The appointment of Marcelo Bielsa as Leeds United boss caused much excitement at Elland Road.
The Italian’s aggressive brand of ‘Bielsaball’ raises question marks as to whether the Leeds squad can cope with its demands over the course of a season, but so far it has paid off. The side are currently favourites for the Championship after a hugely impressive start to the season.
But with this new philosophy comes a need to fine-tune the squad, and it appears that Irishman Eunan O’Kane will have to look elsewhere in order to get game-time.
Despite being made captain of the side back in February under previous manager Paul Heckingbottom, the 28-year-old hasn’t been given a squad number for this season, and is yet to be included in the squad so far.
After making 56 appearances for the club since joining from Bournemouth in 2016, O’Kane has effectively been deemed surplus to requirements.
“When a professional player has history as a football player, for example [Vurnon] Anita has a history as a football player, O’Kane has a history as a football player, [Caleb] Ekuban also”, he said via Leeds Live.
“One way to respect them is to keep them inside the team if they have the possibility to play in a position with another player. If we have one position and three players it’s very difficult that the third player gets time to play. I saw every game and every minute the player played last year.
“Then we built the group where we have two players for each position and if we had behaved in another way it would have been counterproductive.
“For example, I can say Ayling, [Stuart] Dallas and [Jamie] Shackleton because Shackleton is a youngster and he has time to develop his career, but I can’t do the same thing with Ayling, Dallas and Anita, for example, because I would be doing something not very good to one of the three players.
“I think it would be unfair to keep a player with us if he doesn’t have the possibility to get the time he deserves.”
There was more a more encouraging mention of defender Conor Shaughnessy, however, as Bielsa name-checked him as a potential replacement for impressive defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips if he were to become injured.
Shaughnessy has been restricted to a place on the bench in the Carabao Cup win against Bolton Wanderers thus far.