Stuart Dallas’s switch to central midfield might have been slightly forced on Marcelo Bielsa, but the Leeds United manager is delighted by the Northern Ireland international’s development.
Having started the season at right-back while Luke Ayling recovered from injury, Dallas has since switched into the middle of the pitch to cover for the absences of Adam Forshaw and Jamie Shackleton.
At Preston North End on Tuesday, Dallas again played as a “No 8” – the link between holding midfielder Kalvin Phillips and the more advanced Mateusz Klich – and Bielsa was impressed with how he is adapting.
“I liked the performance of Dallas,” Bielsa commented when asked if it was the right position for the 28-year-old.
“He’s a player who develops a little bit more every time.
Dallas is the opposite example to (Patrick) Bamford and (Eddie) Nketiah (where the Argentinan has two players competing for one centre-forward spot) because Shackleton and Forshaw are injured so he is playing as a No8 when he has never played there before.Marcelo Bielsa
“Dallas is the opposite example to (Patrick) Bamford and (Eddie) Nketiah (where the Argentinan has two players competing for one centre-forward spot) because Shackleton and Forshaw are injured so he is playing as a No 8 when he has never played there before. We didn’t have time to prepare him (for the role) but he’s played there since the international break and has performed well.”
Bielsa’s insistence on a tight squad of players puts greater emphasis on versatility and Macedonian winger Gjanni Alioski is another who has had to adapt, filling in at left-back recently.
“I have a lot of confidence from the staff that helps me a lot,” explained Alioski.
“It’s not a big difference being on the wing or left-back because we play at a high intensity, we press high, we go forwards with the full-backs and I like it really because we have a lot of power from the right side and the left side.
“But this is all about the work from the coach that he manages us how to play (like) this.”