THE last phrase reasonably-minded Premier League observers would use to describe Leeds is: defensively soild.
Marcelo Bielsa’s adrenaline-fuelled play style may no longer be witnessed at Elland Road but Jesse Marsch still believes in the importance of energy, intensity and high pressing.
While this approach has worked at times this season, most notably at home to Chelsea, it does tend to leave them vulnerable to quick transitions if press-resistant opponents are able to weather the initial storm.
Ten goals conceded after seven league games is plenty respectable and a figure that aligns with the Whites’ current mid-table position.
However, those who frequently watch Leeds games will have noted that while the likes of Jack Harrison (£3.5m), Luis Sinisterra (£3.3m) and Rodrigo (£2.4m) are capable of providing plenty of threat, it would be a stretch to describe the side as tight and organised in defence.
Hear us out…Credit: getty
Certainly Leeds are not the porous pushovers they were at the end of El Loco’s reign with the additions of Tyler Adams (£1.9m) and Marc Roca (£1.7m) forming a midfield double pivot that has provided increased protection for the back four.
Marsch’s troops did well to hold out for a draw against Aston Villa on Sunday despite Sinisterra’s red card early in the second half for their second clean sheet of the campaign, the first being that impressive 3-0 win over Chelsea.
Half the league goals they have conceded this season came in one game, a capitulation away to Brentford masterminded by hat-trick hero Ivan Toney (£4.9m).
Despite that notable setback, Pascal Struijk (£1.4m) has managed to accumulate 23 Dream Team points, putting him just outside the top ten assets in his position.
This is notable because the Dutch defender is right at the cheapest end of the price range and, at the time of writing, he’s outscoring the likes of Reece James (£5.3m), Virgil van Dijk (£5m), Kyle Walker (£4m), Trent Alexander-Arnold (£5.6m) and plenty of other individuals who take up a sizeable chunk of a gaffer’s budget.
23 points is a very respectable return at this stageCredit: getty
Struijk has been playing slightly out of position this term, filling in at left-back while Junior Firpo (£1.5m) and utility man Stuart Dallas have been sidelined with injury.
While the 23-year-old is limited going forward, he’s put his natural defensive instincts to good use.
Struijk ranks highly for several relevant metrics such as tackles, successful pressure percentage, blocks, etc.
And it’s these stats that have ensured he’s ticked over with occasional 7+ ratings even when Leeds haven’t been able to keep a clean sheet.
Add in an assist and a Star Man award and we’ve solved the mystery of how a £1.4m defender has been able to punch above his weight.
3.8% of Dream Team gaffers have enjoyed Struijk’s value-for-money points
Whether Struijk is an asset to target going forward is a separate issue as generally you want all your defenders representing teams that are more defensively resolute than Leeds but his bargain price is appealing.
If recruiting him allows you afford a dream front line of Erling Haaland (£8.7m), Harry Kane (£7.5m) and Gabriel Jesus (£5.7m) then it may be a worthwhile pursuit.
However, be aware that Firpo came off the bench against Villa at the weekend and since Struijk is a centre-back by trade, his spot in the starting line-up isn’t necessarily assured.
Still, how often do you see a £1.4m above Alexander-Arnold and Van Dijk in the rankings?