The Leeds boss dislikes signing players in January, but may have to ditch that policy because his squad has been ravaged by injuries
Marcelo Bielsa may have to break the habit of a lifetime this January.
Bielsa is not a fan of the winter transfer window and dislikes bringing players in then because he feels they need too long to adjust to his demanding fitness levels.
But he may have to temper that view as Leeds grapple with an injury crisis which is hitting them hard.
Bielsa likes to work with a small squad to keep all his players involved and motivated.
This has come back to bite him this season and the injuries to key players like Patrick Bamford, Luke Ayling, Robin Koch, Junior Firpo and Kalvin Phillips have exposed the holes in his squad.
Bamford’s absence for the last two months with an ankle injury has been a particularly severe blow and Leeds do not have anyone who can replace him as a No 9.
Rodrigo tried with limited success and Bielsa played Daniel James through the middle against Leicester with, again, little joy.
Although a striker, Tyler Roberts is more of a No 10 and just does not score enough goals at Premier League level.
Joe Gelhardt is a talent, but it is too much to expect the former Wigan forward to fill Bamford’s large shoes.
Luckily for Leeds, Raphinha has stepped up to the plate, scoring five league goals in his 10 games.
Who should Leeds sign in January? Comment below
But it should not be just down to the Brazilian, as brilliant as he has been, to bail Leeds out.
Central midfield also needs reinforcing and sometimes Bielsa, in his pursuit of yet another winger, has neglected this position.
This area has needed addressing since Leeds won promotion in 2020 and the Whites looked at Rodrigo De Paul and Michael Cuisance.
Adam Forshaw’s return from his two-year injury hell helps, but Leeds cannot just rely on him to plug this gap.
They lack an understudy for Kalvin Phillips, despite Bielsa’s best attempts to use Koch and Pascal Struijk in the holding midfield role when the England star is missing.
Director of football Victor Orta is constantly updating his list of targets for Bielsa and proved with the signings of James and Raphinha that he is the master of the last-minute deal.
But he also dislikes trying to do business in January because the pool of available players is so small and the asking prices so high.
The example of Jean-Kevin Augustin, who made just three substitute appearances after signing on loan for the second half of their title-winning campaign in January 2020, also serves as a sobering lesson.
Still, Leeds must try or their campaign, which began with hopes of pushing for a European place, could fizzle out into one of mid-table mediocrity.