If Thursday’s friendly against Blackpool showed Leeds United fans anything, it’s that they now have a pretty big squad. Despite having over 10 players out for the game against the Seasiders at York’s Community Stadium, whether that was through injury or extra rest time for internationals and new signings, the Whites were still able to field a very strong XI.
Not only that, but manager Jesse Marsch was able to rotate his whole squad during the match with the young team that finished the game still able to dominate possession and score another goal in the comfortable 4-0 win against the Championship side.
It is the biggest group United have had since before the Marcelo Bielsa era. Having struggled through the whole of last season with a threadbare squad, there is now a sense that with the new signings and players returning from injury, Marsch needs to offload a few, especially in terms of fringe players.
One of those players at a crossroads is Jamie Shackleton. The 22-year-old came on for the second 45 minutes against Blackpool and as always he put in 100 percent and rarely put a foot wrong. The academy product has made 68 first-team appearances since his debut in 2018 and was often used under Bielsa, but injuries and confusion over what his best position is have hampered the Kippax junior. Whether that’s at right-back or central midfield, Shacklton faces a tough job finding a spot in Marsch’s starting XI this season with competition for places in those two areas probably the highest in the whole squad. With players ahead of him in the pecking order it appears Shackleton is going to take up the chance to follow teammate and close friend Charlie Cresswell at Millwall on loan for the season, with the South London outfit keen on ‘Shacks’. At this moment in time, that seems like the best outcome for everyone with the chance he could replicate the impact Cody Drameh had during his time on loan at Cardiff last season.
Decision: Season loan to Millwall
Since signing from Manchester City in 2020, Poveda has struggled to progress at Leeds. He has made 18 first-team appearances in a white shirt but has shown only glimpses of the talent that saw him highly-rated enough for Bielsa to bring him to Elland Road. Unfortunately, a fall-out with the Argentine boss saw him loaned to Blackburn last season where injury ended his season early. During his limited minutes for Leeds, Poveda has looked skillful on the ball, but the physicality of the Premier League proved too much as he was pushed off with ease by defenders, with his end product also leaving a lot to be desired. It’s reported Marsch wants to keep Poveda beyond this season, but is happy for him to go out on loan with interest from England, Spain and the USA. Given Poveda’s obvious talent, this seems the best option, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him lured in by the attraction of the States.
Decision: Season loan to the MLS
Having spent last season on loan at Bournemouth, left-back Leif Davis was predicted by many to have played his last game for Leeds. The 22-year-old was a bit-part player under Bielsa and despite earning promotion with Scott Parker’s Cherries, he didn’t play as many minutes as anticipated on the south coast. However, since returning to Leeds, Davis has impressed Marsch to the extent the club have abandoned plans to buy a back-up left-back to Junior Firpo. The Spaniard, who signed from Barcelona last season, has struggled in the Premier League and if that continues, Davis will have a shot at the starting XI. It’s an unexpected turn for the Newcastle-born defender, who at 22, knows this needs to be his breakout season at Elland Road.
Decision: Keep as left-back option