Leeds United will have a decision to make in January when it comes Charlie Cresswell’s immediate future. The Whites are widely believed to have a recall option on the defender, who has spent the first half of the season with Championship outfit Millwall and they could bolster their defensive options by bringing him back to Elland Road to spend the rest of the campaign in the Premier League.
Cresswell seems to have made the most of his loan in south London, making 15 appearances in all competitions under Gary Rowett and establishing himself as one of the best young centre-backs the country has to offer. The 20-year-old has been a threat at the other end of the field, too, bagging four goals, including a brace on his debut and one in the club’s win over Preston North End last time out.
He has been in and out of Rowett’s starting XI and after being left out for a run of four straight games in October, it seemed likely that he would be recalled. However, the centre-back has returned to the fold now and he stands a good chance of keeping his spot when Millwall’s Championship campaign gets up and running once more on December 3.
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As such, Leeds have some thinking to do about what is best for Cresswell’s development and growth as a player. Here’s a look at the pros and cons of activating that recall clause.
The spell in the capital will have been a huge learning experience for the defender, moving away from home for the first time to play regular first-team football at a high standard. It’s a testing time for any young player, but his performances suggest he is thriving with the Lions.
Consequently, it seems a fair assumption to make that Cresswell would return to Elland Road and Thorp Arch having made strides both as a player and a man. He’s better equipped to deal with the rigours of the Premier League, having dealt with a hectic Championship campaign and with minutes comes added nous and experience.
It wouldn’t be over the top to suggest that he could even challenge for a spot within Jesse Marsch’s plans moving forward. The Whites have struggled defensively this season, shipping 26 goals, the fourth most in the Premier League behind Bournemouth, Nottingham Forest and Southampton.
The re-introduction of Cresswell would, in theory, provide those defenders currently in the side with competition and hopefully raise standards. Liam Cooper and Robin Koch look to be the established centre-back pairing at present, with Diego Llorente failing to convince during his spell in the side earlier in the campaign, and Cresswell would also provide more cover options should injury occur.
If he can get the game time, the player would undoubtedly benefit, too, testing himself against the best attack-minded players English football has to offer. It would be a big step up, but he had a taste of it last season and he managed to show plenty of promise.
Ideally, the matter ought to boil down to what is best for Cresswell and where he will be able to make the biggest strides in his development. If regular minutes look unlikely at Leeds, he should stay at Millwall and continue to strive to play regularly in the second tier.
Recalling him just to let him sit on the bench and give him the occasional run out with the U21s makes little sense from the point of view of Cresswell and his progress could suffer. At this moment in time, he is playing regularly with the Lions alongside the experienced Jake Cooper and every game provides a challenge that he can learn from.
That’s what Cresswell needs at this pivotal stage of his career, of that there is no doubt. As such, if he’s playing well and happy to stay in London, it makes sense to leave him put, especially if Leeds are to push to sign a left-back in the window in a move that would free up Pascal Struijk to return to his more natural centre-back spot.