Speaking from Leeds United’s temporary mid-season training camp in Oliva, Spain, Pascal Struijk has admitted the initial difficulties of adapting to the ‘different position’ of left-back, as per a recent interview with the Yorkshire Evening Post.
A natural centre-back, Struijk was asked to fill in at left-back after repeated injuries to the players regularly featuring in this position in the Leeds starting XI, including Stuart Dallas and Junior Firpo.
His stints at left-back extend as far back as the reign of current boss Jesse Marsch’s predecessor Marcelo Bielsa.
Struijk’s experience in the full-back position was limited prior to being asked to fill it by Bielsa, but the Dutchman never shrunk from the challenge, and has excelled in his performances there so far this season.
His displays have impressed to the extent that, even when fit, natural left-back Firpo finds himself dropped to the bench with Struijk featuring ahead of him.
Things weren’t always so easy for the 23-year-old, however, as he initially struggled with the demands of his new role, but ultimately confesses it was crucial in improving his overall defensive ability, a prospect which he found incredibly “exciting”.
Struijk revealed this mix of emotions when asked about it by the Yorkshire Evening Post, stating: “Since I’ve been at Leeds I’ve played in I don’t know how many positions.
“It’s good to try something new and it’s a good thing that it’s going well. New challenges for me are always exciting, so I can improve my whole game and whole package as a player.
“I think [I played there] a couple of times under Marcelo when he was still here, or in the 23s, which was mainly fitness-focused so I had just a little experience, not too much.
“It’s a different position, it asks different things of you, you play much more one v one, you’re asked to go and attack way more, running up and down the pitch, playing one v one against great players. It is difficult but it’s a good challenge for me to have.”
Growth from adversity
Whilst Struijk clearly struggled to adapt to the left-back position, you’d never know it now based on the quality of his outward performances every week for the Whites.
Not only do his displays at left-back prove vital for the team as a whole, they have also contributed to Struijk’s development as a player on a professional level.
In short, the Dutch defender has tackled this challenge head-on, and grown from it as a result.
The club appear to agree with Struijk’s attestations to his own development if the new deal they have reportedly offered him is anything to go by. They clearly view the 23-year-old as a mainstay of the Whites defence for some time to come.
As for the young Dutchman himself, the sky’s the limit. Despite missing out on Louis van Gaal’s World Cup squad for Qatar this time around, there is no doubt he will appear for his country in the near future if he continues on this steep upward trajectory.