With the World Cup upon us, Premier League teams and fans alike have been given time to rest and take a break from club football midway through the season. Unlike any other season, managers will be able to work with their side on what needs to be developed from the opening 14 or 15 games in the hope to improve in the second half of the season.
With only three Leeds players heading off to Qatar, Jesse Marsch will have over a month to decide what he wants from his players and perhaps set in motion some improvements in the January transfer window. Marsch has to improve his side a lot over the winter to avoid the dreading dogfight for relegation seen last season, but there have been some standout performers. Here’s my grading of each player’s Premier League performances so far out of ten.
Illan Meslier – 6
Despite Leeds conceding 8 more goals after 14 games this season compared to last season, Meslier is still showing why he’s one of Europe’s most promising shot-stoppers. The 22-year-old is tied for 9th in Premier League saves with 44, 9 of them coming in a man-of-the-match performance against Liverpool. His decision-making, commanding and distribution could be better, but his brilliance in one-on-one situations gives Leeds a get-out-of-jail-free card when their defence is breached.
Cody Drameh – 2
Drameh’s only appearance this season came against Brentford, where he was subbed off at 3-1. A promising young right back, hopefully, we’ll see more of him after the break.
Junior Firpo – 3
Firpo has fallen out of favour this season under Jesse Marsch and will most likely be replaced if not in January, then next summer. His only start this season came in the 2-0 defeat to Leicester and his only other appearance was to assure the 0-0 against Aston Villa. His playing time has been limited, but he hasn’t impressed when on the pitch.
Luke Ayling – 5
Injuries paired with Rasmus Kristensen’s arrival meant that Ayling took up the role of backup right-back, which he has slotted into well. He’s appeared in 7 league games, coming off the bench 6 times, and has contributed to the points earned against Villa, Liverpool, and Bournemouth when Marsch changed to a back five. There have been times when it’s gone wrong, most notably in the recent match against Tottenham, but for a backup, he’s done well.
Diego Llorente – 5
The Spaniard was solid in the opening four games and hardly did much wrong. However, defensive mistakes led to goals against Everton and Brentford, and Llorente hasn’t been able to recover. Since the 5-2 defeat at the Gtech Community Stadium, he’s only featured in the 2-0 defeat at Leicester, which was also a memorably bad defensive performance from the whites. He’ll be hoping to regain some form after the break.
Liam Cooper – 4
The Scottish captain has featured in each game since his return from injury, starting 7 and playing the 2nd half at Leicester. He brings great leadership and fills a hole at the left centre-back position given Struijk has been trusted to play left-back, but he hasn’t been up to pace this season, being at fault for goals and looking visibly tired against Tottenham. A good player to have around, but perhaps not the one that should be starting every week for a Premier League side according to many Leeds United fans.
Rasmus Kristensen – 6
The players that Jesse Marsch brought in over the summer haven’t looked too out of place in the league so far, and whilst Leeds have conceded the 4th most goals in the league this season, Kristensen has had a solid start. The Danish international has only missed 2 league games and has defended well against the likes of Mo Salah and Wilfried Zaha. It’s arguable that his tracking back needs to be improved, but a good start to life at Leeds for the Dane.
Pascal Struijk – 8
I’ve written about Struijk’s rise through the ranks at Leeds previously, and he’s continued to impress since. His ability to put in solid performances out of his preferred position has solidified him as one of Leeds’ most improved players so far this season. His defensive awareness as a full-back is limited at times as he often drifts infield, but otherwise, he’s hardly put a foot wrong. Ever-present in all but 1 game, and he’s bagged himself a goal too. Here’s hoping for some minutes at centre-back though after the World Cup.
Robin Koch – 7
Robin Koch is finally getting a string of games at centre-back and he’s finally being allowed to showcase why he was a German international upon signing for Leeds, to the point where many fans are disappointed that he hasn’t made the squad for Qatar. He’s started every match and played the most minutes out of every outfielder this season. Here’s hoping he can carry the form into the second half of the season.
Adam Forshaw – 4
It doesn’t look like Forshaw’s ever going to be given regular minutes in a Premier League side, but when fit, he serves as a solid back-up in midfield. This season, he’s only featured three times against Southampton, Chelsea, and Brighton, but all have been mere cameo appearances. Don’t expect anything more for Forshaw after the break.
Tyler Adams – 9
When Kalvin Phillips left in the summer to join Manchester City, many thought that the Yorkshire Pirlo’s role will never be filled in the same capacity. However, new signing Tyler Adams has exceeded expectations and has emerged as an early candidate for player of the season. The American’s stamina is unmatched, and he is 2nd in tackles in the league this season. The red card at Tottenham aside, it’s been a near-perfect season from Adams so far.
Marc Roca – 7
Roca has made a nice little partnership in the middle with Adams that has started all but one of Leeds’ 14 Premier League matches. He’s started each match and has a goal and an assist to his name. He has been caught in possession in his own half sometimes which can lead to goals, but overall it’s been a good start to life at Leeds.
Mateusz Klich – 6
Klich has been ranked relatively high compared to some others but that is mainly down to his commitment to his reduced role off the bench, despite loan interest in the summer to keep his chances of going to Qatar. It, unfortunately, hasn’t worked out for him, but hopefully, he remains at Leeds as he is a solid depth option to have. He appeared in the first 11 games of the season, all off the bench, and has helped change games at times. Marsch hasn’t used him since though, instead opting to use Sam Greenwood in his role. Klich’s going to have to work hard to maintain his role as the number one guy off the bench after the World Cup.
Jack Harrison – 4
Jack Harrison started the season in fine form, scoring a goal and providing three assists in the first three games. He was an outsider for the England squad and was proving why the likes of Newcastle were willing to pay around £25 million for his services. However, lacklustre performances have followed, and Harrison looks like half the player he was. With the energy that Summerville and Gnonto have provided recently, Harrison’s going to have to show a lot more now his position isn’t guaranteed like it may have been in past seasons.
Brenden Aaronson – 9
The American attacking midfielder may not be stuffing the stat sheet in terms of goal contributions, but he has been getting himself into positions to score, hitting the woodwork twice and forcing the own goal on the opening day against Wolves. The energy that he provides combined with his dribbling prowess has gotten his side out of a lot of problems, instead causing issues for the opposition. He’s started every game and it’s clear why. This 22-year-old is something special!
Mateo Joseph – N/A
Whilst the young Spaniard made his debut against Tottenham last weekend, it was for a 2-minute cameo. Therefore, it’s tough to rate him. However, expect more bench appearances for Joseph if the side doesn’t sign a striker in January.
Sam Greenwood – 6
Greenwood was a sporadic bench option under Marcelo Bielsa, but since Jesse Marsch’s arrival, he’s started to become a more regular option late in games. His technical ability from set pieces and his effortless capability to use both feet has positioned him as a man that can change games. This was showcased to the maximum against Bournemouth, as he scored a goal-of-the-season contender, his first for Leeds, and set up Liam Cooper for the equaliser. A versatile player at Marsch’s disposal, playing across the midfield, expect Greenwood to be a more prominent member of the side after the World Cup.
Joe Gelhardt – 3
This low rating most likely isn’t down to Gelhardt himself. He’s played an average of 14 minutes in the 11 appearances he’s made this season. However, whilst the likes of Greenwood, Gnonto and Summerville have forced Marsch to consistently pick them in their bench cameos, Gelhardt hasn’t even shown glimpses of what we were exposed to last season. Yes, he may need more minutes after the World Cup, but he needs to find the net pretty soon after the restart.
Luis Sinisterra – 5
Arguably the signing who has struggled the most, despite looking very dangerous at times. The short story is that injuries and suspensions have derailed Sinisterra’s momentum throughout the first part of the season. He was injured coming into the season, then when he came in, he scored two wonderful goals. But then the month break paired with his red card against Aston Villa slowed him down. He was unable to find his feet again and now injuries keep him out of action again. Fans are excited to see what a fully fit Sinisterra can do after the break though, as they hope he can show his quality again.
Wilfried Gnonto – 5
It took a little while for the 19-year-old Italian international to break into the side, but when he did, he proved to us and Jesse Marsch why Roberto Mancini has him on his radar. Despite only making 3 appearances which in total only accumulate 108 minutes, he already has an assist to his name, and he is making Leeds fans very excited about what more he can do this season. The future is bright for Italy’s youngest goal scorer.
Crysencio Summerville – 8
For many, the World Cup break comes at a good time after cramming half a season into three months. But for Crysencio Summerville, he wants to carry on! 4 goals in as many games, the first person to do it for Leeds in the Premier League since Mark Viduka, and despite only holding that record for 33 minutes before Rodrigo bagged at Tottenham, it’s still unbelievably impressive for a 21-year-old. He’ll be looking to improve on it and solidify his position in the starting 11 after the World Cup.
Patrick Bamford – 4
Despite having an xG of 4.1, the 2nd most in the Leeds team, and having 9 big chances according to Premier League stats, Patrick Bamford sits on 0 goals for Leeds this season. It’ll have been over a year when Leeds play Manchester City on the 28th December since Bamford scored a league goal. Bamford is a confidence player, and he’s been deprived of any so far this season. It’s his ability to get himself into great positions that stop Leeds’ number 9 from being one of the worst-ranked players on the list.
Rodrigo – 10
Rodrigo is having the season of his life at the moment. 9 goals are his second-best league goalscoring return in his whole career and only 14 games have been played, of which Rodrigo’s played only 13. He sits 4th in the Premier League goalscoring charts and joins Erling Haaland as the only players with minute/goal ratios of under 100. And with an xG of only 5.4, he’s putting claims of scoring easy goals behind him. Although saying that, scoring easy goals means he’s getting into good positions, which isn’t a bad thing at all! Here’s hoping Rodrigo can keep this form up after the break and secure himself his first 20-goal league season in his career.