Leeds United fell to a 2-1 loss to Arsenal at the Emirates on Sunday. The scoreline suggests a close game but the defeat was much more damaging than one might presume, as Luke Ayling was sent off in the first-half for a dangerous challenge on Gabriel Martinelli.
That sending off means that Leeds not only lost their captain-on-the-day but he will also miss the remainder of Leeds’ Premier League fixtures. Club captain, Liam Cooper was already absent due to a knee injury and it’s unclear whether he will be able to feature in the final games at this stage.
Meanwhile Stuart Dallas sustained a femoral fracture in the previous match, ruling him out for upwards of six months. Patrick Bamford is ‘back on the grass’ but will likely only be able to feature from the bench in Leeds’ last couple of fixtures after his season of injury troubles.
Read more: Alan Shearer takes aim at Leeds United’s early ‘stupid mistakes’ in defeat at Arsenal
As such, Jesse Marsch is facing the prospect of having to scramble for the Whites’ Premier League future without the majority of his ‘leadership council’ on the field.
With that in mind, he could turn to a young player who performed admirably in a difficult situation on Sunday in Lewis Bate. The Chelsea academy product was brought on for Mateusz Klich and he showed that while he is not going to be a vocal leader like Cooper, Dallas or Ayling can be, he will step up and take responsibility on the ball.
Leeds were pinned back for the majority of the match and the situation was made worse after Ayling’s red card. However, in Bate, they had a young player keen to get on the ball and help them move up the pitch.
According to football stats website, fbref.com, no Leeds player made more progressive passes (those which move the ball 10m or more closer to the opponent’s goal) than the teenager, who made three. Contrastingly, Kalvin Phillips completed only two in 90 minutes and Klich did not complete a single one in his 45 minutes on the field.
Bate also showed what he could offer last weekend. Unfortunately, Leeds U23s were unable to deliver the victory against Arsenal U23s which would have been enough to save them from the relegation they suffered on Sunday, thanks to Chelsea U23s’ win at Tottenham. However, that was not through lack of trying on Bat’s part.
The 19-year-old played as if he were a man possessed in the second half. He continually drove Leeds forward and created a string of excellent chances, which the Whites unfortunately spurned.
In that game, he demonstrated his ability to carry the ball forwards at speed, using his agility to slalom between opponents before slipping through-balls behind Arsenal’s defensive line for Mateo Joseph. The Spaniard fired one shot straight at the goalkeeper, before finishing another which was ruled out for what looked to be an erroneous offside decision.
Given the lack of senior players Marsch has to call on in the final three games, it seems likely that he will start Mateusz Klich alongside Kalvin Phillips. However, he should not hesitate to give Bat more chances.
The attack has been stuttering in recent games and a midfielder such as the youngster could offer the something different that they require. He will take responsibility to get on the ball and be aggressive to make things happen.
With only goal difference separating Leeds and Burnley, Leeds may need a moment of quality from somewhere. With confidence running low in the squad after two demoralizing defeats, a young player like Bate putting his hand up to deliver that moment may be one of Marsch’s best bets.
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