It’s not been the most straight-forward start to a footballing career for Stoke-on-Trent-born Jack Harrison, as he continues to settle in English football with Leeds United after developing in the MLS with NYCFC.
A loan move to Elland Road saw Harrison look to develop under Marcelo Bielsa, with his first season seeing him still finding his feet away from Manchester City, improving towards the back end of the season.
The summer of 2019 saw him clinch a second successive loan stint with the Whites, and he looked to go one better with his current side by helping them to clinch automatic promotion after missing out narrowly last term.
Operating on the left-wing, Harrison has continued his fine development under the Argentine’s stewardship, becoming an ever-present in a side hit with an awful lot of injuries across the board. The 23-year-old has been one of the top performers each week, which has seen him become a number one target for the Whites in the summer transfer window as they hold an option to buy following the expiry of his loan deal.
Last season, his performances often divided opinion amongst the Leeds United faithful as he demonstrated inefficiency in the final third with his crossing and shooting. However, he has managed to rectify this an awful lot this season with a much-improved cutting edge in and around the penalty area.
He has become a vital cog in Marcelo Bielsa’s tactical system this term and his stats highlight that:
Harrison hasn’t missed a single league game for Leeds this season, starting all Championship fixtures on the left flank, with his left-back partner ever-changing between Stuart Dallas, Barry Douglas, and Gjanni Alioski.
His tally for last season stood at a very disappointing four goals and three assists, even though he had a very similar involvement in terms of games played. This season has already seen him trump that with five goals and seven assists.
Harrison’s assist tally skyrocketed in 2019 after the victory over West Brom when he was involved in almost every goal going forward, whether it be scoring or assisting. He has still struggled in terms of chance conversion from the left-wing, with his xG still comfortably exceeding his goals tally at 8.27. He came agonisingly close to narrowing that margin in the last two games as he cannoned great curling efforts off the goalposts against Hull City and Huddersfield Town.
He did manage an assist in the last outing against the Terriers when he floated cross perfectly found the run of Luke Ayling to see him rifle a volley into the Town goal off the crossbar.
His work before the penalty area has been a key reason for why he has seen such improvement in his performances, as his linkup play continues to improve each week. Even though he has only managed a passing accuracy of 72%, it shows how he has been able to play with his teammates much better in the final third as he slots seamlessly into Marcelo Bielsa’s system.
Can you name the last 15 Leeds United managers?
His accuracy on the ball is somewhat tainted by his crossing success standing at 27.6%, which might seem very underwhelming, but has taken a much-needed positive turn in the past two games. Against Hull City, it was clear that he had been focusing on releasing the ball much earlier than before to take advantage of the space in behind the defence.
His dribbling success stands at a very respectable 55.6%, and while that isn’t as impressive as Helder Costa’s, he’s shown a great first-touch and is looking more and more confident by the game of beating his marker one-on-one after often showing a somewhat ‘deer in the headlights’ quality.
Averaging 2.27 progressive runs per game, his ability to drive up the pitch has been a very important asset for Leeds to spring counter-attacks and gain priceless territory up the pitch.
A loan deal that could be made permanent in the summer looks like being very shrewd business from the Whites and they will be hoping that a newly-refined Jack Harrison can have a vital impact on the final nine games of the season.