Gracia must ditch “terrible” £60k-p/w Leeds “liability” who is running out of chances – opinion

Leeds United boosted their survival hopes tenfold with last weekend’s win over relegation rivals Southampton, as the Whites crawled out of the relegation zone celebrating a narrow 1-0 victory.

It was hardly a performance to remember, but when the bottom-half of the Premier League remains so tight it becomes a campaign based solely on results rather than attractive football.

Javi Gracia will be well aware of this, as the coach takes his side to Stamford Bridge hoping to take points off Graham Potter’s struggling Chelsea outfit.

Since that win over the Saints, the Yorkshire outfit fell to FA Cup defeat against an impressive Fulham side, where again their lack of cutting edge let them down. So often this season they have created the chances, but without a finishing touch those all-important results will always be sparse.

Perhaps the Spaniard could look to solidify his back four by dropping last weekend’s hero Junior Firpo in favour of an alternative like Pascal Struijk, who could be back from injury, which would allow a far more solid foundation from which to build their play.

If they can prohibit the hosts from scoring, then at the very least they won’t lose.

Should Junior Firpo start for Leeds?

Although his goal secured the three points in their last league outing, the display of the Dominican Republic international at Craven Cottage left plenty to be desired.

He often shows his intense desire to push forward, and whilst that at times can be good, against quality like Chelsea his positional fragilities will be exposed.

Against the Cottagers, his 6.4 rating was the second-worst of any outfielder and this was largely down to his lack of potency in the final third. If he must push forward, then the dud, at the very least, has to contribute. Otherwise, it comes at the detriment of both the team’s offence and defence.

The full-back competed in just four duels all game, somehow managing to lose all four, and yet also lost possession 17 times too (via Sofascore), which shows that the defender was weak and a liability in and out of possession. 

The defending of the £60k-per-week defender has been called into question in the past too, as Paul Robinson tore into him just over a year ago to label his attempts as “terrible, schoolboy defending” against Tottenham Hotspur on BBC Radio 5 Live (26/2/2022, 12:52).

Having also been branded a “liability” in the past by journalist David Anderson, they cannot afford to have him bombing forward against the Blues to allow the likes of Noni Madueke, Mykhailo Mudryk, or even Joao Felix space to deliver. They could crucify a threadbare backline with their pace in-behind.

Firpo is rapidly running out of chances to prove himself as a reliable asset, and today is not the time to hand him another one. He must be dropped, and his career at the club monitored with intense scrutiny as he plays for his future within this squad.

One goal, however crucial it may turn out to be, last week does not undo the rest of his performances or the continual defensive weakness that he displays, which is why Gracia must ditch him this weekend.


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