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‘Complete player’ – Marcelo Bielsa points to inexperienced Leeds United man for high praise

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Pascal Struijk’s recent performances have turned heads at Leeds United as he stakes his claim for a first-team spot, with Marcelo Bielsa particularly interested in his rapid progress.

Rewind to December 2019 and Leeds were looking to hold onto a 3-2 lead at home to Cardiff City, seeing Pascal Struijk handed his first-team debut in testing circumstances.

It’s safe to say Struijk had a cameo to forget as Cardiff’s onslaught was too much for the Dutchman as they equalised with 10 men, seeing his first-team chances delta a huge blow for the rest of the season.

However, upon Kalvin Phillips’ injury in the run-in, Struijk was entrusted to slot in at holding midfield against Barnsley and Derby County, to which he completely nullified Cauley Woodrow and Louie Sibley respectively, two of the hot prospects in the league.

Struijk was given his Premier League debut away to Anfield as Liam Cooper had to sit out through injury and even though he and the Leeds defence shipped four goals, there were great positives to take from the performances.

The towering defender’s composure both in and out of possession was enough to see him singled out as one of the better players from that 4-3 defeat.

Leeds still remain keen to add another defender to the squad with links to Josko Gvardiol persisting, but Struijk’s efforts might just have cemented himself in Bielsa’s long-term plans.

Instead of turning to Kalvin Phillips for the second half of the Hull City clash, Bielsa introduced Struijk into the midfield to add more composure and shape to the side, after Ollie Casey struggled in the first half.

It wasn’t to be for the Whites but Struijk once again proved he’s amongst the cream of the crop in the youth system and Bielsa was keen to outline this in his pre-Fulham press conference. Speaking about Struijk, the Argentine stated (as quoted by LeedsLive): “At one point during last season he had incredible physical performance. He, technically, is a very complete player. 

“When you put together his very good technical skills with tactical acumen and he added a physical preparation that he needed, he became a very valuable player.”

Struijk might just be the solution to the depth issue at the back with Liam Cooper’s injury problems a constant concern for Bielsa.

His Anfield showing was enough to prove he has what it takes to step into the back four and put in an accomplished performance as cover, especially considering he was partnered with Robin Koch who was making his Leeds debut.

Going forward, it would seem like Leeds will push to try sign Josko Gvardiol from Dinamo Zagreb, but you can’t be too concerned if Struijk is the man to step in as the third-choice centre-back after Saturday’s efforts.

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Leeds United season ticket holder since 2013/14, currently situated in the middle of the FA5 noise. From Pablo Hernandez to 5-1 drubbings, I've seen it all at Elland Road.