We’re delighted to welcome former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson as our exclusive columnist. Each week he’ll be giving his views on the biggest talking points at Leeds United…
Paul Robinson was worried when he first saw that Robin Koch and Pascal Struijk were set to start as the two centre-backs as Leeds United lost 4-3 at Liverpool on Saturday.
Inexperienced Struijk, 21, made just his sixth senior appearance for the Whites when he was drafted into the defence by Marcelo Bielsa after Liam Cooper returned injured from international duty with Scotland.
Germany international Koch, 24, is used to playing against top players after joining Leeds from Bundesliga club Freiburg in the summer but he still lacks Premier League experience and that was apparent when he conceded a penalty and lost Virgil van Dijk for one of Liverpool’s goals.
Ex-Leeds goalkeeper Robinson believes that Michael Oliver was correct to point to the penalty spot and wasn’t massively impressed by what he saw from Koch in his Leeds debut.
However, Robinson understands that it was the centre-back’s first match in English football for his new club and that he wasn’t helped by the fact he had Struijk alongside him in the defence.
“By the letter of the law, it is. Isn’t it? The football purists will say it’s ball to hand,” the pundit told MOT Leeds News.
“But the handball rule seems to change every year and it’s still as clear as mud. It’s just interpretation.
“From when I first started to play, that would’ve been deemed as ball to hand and it wouldn’t have been given as handball because the player can’t get his hand out of the way of the ball when it’s travelling like that.
“It wasn’t the ideal start to his debut. I think Robin Koch found it tough.
“He gave away the penalty and then he lost van Dijk for a header. He looked out-of-sorts at times but if you give him time, he’ll adjust to the Premier League.
“When I first saw teamsheet I saw Struijk and him at centre-half and I thought it was going to be a long afternoon.
“I didn’t fancy our chances when I saw the centre-half partnership. It highlighted the need for another one.”
Robinson will be pleased to know that Leeds are at least trying to sign a new centre-back to bolster their defensive options with Sky Sports Italy journalist Fabrizio Romano reporting that a £19.9million bid has been tabled for Dinamo Zagreb defender Josko Gvardiol.
Although Leeds clearly see a lot of potential in the 18-year-old due to the fee they’re willing to pay for him, he’s not much more experienced than Struijk.
Gvardiol’s made just 14 senior appearances for Dinamo and is bound to need a bedding-in period in the Premier League and at Leeds before he starts to impress.
We’ll be more confident about Leeds’ defence this weekend against Fulham with Cooper expected to be fit again after his recent setback.
In other Leeds United news, the Whites have set their sights on this Portuguese attacker.