids to knock down a regular position in this Leeds side.
With Kalvin Phillips absent through injury now is the time for Shackleton to stake his claim, and with Bielsa’s support behind him, you wouldn’t bet against him rising to the pressure.
In other Leeds United news, Whites fans fall further in love with Bielsa after Yorkshire comments.