Former Sunderland and Aston Villa striker Darren Bent is wrong to question Marcelo Bielsa’s decision to omit Jack Clarke from the squad who beat Wigan Athletic on Saturday.
Clarke was one of several first-team regulars to make the trip to Salford City during the week for our EFL Cup First Round tie, and put in a hard-working shift on the left-wing, but failed to dominate the game in a way many would have hoped for.
The boss’ subsequent call to leave Clarke out of the 18-man squad who travelled to the DW Stadium has now been slammed by Bent, as he feels the Whites product is a ‘very good footballer’ that deserved to face the Latics after his performance in the Carabao Cup.
“I was very surprised [by his absence], because I like Jack Clarke,” Bent told Football Insider. “I think he’s a very good player. For him to just leave him out like that, I don’t quite understand his thought process, but that’s Bielsa for you.
“We all know he’s going to do things off-the-cuff, completely left-field that we don’t understand what he’s doing, but there’s a plan for everything. There’s a method to the madness.”
Bent should not slam Bielsa for leaving Clarke out of the squad, though, as the boss knows he cannot name each of the six loan players he has at his disposal in a single Championship matchday squad.
EFL regulations dictate that a club can only name five loanees in a teamsheet – meaning one of Jack Harrison, Ben White, Illan Meslier, Eddie Nketiah, Helder Costa or Clarke must be left out.
Harrison and White have been putting on displays in the starting eleven that make their names almost un-droppable for the foreseeable future, while Meslier is needed on the bench each week following Bailey Peacock-Farrell’s departure in case Kiko Casilla suffers an injury.
Nketiah, meanwhile, must be awarded at least a spot on the bench while he is in West Yorkshire on loan from Arsenal, as the striker is the only senior competition to Patrick Bamford.
That leaves Costa as the only reasonable option Bielsa could drop in favour of Clarke, but the one-time Portugal international offers a wealth of experience that the Whites product cannot, and tapping into the Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee’s skillset offers the greater potential to affect results in our favour than an 18-year-old who has just a handful of mesmerising moments to his name.