Republic of Ireland international Eunan O’Kane is set to face the first presser of the new season on Friday alongside Thomas Christiansen after a summer which has seen him push his way to the front of the queue in his position. He isn’t the only one who’s forced himself back into contention this summer, Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas has been very impressive.
It’s fair to say that the pair both found themselves frustratingly sat out of the side at the back end of the season. As summer came I wasn’t too fussed about Stuart Dallas, I didn’t think he had a good season at all and I felt he had maybe fallen behind other players and wasn’t what we needed anymore. His summer at the Euro’s with Northern Ireland seemed to take it’s toll and I can’t really remember him having a stand-out game at all last season. He would ebb and flow through games doing little in the way of creative play. His work rate was always there but we demand more than that now, his edge seemed to have deserted him. Fast forward a few months and it seems a break and some more competition has done him the world of good.
Ezgjan Alioski has arrived which means there are four players fighting for two spots on the wings at Elland Road. Hadi Sacko signed for a fee of £1.3 million and Kemar Roofe seems to be growing into his role at Leeds United, set to play an important role this season. Dallas, not wanting to be left behind quickly got to work scoring two beauties at Guiseley before impressing in Austria, not just with his work rate but ability to find room to get his crosses into the box. In my eyes Dallas is the best in terms of delivery in the squad, his problem is getting into the advanced positions to get the ball into the box. He doesn’t have the pace but he does have the brain and he seems to be re-discovering that confidence in which he can give us another option. His goal on Saturday was nothing short of wonderful and we need more of it.
Eunan O’Kane is a different situation entirely. O’Kane was key in our most successful spell last season, playing through months of wins and results that took us close to the summit of the Championship. He literally played his first game against Blackburn when the season changed and until he was injured he partnered wither Phillips or Vieira in the middle of the park. After he was injured the form dipped massively and despite his return and the poor form of Phillips and Bridcutt Monk refused to put him back into the side. We couldn’t get to grips with the opposition in games and we never controlled the pace or flow. Is that coincidence? Many don’t think so, and this summer has saw him push all others out of the way to cement a spot in the middle of the park for the first game of the season, surely. Rounded off with a man of the match performance against Oxford on Saturday.
What O’Kane brings to the side is composure and the ability to play out from deep positions. If we are playing the way that Thomas Christiansen wants then for me the best option seems to be O’Kane in that deep role picking up the ball and turning. He is composed, clever and can also move up the pitch and make things happen in the final third if given the license. Ronaldo Vieira is suited well with him as he can be the engine although Kalvin Phillips made the start on Saturday and although he certainly isn’t my preferred choice in the middle I have a hunch he may start at Bolton on Sunday afternoon. Both O’Kane and Dallas stayed very professional during the frustrating times and are now firmly back in the plans due to their ability.