By Max Parsons

7th Nov, 2021 | 7:10pm

Marcelo Bielsa gives his verdict on his central defenders as Leeds United draw 1-1 with Leicester

Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has outlined the importance of his central defenders in stifling Leicester’s threat in the Whites’ 1-1 draw with the Foxes.

Raphinha opened the scoring for Leeds before Harvey Barnes’ immediate equaliser pinned the hosts back. Although another disappointing defensive lapse, the Whites’ backline was largely on top of their opposition.

Jamie Vardy was notably quiet throughout, being restricted to just one effort on goal – which missed the target. And, speaking to Leeds Live after the game, Bielsa noted the important work of Liam Cooper and Diego Llorente at the back in stifling the Leicester hitman.

“Vardy is not a player who usually touches the ball a lot but he is a player who creates danger constantly,” he said.

“Probably because his team didn’t have many final passes, he couldn’t do what he does best which is going from just before the line of defence to past them,” he continued. “Of course Cooper and Llorente had the capacity to not let those passes in behind them and when he played with his back to goal near our goal we neutralised him.”

Dominating performance

Bielsa’s defence has faced vast amounts of criticism this campaign. Their openness and lapses in concentration have been a significant feature of the White’s very poor start to the season.

In the opening 11 Premier League matches of the campaign, Leeds have kept just one clean sheet and conceded 18. And, although they conceded again on Sunday, it was a hugely encouraging outing for Cooper and Llorente at the heart of defence.

As Bielsa, eluded to, their alertness and reading of play were crucial in neutralising Vardy’s main avenue of success. With passes not being allowed in behind, his pace wasn’t exploitable for Leicester. The centre-back pairing-s combined nine ball recoveries and two clearances (WhoScored) made sure of neutralising that possible route towards goal.

When collecting the ball with his back to goal, the imposing physicality of Leeds’ central defenders made dealing with the Leicester frontman easy enough, as well.

While there is still plenty of work to do, this increased solidity at the back has been promising to the development of Leeds’ season. Now sitting 15th in the table, there are definite foundations to build on after two wins, two draws and one defeat in their last five league outings.

And, as always, those foundations start with the type of stable and assured defending that Cooper and Llorente demonstrated against Leicester.

In other Leeds United news, Jeff Stelling isn’t so sure about the safety of Bielsa’s position at Elland Road.