Mallik Wilks featured against Leeds United for the first time on Sunday since departing Elland Road, with the forward on the losing side as the Whites beat Barnsley 2-0 at Oakwell.
Leeds were frustrated for long periods by the Tykes, with Wilks impressing and causing the likes of Liam Cooper and Ben White a few problems as he looked to make an impression against his boyhood club.
Eddie Nketiah eventually broke the deadlock for Leeds on 84 minutes, with Mateusz Klich wrapping up the points five minutes later.
“Wilks definitely has something,” Whelan said. “He impressed me. He has strength, pace, a good left foot and looks like a real handful for defenders. His decision-making needs to improve, but that will come with experience.
“Barnsley got him for a snip. £1million is nothing for a Championship club these days. He could have a serious career. He looks like he can score goals at Championship level.
“Have Leeds dropped a clanger? They will feel they have.”
In wake of Whelan’s claim, we’ve opted to crunch some of Wilks’ numbers from the season so far in this FLW Spotlight…
Wilks has played 627 minutes so far for Barnsley in the 2019/20 season, which have brought one goal in a 3-1 defeat to Luton Town last month.
Often playing on the flanks, the forward hasn’t managed to register and assist for Daniel Stendel’s side.
19% of 21 shots this season have been on target, including two of the four he attempted against Leeds on Sunday.
Of the 11 crosses made by the wide forward this season, only 36.4% have been accurate, whilst his passing accuracy leaves a lot to be desired at 64.1%.
In fairness to Wilks, he looks to be a positive player; attempting 58 dribbles at a success rate of 53.%, which includes five from six successful efforts against Marcelo Bielsa’s side on Sunday.
But, ultimately, these stats don’t blow you away and won’t have Bielsa regretting things just yet.
On one hand, you can appreciate Whelan’s claims, as Wilks was positive on Sunday and had one of his better games so far this season.
However, he still ended up on the losing side, and when you consider Leeds have Pablo Hernandez (2 goals and 2 assists) and Helder Costa (1 goal and 3 assists), competing in the same squad, along with Jack Harrison, Bielsa is pretty well stocked in Wilks’ favoured position.
Yes, at 20, there’s potential there, but Leeds need players ready to do the business right now. And, judging by Wilks’ start to the season, he’s just not at the level to make the impact of some of Bielsa’s current men.