One thing that Marcelo Bielsa has brought to Leeds United, besides sparkling football and renewed hope, is a philosophy of running with the barest minimum of squads.
Last season, many fans would argue, it was a philosophy that came back to bite them at times. The reason for that was that United suffered upwards of 50 injuries, of varying degrees, across the season and saw key players out at key points of the campaign.
In one respect, the Whites saw this unfurl in front of them as player shifts had to be made to accommodate those out injured. This was able t obe accomplished thanks to another of Bielsa’s insistence; that being that players in his pared-down squad be able to play in more than one position and fulfil more than one role in the team.
Injuries have already started to eat away at United this season, key players such as Barry Douglas, Liam Cooper and Luke Ayling seeing extended time out in a campaign that is just 12 games old. However, it is the absence of one player, one who can rightly be termed as a ‘talisman’, that is worrying Whites fans at the moment.
That player, that talisman? Pablo Hernandez.
Hernandez has been the club’s Player of the Season for the last two campaigns, those awards being a measure of his consistency. Last season the mercurial Spaniard scored 12 goals and provided 12 assists in a campaign that Underlined his importance to Marcelo Bielsa’s side. Added to this, Hernandez also had two goals and two assists already this season in the opening eight games.
However, he’s been missing the last four games and it is fair to say that his range of passing, his technical nous has also been missed. There was hope that he’d recovered from the muscle injury that had kept him out of action after his planned 30-minute cameo for the Under-23s in a 3-0 loss to their Birmingham City counterparts.
Yet, as Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Graham Smyth notes on Twitter, United fans might want to reel in their expectations somewhat.
Bielsa confirmed after the game that Pablo Hernandez wasn't 100 per cent after his planned 30 minute U23s cameo. Sustained some kind of new lower leg problem.
— Graham Smyth (@GrahamSmyth) October 19, 2019
Herandez’s muscle injury seems to have now been replaced by a hamstring twinge, an injury that could see the popular Spaniard face a more extended period on the treatment table. There is, due to the way that Marcelo Bielsa sets his sides up, cover in the squad. However, there are certain things about Pablo Hernandez that are irreplaceable.