Leeds United over the years have had some great goalkeepers and current first choice Illan Meslier has been a fantastic servant to the club so far, amassing over 100 Premier League appearances; becoming the youngest keeper in history to do so.
However, his performances lately have been patchy, and poor distribution and indecisiveness has cost Leeds on several occasions. Joel Robles could be the key to helping Leeds survive this season, with the veteran shot stopper providing experience to the side.
An experienced head
While Meslier certainly has a career at the top ahead of him, what he lacks right now is experience, and this is where Joel Robles could come in and make the difference. At the twilight of his career, Robles has represented a number of clubs, most notably fellow Premier League outfit Everton.
While the Spaniard has never really been a number 1 in his career, he has been a valuable backup when called upon by teams, amassing 71 clean sheets in 213 career games. Right now, Leeds need someone who can be calm and composed, and someone who has that know-how to keep games flowing and to be a reliable base for the back four to call upon. While Meslier is a great shot stopper, he often dithers when collecting the ball and subsequently distributing it, causing Leeds’ attacks to break down before they even have a chance to begin.
Attacking from the back
As mentioned, distribution is somewhat of a weak point of Illan Meslier’s game, as many Leeds fans would agree. While this is certainly something that will improve over the course of his career, right now Leeds need instant results. Starting a keeper like Robles who has played in various tactical set-ups over his career could provide the Leeds attackers with a goalkeeper they can rely on when wanting the ball to be sent upfield.
With experience comes calmness, and with calmness comes decisiveness – this is something Leeds United could call upon from the veteran keeper when planning attacking phases of play. Knowing the team has a keeper that is able to pin-point players and distribute the ball quickly means that Leeds United can maintain attacking pressure, which in turn means that dominant spells such as the first half against Crystal Palace are not broken up by indecisive distribution.
High pressure situation
After the shocking 5-1 defeat to Crystal Palace, where Leeds United capitulated dramatically, it is clear that the side need leaders. At Meslier’s tender age, it could be argued that he doesn’t yet have the skillset to lead the side through difficult moments. Step forward Joel Robles. The accomplished keeper could prove to be valuable for the Whites when looking for someone to organise the defence when the going gets tough. Too many times this season has the back four lost their shape after conceding a goal. Having someone to maintain confidence and concentration within the back line could be the key to preventing crumbling performances like the one seen at the weekend.
Palace were able to walk through the defence at times in the second half, and Leeds looked a side that had lost all discipline, especially after the third goal went in. Having an experienced role model who knows how to stay calm in pressure situations could give Leeds that edge to be able to get back into games when behind, but also to maintain concentration to hopefully prevent any need for a comeback in the first place.
While Illan Meslier is a prized asset at Leeds United, and will surely go on to have a stellar career at the top, his relative inexperience in the professional game could arguably cost Leeds United in the short term. Leeds United have the perfect short term solution in Joel Robles, and certainly head coach Javi Gracia will be considering starting the veteran in the coming games.