It seems to be a bit of a weak-spot for Marcelo Bielsa, but oddly enough, it doesn’t have to be.
Writing in a piece for The Athletic, Phil Hay talks about how the position of left-back is a bit of a problem for not only Bielsa, but also for managers all over the world.
Bielsa has spent the season tinkering with predominantly three players at the spot so far this season; Gjanni Alioski, Barry Douglas and on occasion, Stuart Dallas, and despite the fact we are now in January, he still hasn’t worked out who his first choice is, which is just baffling to think of as we approach the latter stages of the campaign, even though it should be pretty obvious who it should be.
As Hay points out, Alioski is sometimes too focused on going forward and it can often lead the team rather exposed at the back on occasions as he gets caught in two minds, most notably for Sheffield Wednesday’s first goal on the weekend, which you’d think might be held against him.
But if you take a look at the numbers (taken from WhoScored) Alioski is still the better option for Leeds, even if you take into account just his defensive capabilities, where he is ahead of Douglas when it comes to tackles 1.5 per game compared to 0.7, 1 interception per game compared to 0.5 and 1.2 clearances per game compared to 0.5 so in all those categories he manages to produce at either double or more than double the rate that Douglas does.
Meaning that it’s a relative no brainer, and that’s before we get to the attacking side of things where it’s pretty much the same story in regards to things like key passes, 1.3 to 0.5 in the North Macedonian’s favour, dribbles 0.5 to 0.2 and passes per game at 31.4 against 26.1.
So whilst Bielsa spends his time switching between the two, it’s pretty clear to see that in an all-round sense, Alioski should be the team’s first-choice left-back, because over the course of the season, you’re going to get a lot more out of him.
Who is our best left-back?
And that’s at both ends of the field.