Joe Gelhardt absence among Leeds United talking points following Real Betis post-mortem

Gelhardt missing

Leeds United teenager Joe Gelhardt was absent from the travelling party the Whites took to Loughborough for yesterday’s Real Betis friendly.

The team were beaten by three goals to two, but teenage forward Sam Greenwood earned himself a few minutes from the bench, replacing Pascal Struijk in the closing stages.

Having finished last season as top scorer for the U23 side, Greenwood has been blooded in first-team friendlies during this summer’s pre-season.

Meanwhile, Joe Gelhardt – viewed on a very similar plane to the former Arsenal man – has missed out on a potentially crucial opportunity, through no fault of his own.

Gelhardt was on the receiving end of a rather industrial tackle at Guiseley in Leeds’ opening friendly of pre-season, and has not been involved since.

Joe Gelhardt scurries away from his opponent at Nethermoor Park

Granted, the Whites have played four matches in the space of five days, largely split between the first-team and U23 squads, but Gelhardt’s absence means he has missed 270 minutes of potential action versus Blackburn Rovers, Fleetwood Town and Real Betis.

So far, Greenwood is the sole player to have bridged the clear gap between U23 friendlies and first-team run-outs. Gelhardt’s 11-goal haul last term and heavy involvement in first-team training of late suggests he would have been in with a good chance of playing an in-between role this summer.

Rusty Meslier

Individual errors are especially costly when those mistakes are made by goalkeepers, as Illan Meslier discovered at Loughborough.

Beaten at his near post by Sabaly’s strike from a tight angle for Real Betis’ third and final goal, Meslier looked rather sullen in recognition of his mishap.

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While there is little doubt he will be Leeds’ No. 1 this season, committing a cardinal sin of goalkeeping on the same day Leeds announced the signing of 20-year-old Norway international-in-waiting Kristoffer Klaesson, was hardly ideal timing.

As with the outfield players, who are yet to hit fifth and sixth gear, Meslier is playing his first competitive football since early June, so a little bit of rust is to be anticipated – and forgiven.

Cooper and Kalvin’s omission

Leeds captain Liam Cooper and Kalvin Phillips were both missing from the squad for the Real Betis defeat.

Both participated for their countries at EURO 2020, but Cooper in particular returned to first-team pre-season training some weeks ago.

His return to Thorp Arch coincided with Mateusz Klich’s, and the Pole featured for the second 45 at Loughborough University Stadium.

Klich’s watching brief for the first half is perhaps an indication that Cooper and Klich are not yet at the level Marcelo Bielsa deems to be 90-minute match fit.

As for Phillips, he has been back in training for around a week, therefore his absence was to be expected.

Whether he features in some capacity next week versus AFC Ajax will give the clearest indication of his readiness for Manchester United in two weeks.

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