Since the start of the season, Meslier has undoubtedly made himself Marcelo Bielsa’s number one choice between the sticks, with the 20-year-old being a regular part of the Argentine’s Premier League teams – conceding 41 goals and keeping seven clean sheets over his 22 top-flight appearances.
However, in the Whites’ most recent fixture, a 4-2 loss to Mikel Arteta’s Arsenal, the £10.8 million-rated ‘keeper put in by far his worst performance of the season, earning a WhoScored match rating of just 4.02 for his efforts in the match.
Although, in a match reaction video for Leeds Live, Cross stated his belief that the France U21 international will enjoy more good than bad moments this season, and will only develop and improve as a footballer with time.
He said: “Meslier, of course, will generate a lot of narratives and a lot of headlines. I think by now, though, we’ve got 15 matches left of the season, we’re well aware of what we’re going to get with Meslier. He’s 20. He’s going to do more right than wrong over the course of a season.
“But we are going to get days like this and we have to swallow them, because if you want to have the upside of a young 20-year-old goalkeeper, the youngest regular starting goalkeeper in Europe’s five big divisions, the upside of having a goalkeeper here for the next 10-15 years, the upside of having a goalkeeper that will grow and improve year by year under Bielsa and whoever Bielsa’s successors are – if you want those upsides, then you have to put up with a few of the bad sides. And, of course, for any young footballer, part of that process is having a few bad days.
“One little fact that I looked after the match is that Meslier is the same age as Niall Huggins. You look at Niall Huggins coming on [against Arsenal] for his professional debut at the age of 20 and he felt like a little boy going onto that pitch. He felt like an incredibly young, inexperienced young man who nobody was ever going to criticise or dig out, it was a free hit for him. Then you look at Meslier and he’s exactly the same age and yet the yardstick feels entirely different and we’re much more willing to criticise Meslier.”
Do you blame Meslier for the Arsenal loss?
TIF Thoughts on Beren Cross’ comments regarding Illan Meslier…
As Cross very correctly points out, Meslier is still an incredibly young man and has made just 33 appearances for the Leeds United first-team thus far in his career, the majority of which have come in the Premier League so far this season.
As such, it should very much be expected that the young shot-stopper – who has indeed grabbed the headlines following Sunday’s defeat – will have a number of off days, and, if anything, the Frenchman should be applauded for the way he has proven himself capable of operating at the highest level of English football with such a little amount of experience behind him.