Marcelo Bielsa’s pre-Brighton comments today have spurned an interesting debate on Twitter. I won’t attempt to paraphrase so will paste the tweets directly:
you get the feeling that Bielsa thinks Casilla served his punishment and should be allowed to move forward or put it behind him. Has a very high opinion of him, despite that. But in reality, sections of the fanbase think differently. It's a definite clash of views.
— Phil Hay (@PhilHay_) January 14, 2021
Bielsa’s views are clear: the player was punished and in the spirit of justice being served, feels that everyone deserves an opportunity to move on. This feeling is not universally felt throughout the fanbase and the case of Kiko Casilla is an interesting one. With Meslier making inevitable mistakes, there’s always a flutter of “get Kiko back” sentiment from people who clearly haven’t watched back the Crawley game or reflected on why he got dropped in the first place:
Since Leeds' 3-3 draw with Cardiff, Kiko Casilla has made 5 defensive errors leading to goals in his last 11 games, more than any other Championship player. Its the most by a Leeds player in a single season since Felix Wiedwald, who made 5 errors that led to a goal in 28 matches. pic.twitter.com/7UOqBErHZO
— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) February 12, 2020
I still have PTSD from the playoff semi-final second leg against Derby where he got rattled and completely imploded, playing a key role in us losing that fixture. His inadequacies then looked to be harming our promotion hopes as his form dipped drastically. I remember him completely mis-controlling a ball from an un-pressured back-pass against Brentford and gifting them a crucial foothold in the game. Not forgetting, had we lost that game Brentford would have taken our place in the automatic promotion spots.
Bielsa’s Leeds play high-intensity, high-risk, highly-mobile football. We can’t afford a “confidence” keeper who completely loses his head after a simple mistake because by the virtue of how we play, our goalkeepers touch the ball more than most opposition outfield players.
Crawley was a timely reminder of why we need to wrap Meslier in bubble-wrap between games. The giant child isn’t flawless by any means, but his mistakes are part of a continued period of growth, learning and progression. He’s only 20 and he’s playing as a first choice goalkeeper in one of the best leagues in the world, amongst a defence that even as we approach February hasn’t been able to field a first-choice setup. Kiko is 34 and not on the up-swing part of his career, sad as that is for me as a newly-turned 36-year old to admit.
One of the goals against League Two Crawley was right at him, but he just let it go in under him. This isn’t the player to put in front of Harry Kane or Mo Salah.
But what about the racism?
This is where I’m most troubled. We’ve had rubbish goalkeepers at Leeds United before. Hell, I feel we’ve made a habit of harbouring them like some kind of care facility. What we haven’t had before is a rubbish footballer who has also been found guilty of racism. You can contest as much as you like the “balance of probability” argument, but the 62 page FA report provided a burden of proof exceeding what is expected. The matter of the fact is, the player was found guilty of using racist language and brought the club into disrepute yet again.
Whilst also being one of our highest earners, being rubbish and woefully inconsistent – I personally would support his departure from the club. Supporting Leeds is stressful enough without a goalkeeper who you know isn’t going to improve and can single-handedly lose you the game without warning if someone gets in his head while waiting for a corner to be delivered.
It’s an interesting subject though, but even if you like the guy and don’t trust the FA’s judgement to be correct on the balance of probability, a club like ours surely can’t afford to have one of its top earners sit on the bench. Even were he good enough to put pressure on Meslier for the #1 spot.
What do you think?
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