Leeds United stepped up their preparations for the new Premier League season this week with four friendlies in just five days.
First, a youthful Whites squad, that also included the returning Adam Forshaw, kicked off pre-season on Tuesday with a 3-2 victory at National League North side Guiseley thanks to goals from Crysencio Summerville, Sam Greenwood and Charlie Allen.
The first team then got their first taste of action the following day as they travelled to Championship side Blackburn Rovers where a late Pascal Struijk equaliser salvaged a 1-1 draw.
After a one-day break from the action, another young Leeds squad then travelled to Fleetwood Town, where they were defeated 2-1 despite Charlie Cresswell’s first half opener.
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Marcelo Bielsa’s side then faced their toughest test yet as they met La Liga side Real Betis at Loughborough University, as goals from Patrick Bamford and Mateusz Klich weren’t enough to prevent a 3-2 defeat.
As Leeds step up their preparations even further this week with fixtures against Ajax and Villareal, here are five things that we learned from the Whites’ first four pre-season matches.
Shackleton ready for more minutes
Arguably Leeds’ stand out performer from the opening week of pre-season games has been Jamie Shackleton.
Despite being played at right-back as opposed to his preferred midfield role, the 21-year-old has looked both assured defensively and impressive going forward thanks to his pace and relentless work rate.
Shackleton started just three league matches last term, but he will be hoping his pre-season performances will earn him a more regular role in the first team this season.
Early signs are promising for Firpo
Although it is very early days, the signing of Junior Firpo at left-back is looking like a very shrewd acquisition following his first two pre-season outings.
Firpo has already registered his first assist as he provided an excellent cross for Bamford to head home in the encounter with his old side Real Betis on Saturday.
The 24-year-old has yet to really be tested defensively in a white shirt so far but his almost instantaneous understanding with Jack Harrison on the left is an exciting prospect for Leeds fans ahead of the new season.
Forshaw could be a useful squad player for the Whites
It has been a tumultuous two years for Forshaw, but his injury problems appear to be behind him after coming through his opening pre-season matches unscathed.
While he is yet to take part in a first-team friendly, his performances against both Guiseley and Fleetwood with the youngsters offered plenty of encouraging signs.
There is still a long way to go for Forshaw in his battle back to full fitness, however if he can return to his pre-injury levels then Leeds will certainly have an excellent squad player on their books.
Cresswell is a top talent
One of the Under-23s’ most impressive performers during pre-season has been centre-back Charlie Cresswell.
The 18-year-old looks beyond his years whenever he steps out on the field for Mark Jackson’s side and was unfazed by the physical contests provided by both Guiseley and Fleetwood.
Cresswell is both excellent defensively and composed in possession, meaning he has all the attributes to potentially break into the first team over the next few seasons.
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Costa’s struggles continue
Following the arrival of Raphinha last summer Helder Costa’s loss of form has been a real cause for concern for the Whites.
Costa played the full 90 minutes during the 1-1 draw with Blackburn and was experimented in a more central role at Ewood Park that didn’t really pay off.
The 27-year-old appears reluctant to use his pace and trickery against defenders and due to his lack of confidence, an injury to either Raphinha or Harrison would see a serious drop in quality in the wide areas.
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