Alex McLeish has urged Marcelo Bielsa to get Leeds United youngsters back into their natural positions to deal with the Premier League “bear pit”.
The former Rangers and Scotland manager, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, insisted playing the likes of Luke Ayling and Pascal Struijk in makeshift roles was doing the Whites no favours in the Premier League.
As confirmed by Marcelo Bielsa at his pre-match press conference, Leeds will have to make do without Kalvin Phillips, as well as Rodrigo Moreno, for Friday’s clash against Wolves.
📰 "Klich and Llorente are available. Phillips and Rodrigo are not." Marcelo on the squad ahead of Wolves pic.twitter.com/NdI668i3WI
— Leeds United (@LUFC) February 18, 2021
Struijk, who has played predominantly as a centre-back this season, was pushed into midfield to fill in for Phillips against Arsenal, with right-back Ayling moved into the heart of the defence.
The Whites suffered a 4-2 defeat against the Gunners, although the 21-year-old utility man managed to get on the scoresheet with a second-half header.
McLeish has admitted it was a “tame” showing from Bielsa’s men in north London and insisted the Argentine boss needed to get square pegs back in square holes against Wolves.
“The versatility factor of one or two players definitely didn’t do them any favours at Arsenal,” McLeish told Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge.
“The goals they let in, they went in rather tamely on some occasions. Okay, there was the great Aubameyang hat-trick but otherwise, it was a day to forget for Leeds, wasn’t it?
“It’s not easy, especially when you’re throwing young guys into the Premier League and grounds like Wolves because it’s a bear pit. They need to play in their natural positions if possible.”
Struijk has played 14 times in the Premier League this season and has started eight of the Whites’ last nine top-flight games.
He has a total of 21 first-team appearances for Leeds under his belt, with his header against Arsenal his first goal for the club.