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Meslier errors are minimal when you embrace jeopardy like Leeds. Just ask Bielsa

https://theathletic.com/2297324/2021/01/03/meslier-leeds-mistake-tottenham/

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At the opposite end of the Tottenham Hotspur stadium, 90 yards away from Illan Meslier, was a compatriot of his who knew how he felt.

Twenty-nine minutes into Leeds United’s game at Spurs and Meslier’s pass had blown it. Overhit and driven between Kalvin Phillips and Luke Ayling (below), it drew a foul by Gjanni Alioski on Steven Bergwijn and gave Harry Kane a penalty. A goalless scoreline became 1-0 and Tottenham, after a very even start, had the contest they wanted.

“An undeniable error,” Marcelo Bielsa called it at the end of a 3-0 defeat but with a sympathetic tone. When Meslier’s mistake was raised with him, touching on the risks Bielsa asks his keepers to take with their feet, Leeds’s head coach cut the discussion off at the head.

“What you have to look at is how he performs in all the fixtures, not just one game,” Bielsa said. “You can see how efficient Meslier has been with his feet this season. The question you ask comes from an error in your conclusion.” Just in case anyone wanted to test Bielsa’s confidence in him.

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Saturday subjected Meslier to hard knocks and Tottenham’s keeper, Hugo Lloris, can relate to them. Every member of that union has experienced the nowhere-to-hide hits, and they land with more force on a player finding his way in the glare of Premier League spotlights. Lloris and Meslier are the book-ends of French international goalkeeping: Lloris as France’s No 1 for more than a decade and Meslier as a prospect who would like to be in the wings if and when Lloris signals a changing of the guard by focusing on club football, his family and everything else a 34-year-old treasures in the international breaks. One is at the start of the road, the other has long since mastered it.

The gulf between them is 14 years in age and 120 caps, before even touching on World Cup medals and all-round prestige, but they are like each other in some respects. Lloris will see shades of himself in Meslier, or shades of himself in such a raw player standing in the line of fire. Older age is seen as a virtue in keepers but Lloris was 19 when he became first choice at Nice, a Ligue 1 regular before he had broken out of France’s Under-21 squad. Damien Gregorini, until then a popular figure with Nice’s crowd, was nudged to the fringes and then on to Nancy.

Meslier, at present, is on the same trajectory with Leeds, in at the deep end and delighted about it. Leeds have an alternative, Kiko Casilla, who has seen it all in the domestic game, albeit from the vantage point of the bench at Real Madrid. Casilla is 34, the same age as Lloris, but is struggling for traction as Gregorini did. In the longer term he is heading for the same fate as Gregorini, slipping away quietly while the prospect occupies the roost.

The tipping point in the fight for the gloves at Leeds was Casilla’s racism ban last season but Meslier stepped into the breach with the agreeable arrogance that coaches like to see in keepers. What might have been a short-term chance became a full-time shift in the club’s pecking order, to the extent that Casilla has become an expensive weight on the wage bill at Elland Road. In contrast, Meslier’s form for much of the past nine months begged the question of why Lorient were happy to flog him for £5 million and why no other club was as alive to his situation as Leeds.

The rarity of a 20-year-old playing regularly in the Premier League, or any major league, cannot be overstated. Across Europe’s top five divisions — the Premier League, Serie A, the Bundesliga, La Liga and Ligue 1 — Meslier is the youngest with 10 or more appearances this season. He is something of a freak by English standards too. Since the Premier League’s conception in 1992, he is fifth in the list of starts made in a single term by a keeper under the age of 21. Nine more appearances would beat the record of 25 set by Paul Gerrard at Oldham Athletic in 1993. It is 12 years since anyone else (otherwise known as Joe Hart) appeared more than Meslier at a comparable age.

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That would be a feather in Meslier’s cap were he merely being asked to pose as a last line of defence. But at Leeds, and with Bielsa, no keeper has the luxury of hiding in their own box. One of the things that brought Meslier on to the radar of Victor Orta was his readiness to pass short and long, and to do so confidently without complaint. Bielsa never panicked about the impact of Casilla’s eight-match suspension because he already saw Meslier as No 1 material. There was no discussion about signing someone else for the Premier League either.

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For Meslier, first choice under Bielsa meant being exposed. To date, he has shipped 33 goals in the Premier League, more than twice as many as Lloris, and he is one of the most tested keepers in the competition: 3.94 saves a game, which somehow keeps him busier than Sheffield United’s Aaron Ramsdale. There are next to none in the Premier League who face more shots or have pulled off more saves in total. His job is both a test of technical aptitude and a test of conviction, in the face of stats which could rapidly deflate a mentally-delicate player.

From front to back, Bielsa’s team embrace jeopardy. There have been errors from Meslier, like the misplaced pass to Grady Diagana which almost presented West Brom with a consolation goal last Tuesday and the misplaced pass to Spurs’ Harry Winks which did exactly that on Saturday, inviting Winks to look for Bergwijn and tempting Alioski to bring Bergwijn down. Meslier is out in front in the tally of goalkeeping mistakes leading to opposition shots but the weight, range and difficulty of his passing heightens the chances of trouble; a case of risk versus reward, very much like Bielsa’s selection of the 20-year-old itself.

Bielsa’s defence of Meslier’s distribution stands up to scrutiny. In among the odd hospital pass, Meslier maintains a long accuracy of just over 70 per cent. At shorter range (the range at which it went wrong against Tottenham) his completion rate is just below 98 per cent. Leeds try to dominate possession religiously and play with a high line but they still look to Meslier for 30 passes a game, the first base in all of Bielsa’s play. “If the keeper receives the ball and kicks it long, he can’t make an error,” the 65-year-old said after Saturday’s defeat. But a keeper like that cannot provide rhythm either. And so the gambles are taken and encouraged.

Spurs doubled their lead on Saturday with a beautifully crafted chance which Kane set up and Son Heung-min finished off with a deft finish to Meslier’s left. They scored again early in the second half when Toby Alderweireld’s header from a corner slipped over the line while Meslier tried to palm it clear. In Leeds’ previous two matches, Meslier had tried to be proactive at set-pieces, intervening in scenarios where they had become weak. There were more clearing punches from him in those fixtures than the rest of the season in its entirety and it made a difference. But this corner he left and Alderweireld scored after nudging Patrick Bamford from his path (below).

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When Alderweireld’s finish reached him, Meslier was caught a little behind his goalline, just as he had been when West Ham United equalised from a corner during their 2-1 win at Elland Road last month.

The shortcomings remind people that Leeds are breaking from convention by fielding a fledgling keeper at such a high level of the sport and attempting to turn an obscure face into more of a household name before his 21st birthday. But then there are the exceptional saves, the undoubted potential and the thought of the keeper he could become in time. Some might say Bielsa is asking for trouble. Lloris would not be one of them.

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Some interesting points in this:

Some in the board never wanted Lampard

If there were no transfer ban, there'd be no Lampard

Lampard sold players like Werner and Havertz on a 2yr plan to be challenging for the title - which with past reports of a 3yr plan pitched to the board suggests that this is yr 2 of the plan he pitched to the board, and so by end of next season we should be serious title challengers.

Further, mentions that Rice is very much a Lampard signing, with some at the club still not convinced Rice has overcome some of the reasons he got dropped from the academy and suggestions that if Lampard pushed too hard for Rice, it could risk his position.

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  • 1 month later...
6 minutes ago, Patrick Bamford said:

 

I mean he's probably still better most of our CBs, but he isnt exactly the future of our defense either, is he

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Just now, Artandur said:

I mean he's probably still better most of our CBs, but he isnt exactly the future of our defense either, is he

I hope it is BS. Boateng has lost his pace and his best time is long gone. 5 years ago it would have been a good signing but since then he spends too much time trying to be a fashion influencer. Hard pass in these kind of stopgap signings

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3 minutes ago, Artandur said:

I mean he's probably still better most of our CBs, but he isnt exactly the future of our defense either, is he

I would very much like to exchange Boateng for Rüdiger at any time.

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2 hours ago, Patrick Bamford said:

I would very much like to exchange Boateng for Rüdiger at any time.

Fuck no Patrick, he looks half the player he was before, maybe less.

1 hour ago, Vesper said:

NO

A big no here as well.....Upa all day over him.

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Chelsea have been working on the deal for some time and if 'nothing goes wrong', Boateng will become the first signing of the Thomas Tuchel era.

 

Bye Sule , Bye Upamecano 🤔

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25 minutes ago, milka said:

Chelsea have been working on the deal for some time and if 'nothing goes wrong', Boateng will become the first signing of the Thomas Tuchel era.

 

Bye Sule , Bye Upamecano 🤔

Lol doubt it, this news came from shit source.

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So many (hopefully 100% bullshit) articles that, if true, would mean our starting 3 CBs' ages next season would be

32 Azi

33 Boateng

37 Thiago Silva

if true, we are turning into Juventus without the 9 in a row titles or CL finals (2 of the past 5 years, both losses, they are shit in CL/European Cup finals, won 2, lost 7)

just NO

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19 hours ago, Atomiswave said:

Fuck no Patrick, he looks half the player he was before, maybe less.

A big no here as well.....Upa all day over him.

I need to watch Upamecano some more. He was in a terrible slump last year. so bad I pulled him off my lists.

Jose Gimenez and Savic got roasted last night on a late game-tying goal by Celta Vigo.

I want Fofana from Leicester, even with him out for a spell. He was close to the 2nd best CB in the EPL (after Dias) for a couple months before his injury. He is bigger (1.90m v 1.86m) and faster than Upamecano as well, and is already EPL-proven, to a point. He had benched Caglar Söyüncü, who is another really sold CB.

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16 hours ago, Blues Forever said:

 


club put off by David Alaba's wage demands
Telegraph Sport understands the Bayern Munich defender wants to be paid just short of £400,000-a-week

fucking insane

that's over £100m paid out over 5 years, and he is 29yo right after this season ends

 

 

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