Junior Firpo’s struggles in the Premier League continued last weekend after Leeds United were thrashed by defending champions Manchester City.
During the encounter, the former Spain U21 international was lambasted as being “woeful” by commentator Andy Townsend, and his defending was dubbed “schoolboy” by BBC pundit Paul Robinson.
The summer signing has endured a tricky start to life in England and it shows no sign of easing up, particularly against the very best the top flight has to offer.
Back in July, the 6 foot left-back signed a four-year deal following his £12.8m move from Barcelona as a replacement for both Gjanni Alioski and Barry Douglas.
While the former was often erratic, he was a far greater and more consistent option.
Leeds are sitting precariously above the drop zone right now, just two points ahead of Everton, who hold a game in hand, and with tricky matches against Arsenal and Chelsea to come, manager Jesse Marsch cannot afford to persist with the 25-year-old .
However, the American head coach has a lack of alternative options, even more so now after the “devastating” injury blow to Stuart Dallas.
Should Marsch play Leo Hjelde more?
AND IT IS!
However, there could be a viable alternative in Leo Hjelde, a young centre-back by trade but one equally capable of playing on the left. A recent appearance against Arsenal’s U23 setup saw him in the role. ‘Raided forward well down the left at times,’ claimed Leeds Live journalist Beren Cross.
The 18-year-old, capped by Norway at U21 level, made his senior debut for the Yorkshire giants earlier this season, starting at left-back against West Ham – a performance which earned rave reviews from club legend Jermaine Beckford.
He gushed: “The young boy, Hjelde when he came on as well, what a player he’s looking by the way. I don’t want to put too much pressure on him. But that’s twice we’ve seen him, twice we’ve seen him against West Ham, against a very physical, very strong, very quick center forward in Michail Antonio and a tricky player in Jarrod Bowen. I do not want to say he had them in his pocket, but I think he did.
Indeed, shutting out both Antonio and Bowen is no mean feat, and Hjelde could repeat such exploits against the Gunners’ mean attack, whether that’s Bukayo Saka or Emile Smith Rowe on the day.
During his time on loan to Ross County, his former manager John Hughes liked him to Virgil van Dijk and dubbed him a “massively talented“, claiming:
“Leo is going to be the next Van Dijk. Trust me on that. The quality he has shown, the physical challenge, playing real men’s football and standing up to it – it’s been a wonderful experience for Leo. He’s got massive things in front of him.”
If Marsch wants to change the team’s defensive fortunes against some of the big dogs, in this desperate time of need, then he really ought to unleash Hjelde.
He can finally ax the struggling Firpo by doing so, a decision which will surely benefit the side heading into the final few games of the campaign.
AND in other news, Sources: Orta eyeing Leeds bid for £19.8m-rated ace, he’s like “Messi inside the area”…