Noel Whelan has told BBC Radio Leeds (broadcast on 15/9; 14:54) that he feels that Pablo Hernandez has been a little off the pace for Leeds United so far this season, but insisted that he remains an absolutely vital player for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
Hernandez had a quiet afternoon at Oakwell as Leeds scored twice late on to secure a 2-0 win over Barnsley that lifts them back to the top of the Championship.
The Spaniard could not stamp his authority on the game, and was that involved in either of Leeds’s goals as Eddie Nketiah stole many of the headlines.
Whelan admitted that he has not been as impressed with the 34-year-old so far this season, but added that he expects the magician to come good once again in the near future.
“I think Pablo’s not hit his normal standards yet,” he told BBC Radio Leeds.
“He seems a little bit off the pace at the minute, but we do know that he’s got that quality and it’s very hard not to put him out there on the field because he does have that moment of genius that, probably the other players just don’t have.
“But sometimes, it takes you six, seven, eight games to actually get into the stride and find that quality within your own game. There’s no doubt he’s going to have so much to say in this season.”
While Whelan is arguably right to suggest that Hernandez was not at his best on Sunday, there have been glimpses of his quality already this season.
He was outstanding in the opening day win at Bristol City, and he produced some outrageous pieces of brilliance in the 3-0 thrashing of Stoke City. His assist for Stuart Dallas was remarkable, and he played a similarly-superb pass in the build-up to Leeds’s third goal.
Only Patrick Bamford has had a direct hand in more league goals this season. It is a frightening prospect for United’s rivals that there seems to be so much more to come from Hernandez.