MOT View: Leeds top PL pile for one stat and it proves future very bright at Elland Road
Leeds United hand more Under-23 minutes to first-team players than any other Premier League side, as reported by The Athletic’s Phil Hay.
According to the infographic in Hay’s article, six players who have made a Premier League start for Leeds this season have also lined up for the U-23s, playing 900 minutes between them.
This is in stark contrast to the rest of the division, with six of the 20 teams not including a single first-team starter in their U-23s this season, while another six that have are still less than a third off the minutes that Leeds give.
The Leeds minutes are mainly derived from Tyler Roberts and Pablo Hernandez who have made four and three starts respectively, while the likes of Rodrigo, Raphinha, Jack Harrison and Helder Costa have also featured.
Bielsa sees the merging of the squads as “his solution to a lack of match fitness in players who have either been injured (to a minor degree) or stuck on his first-team bench”, according to Hay.
Hernandez looks like being the latest beneficiary of this as he has made substitute appearances in Leeds’ last three games after playing for the U-23s, and could be set for a starting role in their next Premier League fixture at home to Brighton on January 16 with midfielder Kalvin Phillips suspended.
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U-23s an important physical step
Bielsa is not a manager that is famed for doing things by the book and this latest statistic proves just that.
While other managers see U-23 action as a distraction and a potential chance for injuries to occur Bielsa seems to view it as a vital necessity in a player’s step towards first-team minutes.
These minutes are important to keep players ticking along so that they can be introduced into the first-team whenever needed.
Bielsa clearly likes his team to have consistent sources of energy which is seen in the statistic that only three teams have made more substitutions (48) in the Premier League than Leeds this season (Wyscout).
This can be attributed to a number of reasons, particularly the high intensity at which Bielsa demands of his team which requires fresh legs towards the end of games.
Additionally, no player has been subbed on more times in the Premier League than Ian Poveda (nine) this season, with teammate Jamie Shackleton (eight) just behind him.
Poveda is another player that has featured numerous times for the U-23s this season and despite not starting for Leeds in the Premier League is someone that is showing the value of having minutes under his belt as Bielsa knows he can call upon him late on in games.
With the likes of Diego Llorente and Robin Koch still to come back into the side after injury do not be surprised to see the U-23 statistics continue to rise.
In other Leeds United news, the Whites are reportedly set to move for another Manchester City starlet.