By Editor Wayne Veysey
When Pablo Hernandez broke down with a hamstring problem before the last international break, it appeared to present the perfect opportunity for Alex Mowatt to reclaim the chief playmaker role.
Like Hernandez, Mowatt is at his most comfortable directing the play, picking out passes and arriving late in the box to put the finishing touches to moves.
But Garry Monk had other ideas. Rather than turn to the academy graduate who won the Leeds player of the year award for 2014-15, he instead put his faith in players who had been used more regularly this season.
First, Kalvin Phillips got the nod in the No10 position for the Newcastle game as the manager beefed up the midfield against the division’s best team. It did not work. Phillips is an emerging talent but does not have the composure on the ball to open opponents up.
Then, Monk went for a left-field option against Rotherham last weekend. Kemar Roofe, who had been used primarily on the left flank since his summer arrival from Oxford, was pushed inside.
Roofe, who is more used to hugging the touchline, was revitalised. He was more involved in the play and able to get closer to the goal and test the opposition goalkeeper more often, rather than simply tee up teammates.
Monk stuck with the 23-year-old in the No10 role against Liverpool and he was arguably Leeds’ best player as he created, schemed and caused problems to the Premier League high flyers.
Roofe also came so close to breaking a Leeds duck that now extends to an embarrassing 22 matches, 13 of which he started. A 52nd minute devilish long-range curler rebounded off the post of Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet.
With Hernandez absent for up to another fortnight, it appears certain that Monk will stick with Roofe as the No10 against in-form Aston Villa in Saturday evening’s Championship showdown of the fallen giants.
The writing is seemingly on the wall for Mowatt. Seemingly fourth choice in his best position, the 21-year-old is out of contract next summer.
The club have mentioned the possibility of a new deal for the academy product, but Mowatt appears to have lost his way. An alternative, harsher view is that Monk just doesn’t rate him.
Roofe’s emergence in the No10 role is the final nail in the coffin for Mowatt. With the January window about to open, a transfer would appear to be the best option for player and club.
It would enable the midfielder to find a new home where he could play more regularly, while allowing Leeds the opportunity to command a fee for a player who can leave for nothing next summer.
In other Leeds news, an England international is close to signing for the club.