By Nick Ware

9th Jan, 2021 | 1:45pm

'This guy, wow' - Sky Sports pundit thrilled by what he's seen from 'raw' Leeds player

Leeds United goalkeeper Illan Meslier has been criticised in some quarters this season but David James has defended his style.

James knows a thing or two about goalkeeping with his 169 Premier League clean sheets second only to Petr Cech (202), while he boasts the fourth most appearances of all time (572).

Leeds stopper Meslier is a complete newbie to this level but he has been Marcelo Bielsa’s main man in the sticks, starting all 17 Premier League games this season, keeping out the experienced Kiko Casilla.

He might have endured a few sticky moments this season, notably during the recent 3-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur where his stray pass led to a penalty, but James has expressed his delight at the goalkeeper’s abilities.

Speaking on Sky Sports ‘The Football Show’ (08/01/21), James said: “I mention Meslier – this guy, wow!”

On Meslier’s goalkeeping approach, he added: “There are certain goalkeepers in the Premier League, Edouard Mendy and Meslier especially, when you see what they do, they’re aggressive.

“There’s a style to them which I define as raw – possibly not over-coached, if that sounds right. When you are slightly different in your approach or style, there will be mistakes, and because of that difference, it’s too easy for people to jump on the bandwagon and say you’re having a bad time.”

Stick by Meslier

Some of the statistics do not make great reading for Meslier this season as Leeds have suffered at times with the consequences of their attacking style of play.

Only West Brom (39) have conceded more goals than Leeds (33) and their shot-stopper Sam Johnstone is the only player to have faced more shots than Meslier’s 104.

However, Leeds’ xGA (expected goals against) is 37.49, more than West Brom or any other Premier League side, and is higher than the total they have currently conceded.

Therefore it is not as if Meslier is performing badly and shipping more goals than he should.

Instead, some of his mistakes have come from his kicking with Bielsa insistent that Leeds play out of the back to start attacks.

At 20-years-old Meslier can expect to make more mistakes but onlookers should not judge this harshly and instead take into account the way he is being asked to distribute as well as his tender years.

James is right to be excited about Meslier and Leeds fans can be hopeful of a fruitful career for the Frenchman at Elland Road.

In other Leeds United news, our view on this Premier League topping stat that shows Bielsa’s different approach.