BBC pundit Noel Whelan was left gushing over Jack Harrison’s performance against Arsenal in the FA Cup Third Round on Monday night, despite Leeds United losing the match 1-0.
Whites boss Marcelo Bielsa fielded the on-loan Manchester City winger on the right-hand channel for the first time this season when we travelled to the Emirates Stadium, having previously favoured the 23-year-old exclusively on the left-flank.
The boss’ decision paid dividends from the off with Harrison tormenting Bosnia international Sead Kolasinac, who often could do next to nothing to prevent the former England U21 international from cutting inside onto his favoured left foot.
Harrison could even have struck a first-half hat-trick against one of the Premier League’s big six had it not been for Emiliano Martinez, as each of our Stoke-on-Trent-born forward’s three shots on Monday night were on target.
Whelan was often critical of Harrison’s performances during his first term on loan at Elland Road in 2018/19, but is more than happy to now applaud the 23-year-old for his recent performances – noting that he has thrived since taken on more responsibilities in Bielsa’s plans.
“I thought Harrison on the right-hand side in the first half was excellent,” Whelan told Football Insider. “[A] real quality, real purpose to his game. I can’t criticise the kid this season, because he’s come back with loads to prove and he’s shut everybody up.
Where should Harrison play vs Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday?
“I love that, I love it when people can shut me up about coming back, having to do a certain work rate, having more quality on the ball, showing me they can be a player for more than 25, 30 minutes of a game.
“He’s proving to be a really important player for Leeds United this season. He’s really taken a lot of weight on his shoulders and he looks better for it, it looks like we’ve got a real player on our hands.”
Whelan is not alone in applauding Harrison for his performance in North London on Monday night despite the club losing the FA Cup tie, as loads of supporters have likewise lauded the 23-year-old for his display at Arsenal.
As well as striking each of his shots on target, Harrison – who we hold an option-to-buy in the summer for – played one key ball, beat his man with half of his four dribbles, made two successful tackles from five attempts and took 64 touches – the fourth-most in the team, per WhoScored data.
Performances like his against Arsenal will go a long way toward Harrison being a player worth £15million, as Bielsa allegedly predicted prior to the winger’s return for a second spell at Elland Road.
In other Leeds United news, the club have named their price for an in-demand 24-year-old, set to leave Elland Road in January.