At the moment, and despite the unstinting public support he receives from the Elland Road coaching staff, it’s fair to say that Leeds United’s Gjanni Alioski is clinging onto his first team starting spot by the very tips of his fingers. He’s having the sort of season that might normally be expected to make him cast fearful glances at the January transfer window, wondering whether the club might make an astute purchase to give them options in his left-wing berth.
But the fact is that Alioski might well face a more immediate challenge from a player returning to his parent club from a loan spell abroad, in the shape of Pawel Cibicki. The 24 year old Swede has just finished a stint at Norwegian club Molde, making 13 appearances which have yielded 3 goals, a number of assists and a probable increase in confidence for a player whose ability is unquestionable. There are some who feel, or hope that, like Mateusz Klich before him, Cibicki can return to Leeds and thrive under Bielsa where he failed to hack it under previous management. Alioski is coming increasingly under the critical scrutiny of unimpressed fans, though he continues to be an automatic selection, for the moment anyway. But might this just be for the lack, so far, of any realistic competition?
The development squad at Leeds United has come through this season when the first team has looked a bit threadbare in various positions. But wide up front on the left has remained Alioski’s province, apart from the rare occasions when he’s been required to cover (and has possibly looked more effective) at left back.
Cibicki’s return though, unless the club plans to farm him out again, at least provides another option in Alioski’s first team role. It may take a while for the Swedish U-21 international – who has a vocal advocate for his value and ability in compatriot Pontus Jansson – to get up to speed in terms of fitness and the ability to fit into the Marcelo Bielsa pattern. But if he can be seen to be knocking on the door of the first team at Alioski’s expense, that must surely be good for the club. Cibicki could be a handy option off the bench, particularly as he can play as a striker or a winger, while persuading Alioski that it’s now time to buck his ideas up and produce what we all know he’s capable of.
It’s all about options, strength in depth and permutations – but, surely, a player of such undoubted ability suddenly becoming available, and doubtless with a point or two to prove, must be good news for everyone. Except, just possibly, Gjanni Alioski.