This article is part of Football League World’s ‘Player View’ series, this content strand is where we put ourselves in the shoes of a given player, and offer opinion-based outlook on the perspective on the situation at hand…
Leeds United defender Pascal Struijk could be presented with an opportunity to make a real impression in Marcelo Bielsa’s starting line-up in the coming weeks, with fellow defender and club captain Liam Cooper picking up a muscle injury in Tuesday’s 1-0 win against West Bromwich Albion at Elland Road.
Cooper, who has been almost ever present so far this term for Bielsa’s side, was substituted in the 34th minute against West Brom and replaced with Gaetano Berardi, who slotted in alongside Brighton and Hove Albion loanee Ben White at the heart of the Whites defence.
Although Leeds managed to keep a clean sheet despite the loss of Cooper – against a West Brom side who had scored the most goals in the division heading into the clash at Elland Road – in the second half in particular, the Whites were not able to keep the ball and build out from the back as well as they usually do, resulting in the Baggies averaging more possession than their hosts.
That was the first time since Leeds’ trip to Sheffield United last season that the Whites did not end the game with more possession than their opponents, with Berardi’s distribution from defence not the only reason, but a big factor to the Whites not being able to get into their usual passing rhythm in the second half.
Bielsa could therefore look for another option to replace Cooper at the heart of his defence, with Cooper out for six weeks, Struijk could well benefit from that, with the 20-year-old, who joined Leeds from Ajax’s famed youth academy in January 2018, possessing the sort of technical ability to allow him to slot in and help the Whites play with their usual style.
It would undoubtedly be a risk for Bielsa to throw Struijk straight into his line-up, but the Argentine has already proved his is more than willing to trust some of the talented youngsters within Leeds’ youth academy and give them first team games when he believes they are ready.
Struijk, though, will be confident that he could simply follow in the footsteps of the likes of Jamie Shackleton and Jack Clarke and come into the first team and make an impression, and the defender should have plenty of belief in his ability having been an impressive performer for Leeds’ youth teams since joining the club.
It will be interesting to see how Bielsa elects to fill the potential void left by the absence of Cooper, and the head-coach’s track record makes him difficult to predict at times, but Struijk will certainly feel he has an opportunity to stake a claim for a place in Leeds’ side.