After an opening 45 minutes which saw Mikel Areta’s side race into a three-goal lead over Leeds, with the Gunners enjoying the lion’s share of possession as well as much more attacking momentum than Bielsa’s side, the Argentine manager made the decision to withdraw Klich during the interval, replacing him with Tyler Roberts.
And, despite ultimately losing the fixture 4-2, the Whites did show signs of improvement in the second half, having a much greater share of the ball in comparison to the first 45, as well as edging Arsenal in terms of attacking momentum.
However, in a match reaction video for Leeds Live, Cross revealed that the 65-year-old Leeds manager admitted his decision to hook the £3.15 million-rated Klich was actually due to the 30-year-old struggling with injury, rather than the substitution being solely tactical.
He said: “He also admitted that Klich was playing through the pain today. So, you get the impression that had Leeds been suffering with fewer injuries – seven first-team players missing today – had it been maybe two or three, Mateusz Klich may well not have been risked [on Sunday].
“Bielsa said he was playing with a pain in his hip and he thanked Klich for his sacrifice. So, you’d think that maybe on another day Klich would have probably just sat this one out and allowed his hip to calm down. But, as it was he played, didn’t do particularly well and then came off at half time.
“So, maybe some sort of explanation there. Bielsa doesn’t say that very often – he doesn’t normally give players too many excuses, he doesn’t feel he should make any excuses about performances, it is what it is. But he did raise that quite early on in the press conference after the game.”
Do you think Klich should be dropped?
TIF Thoughts on Beren Cross’ comments regarding Marcelo Bielsa’s remarks…
As such, with Bielsa claiming that Klich was struggling due to injury, perhaps the midfielder’s performance against Arsenal – which saw him earn a 5.56 WhoScored match rating, ranking him as the second-worst player to feature in the match – can be somewhat excused.
However, this is not the first time in recent weeks that Klich has turned in a disappointing performance for the Whites, with the Poland international averaging an extremely poor WhoScored match rating of 6.19 over his last seven Premier League appearances.
So, while Bielsa may have defended Klich for his display against Arsenal, in our opinion, the 30-year-old certainly needs to raise his game in the club’s upcoming fixtures if he wishes to keep his place in the Argentine’s starting XI going forwards.