Diego Llorente is being backed to reverse his sorry form in the Leeds United defence by Tony Dorigo – but one major weakness in the Spaniard’s armoury has been identified.
Llorente arrived at Elland Road in summer 2020, one of their big signings that year upon promotion back to the Premier League. His first season was riddled with injury problems, but when he did feature, he looked an assured presence at the back.
However, he suffered an indifferent 2021/22 campaign as the Whites avoided a narrow brush with relegation.
He started the 2022/23 campaign looking like his old self, but costly mistakes in recent games has raised some serious question marks.
Indeed, Llorente got his feet in a tangle in the recent 1-1 draw with Everton, allowing Anthony Gordon to fire in the visitors’ goal.
But worse was to come at Brentford when the Spaniard was culpable for at least two of the Bees goals. Leeds succumbed to a woeful 5-2 defeat.
However, the manner of the scoreline was not a particularly fair reflection of the game. And Llorente’s mistakes certainly allowed Thomas Frank’s side to put added gloss on an otherwise tight game.
And his display at the Brentford Community Stadium prompted Leeds Live to rate his performance as a 2/10.
It all means Llorente’s place in the side looks up for grabs when Leeds face Nottingham Forest next.
Former Leeds full-back Dorigo has expressed concerns about Llorente’s form. He believes the player, though, can turn his form around again under Jesse Marsch.
“Unfortunately Diego Llorente isn’t having his best patch of form,” Dorigo told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
Dorigo backing for Diego Llorente
Highlighting his recent failure to find his passing range, Dorigo continued: “And with him, when he’s on the ball and those slicing angled passes go into midfield, it really builds his confidence. I don’t think those passes have been there so much of late and he’s struggled.”
Dorigo reckons the rot set in for Llorente in the 1-0 defeat at Brighton and he’s been in a bit of a malaise ever since.
“I felt that at Brighton and it does seem to affect his game, so mistakes creep in.
“It’s unlike him but all players go through it and I’m sure he’ll come out the other side.
“He wasn’t alone in making mistakes and showing that the situation had got to him.”
Dorigo also expressed his thoughts on Leeds’ transfer window, particularly the deadline-day arrival of Willy Gnonto.
“I think overall, when you look at the players we’ve now brought in and the numbers we brought in, we’re in a better position with more depth and that was always key for this window.
“Right at the end, however, what we were hoping for didn’t quite materialise and we ended up with Wilfried Gnonto.
“I commentated on his debut for Italy in the summer. He’s an 18-year-old of great potential who has shown fantastic ability. Butt he’s not really the answer to the here and now. He could go on to be and he could be one heck of a signing yet… everyone was waiting for a player to come in who was ready.
“We didn’t get that, despite the club working extremely hard to make it happen. There were clearly a lot of things out of their control and as the stories all poured out on deadline day it must have been tough for all concerned.”
Liam Cooper ready to return to the side
Leeds United return to action against Nottingham Forest at Elland Road on Monday night. And Marsch and Co will be eager to right the wrongs of their last outing at Brentford.
Whether Llorente gets that chance, however, remains to be seen.
Club captain Liam Cooper is closing on a return to full fitness and he is likely to earn a recall against the Tricky Trees. Partnering Robin Koch, that partnership looks the best for Leeds right now going forwards.
Cooper provides a better balance for the side, given he will slot into that left central defensive area. Llorente, a right-footer, has been forced to play there with Koch – prior to Brentford at least – impressing on the right.
The Whites will also strongly consider handing a start to Luke Ayling. Leeds spent £10m on Rasmus Kristensen over the summer; a player seem as his potential long-term replacement.
But the Dane has also struggled to find consistency in his first five games for Leeds. He missed out at Brentford with Cody Drameh handed a rare start.
However, Ayling showed he’s still the man to displace with an excellent introduction off the bench. As such, it would come as a surprise if Cooper and Ayling were not recalled for the Forest clash.