BBC pundit Noel Whelan has been full of praise for Leeds United star Pablo Hernandez, after the Spaniard made his return from a hamstring injury during our Championship meeting with Sheffield Wednesday.
Head coach Marcelo Bielsa had been without Hernandez for our last three league matches, as the four-time international was forced off just three minutes into our festive clash with Fulham at Craven Cottage last month.
The blow was expected to keep Hernandez out of action for a month, though the midfielder returned two weeks ahead of schedule to feature from the bench at home to the Owls during last weekend’s 2-0 defeat.
Hernandez had already missed six second-tier fixtures earlier in the campaign with a calf problem sustained against Derby County in late September, which led into a hamstring issue picked up during a run-out with the Under 23s.
The 34-year-old returned from those issues to notch his third goal and his third and fourth assists of the league season, and Whelan is adamant that having Hernandez back again will be a welcome boost for Bielsa.
“He’s very experienced [and] he’s played at the highest level,” Whelan told Football Insider. “He is a player who dictates the tempo of a game, he can control the game and I think that’s very important.
“When you have someone who can control the tempo, help dominate possession, is very forward-thinking and very creative and can do something special.
“It’s a massive bonus [that he played against Sheffield Wednesday] because we weren’t expecting him back so soon, so it was brilliant for him to get some minutes under his belt.”
Does Hernandez start at QPR on Saturday?
While Hernandez is not achieving a similar strike rate to his insane numbers of last season, which led to 12 goals and 12 assists, the £1.8million-rated playmaker has been instrumental to our promotion-chasing efforts this term.
During the 2018/19 regular second-tier campaign, Hernandez hit a goal and penned an assist every 277.75 minutes respectively, but is currently only finding the net every 423.3 minutes and been credited with an assist every 317.5 minutes in the league.
Yet despite his personal decline in output, no United player ranks higher than Hernandez for key passes every X minutes in the Championship this season – of those to have featured for more than 20 minutes under Bielsa and recorded a key ball.
Hernandez boasts a key pass every 33.4 minutes to Kalvin Phillips (44.6), Mateusz Klich (45.7) and Jack Harrison (45.8), per WhoScored data, showing how pivotal he can be to our performances.
In other Leeds United news, the club are reportedly now the ‘likely destination’ for a 15-cap forward.