Leeds United could well have done without Liam Cooper missing their opening Premier League game of the season.
The centre-back is one of the most integral players in Marcelo Bielsa’s squad, and having him missing from the starting lineup against Liverpool on Saturday evening was a significant blow.
In his absence, debutant Robin Koch and starlet Pascal Struijk were called upon to step in.
For Koch, that probably wasn’t too much of a surprise given that he was brought in with the express intention of replacing Ben White.
But for Struijk, this must have been an unexpected and daunting challenge.
Still, this was a fairly assured display from the youngster.
His pass completion rate of 86% was higher than his career average, as per Wyscout, while he made 3.19 more interceptions than usual too.
To contextualise that stat a little further, his tally of eight was only two lower than Koch’s over the course of the 90 minutes.
Struijk also won 75% of his contested duels – 14.4% more than usual.
If take a closer look at those duels too, we notice a couple of things.
Firstly, a number are in his own penalty area.
Making interventions in such a crucial area of the pitch illustrates a natural defensive instinct, as well as a certain amount of dependability.
The fact that all eight of his interceptions came in his own box only serves to reinforce that suggestion.
Secondly, if we look closer at his duels, we see that a number of them come in that left-hand channel.
Those contests illustrate a player who is also capable of going to seek and quell danger.
His anticipation and reading of the game is great, but Struijk also has something to offer on the front foot.
The Dutchman actually completed more long passes than Koch at Anfield, and his range of distribution could make him an attractive prospect to Bielsa.
In particular, those long diagonals into wide areas hugely suit the Whites’ style of play.
In fact, it was a very similar ball – the emboldened arrow below – from Kalvin Phillips that set up Jack Harrison for Leeds’ first goal.
Knowing that Struijk has that in his locker, as he proved against Liverpool, must be a real bonus for the management at Elland Road.
Taking all of that into account, this was a very decent display from the youngster, and there is surely a lot more to come from him.
In other Leeds United news, medical soon as Whites agree fee in deal which could be complete next week
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