Marcelo Bielsa has suggested that he was content with Niall Huggins’s display as the youngster was handed his Leeds United debut in Sunday’s defeat at Arsenal, in comments reported by Leeds Live.
Huggins has edged closer to his senior bow in the last couple of months. The 20-year-old has been excellent for the under-23s throughout the season. And he has now been included on the first-team bench on a number of occasions.
With Leeds 4-0 down at Arsenal and having already made two changes, Huggins may have felt that it was unlikely that he would feature at the Emirates.
However, Bielsa decided to hand him a chance. He replaced Gjanni Alioski shortly after Arsenal’s fourth goal.
Of course, Huggins was the only Leeds player to not be on the pitch when the Whites conceded a goal. In fact, Bielsa’s men won the final 40 minutes of the game 2-0.
Bielsa admitted that it was harsh to ask Huggins to come on given the match situation. But he suggested that he did well.
“It’s very difficult and unfair on a young player like Niall to come into the game in these circumstances where we’re losing 4-0 and to participate in trying to get us back into the game,” he said, as reported by Leeds Live. “Had a balanced game. He didn’t shine, but did not do anything bad either.”
Huggins looks to have the skillset to make a number of appearances over the coming months. He is incredibly versatile – as he proved at the Emirates.
The Wales youth international seemed to feature all over the park on Sunday. He popped up at full-back, out on the wing and in a more central role.
As Bielsa hints, there did not seem to be any moment when Huggins looked out of his depth. He was tidy in possession. And he should take a lot of confidence from his performance.
His versatility perhaps leaves him with a tougher task trying to force his way into the starting lineup over the coming years. But for now, it certainly makes him a very valuable player for Bielsa to keep on the bench and around the squad.