There are a few massive decisions facing Marcelo Bielsa should he stay on with Leeds United for a second season in the Championship, with promotion surely the aim once again for the Yorkshire side.
Leeds came close in 2018/19, finishing third in Bielsa’s first season and challenging for automatic promotion for a lot of the campaign. However, it was the play-offs for the Whites, but they crashed out of the semi-finals following a 4-3 aggregate defeat to Derby County.
Bielsa watched his side crumble in the regular season and then in the play-offs, throwing away a two-goal lead against the Rams.
If you were to point the finger at a particular moment that sparked Derby’s comeback, it was a mix up between Liam Cooper and Kiko Casilla, with Leeds’ skipper and goalkeeper gifting Jack Marriott the opportunity to half the play-off score.
That brings us to one decision Bielsa will have to make in the summer: does he continue with the high-profile Casilla, who arrived from Real Madrid, or does he turn back to Bailey Peacock-Farrell – Leeds’ first choice pre-January and the man who helped the Whites to top of the table.
In our latest FLW Duel, we match up their 2018/19 stats:
Peacock-Farrell made 28 appearances for Leeds, conceding 32 goals and keeping 10 clean sheets – impressive numbers for a 22-year-old with limited amounts of experience.
His replacement, Casilla, made 19 appearances and conceded 22 goals, including four in the play-off semi-final second-leg. The 32-year-old Spaniard also managed six clean sheets.
Bielsa’s style of play means the goalkeeper needs to be comfortable in possession, with Casilla slightly edging Peacock-Farrell with his distribution.
Both goalkeepers average similar numbers, but perhaps the reason Bielsa needs to make a decision is because Casilla let him down on big occasions.
Casilla was sent-off in the defeat to Sheffield United, which swung the automatic promotion race, whilst his performance against Derby in the play-offs reminded you of Marco Silvestri and Felix Wiedwald.
Peacock-Farrell wasn’t free of mistakes, but he rarely let Bielsa down and for a goalkeeper in his first full season as a No.1, he was reliable enough.
Of course, Bielsa wants his goalkeeper to play as a sweeper and be confortable on the ball, but it was Casilla’s instincts in those situations that led to some of his blunders, with the Spaniard racing off his line and causing mayhem.
The path Bielsa takes from here remains to be seen, but if you were a betting man, you’d expect Casilla to be starting next season in goal given his experience and where he has come from.
That might seem harsh on Peacock-Farrell, but he will know that if Casilla doesn’t iron out some of these mistakes, Bielsa will have no choice but to recall the Northern Ireland international.
It’s certainly one of the decisions Bielsa has to get right ahead of next season. You build from the back, and if promotion is going to be achieved in 2019/20, Leeds can’t afford to be making the mistakes they have in recent months.
Thoughts? Let us know!