The Spaniard has formed part of a new-look double-pivot at the base of Leeds’ midfield with Tyler Adams. The pair are seen as the replacement and more for former fan favourite Kalvin Phillips.
The midfielder had barely played for the last couple of seasons as he struggled to break into Bayern’s midfield after a move from Espanyol in the summer of 2020. He played 24 times in total in all competitions during his two seasons in Germany.
Once extremely highly rated, it is hoped the 25-year-old can get his career back on track and playing regularly with Leeds.
Here, we look at how he has got on so far since joining The Whites…
Is he a guaranteed starter?
Instantly, he has become part of the primary pairing in midfield with Tyler Adams in Leeds boss Jesse Marsch‘s 4-2-2-2 or 4-2-3-1 system.
They complement each other well, with Roca aiming to drop between the centre-backs or towards the left-back in order to aid build up with his direct and aggressive passing into the final third from deeper positions.
Meanwhile, Adams, aided by his superior mobility, looks to cover up some of Roca’s athletic deficiencies as he presses higher up the pitch to win the ball back. The pair have dovetailed nicely as a partnership so far, playing off of one another’s strengths.
Roca’s lack of game time in Germany has been evident so far at Leeds, though. The Spaniard has been regularly substituted having completed only one full game in his first seven games so far. He is building up match sharpness which other players already have, and this is highlighted more in a pressing style as intense as Marsch’s.
What do the stats say?
Roca has been one of the most progressive players in the Premier League this season, as this graphic from Data Scientist JK football analytics shows from September 6th.
Roca is the only midfielder included on the list of players here, with the rest defenders, highlighting just how important he is to build up the ball for Leeds.
FBref’s similar model ranks Roca as having the fourth most progressive passes in the league so far with 44 from his first seven games.
He is carrying out his primary function incredibly well so far, but is also willing to do the dirty work with 20.53 pressures per-90, putting him in the 72nd percentile for midfielders in the big five leagues. He also averages 4.34 tackles and interceptions per-90 as well. Not bad at all for someone still building fitness.
A goal to show for his hard work, too. Albeit, the goal was only a mere consolation against Brentford in the end.
Rating out of 10?
Jesse Marsch’s midfield has definitely been one of the successes of the transfer window so far, with Roca joined by Adams and Brenden Aaronson in having successful starts to the season in the revamped midfield.
The midfield had been an area of neglect for so long for Leeds, and now looks like a position of strength. The signings have added balance and depth, and Roca only cost the club £10million, too. A fee which is already proving to be a real bargain and could present profitability should he explode at Elland Road.
The question mark now is simply over improving his fitness, which Leeds will need to improve as no one at the club has a profile like Roca’s with his direct line-breaking passing.