As we all know, Leeds United are flying high in the Championship and have very high hopes of joining Arsenal in the Premier League next season, after 15 years in the wilderness.
But the Second Tier season is even longer and harder that the Premier League, and a team with aspirations of winning it would be very wary of adding more games to the schedule with a run in the Cups to distract them, so it is little surprise that Marcelo Bielsa would be happy to play his youngsters in the FA Cup tie at Arsenal, despite it being such a high profile game.
I am sure their first team players would love to step out at the Emirates, but I think the prospect of them playing against top teams every week next season would be a lot more attractive to a real professional, and that is what they are aiming for.
It is VERY unusual for a manager to tell his opponents of the team he intends to play with a couple of days notice, but that is what Bielsa has done, and has admitted that there will be at least two youngsters, Robbie Gotts and Illan Meslier, making their debuts. The Leeds boss said on the official Leeds website: “Meslier is going to play instead of Kiko Casilla, Gaetano Berardi in place of Liam Cooper, Barry Douglas in place of Ezgjan Alioski, Alioski in place of Helder Costa and Gotts in place of Stuart Dallas.
“Meslier has qualities that allow him to be responsible in a massive match like this one and is a goalkeeper who has experience in a first team.
“Gotts is a player that deserves to play and he is in his best moment in our process.
“The most important thing is that he has worked a lot to have this opportunity.
“It’s just one first step in the beginning of his career.
“Most of them don’t have to prove anything to us, if they play well it will be better, but if they don’t play well it isn’t going to change anything about their steps forward.”
So it would appear Bielsa is going to make it easier for Arteta to get his second win on the trot, and it will allow our new coach to rotate the Arsenal team a bit more as well, in the knowledge they will not be facing Leeds best players.
Is this an advantage for Arsenal or could it make Arteta a little more complacent about his choices? The fact is that a lot of our players could do with a rest after the hectic Xmas schedule….