About half way through last season, many Leeds fans including myself realised that keeping Ben White at the club beyond his loan spell was going to be very difficult. This turned out to the case, but Leeds had a backup plan in the shape of Freiburg’s Robin Koch. The German international was on the clubs radar for a long period of time, dating back to Leeds time in the Championship. He arrived this summer for a reported fee of around 13 million, a fraction of the price it would have cost Leeds if Brighton did decide to sell Ben White.
Adapting to life in a new country and league comes with many challenges, even more when you throw in the demands of working under Marcelo Bielsa. The club sent footage over throughout the summer to prepare him as much as possible, showing Leeds style of play and where he would fit into that system. After a shaking first 20 minutes or so against Liverpool, which is understandable given he only had 3 training sessions with his new teammate, he’s gone from strength to strength. Robin is a different player compared to the guy he was brought in to replace, more physical and aerially dominate but not that much of a dribbler out from defence like White. What they both do well is their distribution and calmness in possession of the ball. Being able to thread forward balls through defence lines and play long diagonal passes out to wide players are a must for a centre back in a Bielsa system.
In terms of passing stats, he’s so far averaging 54.52 passes per 90 with a very impressive success rate of 90.41%. Nearly a third of them have been forward passes with still a good success rate of 75.53%. The sample size is of course very small but early indications would suggest he’s more than capable of fitting into Leeds system. Defensively Robin reads the game, happy to engage in aerial duels, more often that not coming out on top. He’s been aggressive but controlled, applying enough pressure to disturb the opposition without constantly giving away fouls. He ranks top for shots blocked with 10 in Europe’s top 5 leagues, showcasing his ability to be in the right place at the right time.
Despite only playing 5 games so far this season, he’s already had two different centre back partners and could be set for yet another one with injuries to Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper. Marcelo Bielsa commented after the Wolves defeat on how well Robin has adapted to life at Leeds and how his performance levels have exceeded expectations. Ben White was brilliant, Brighton stopped that move but Robin has shown that he is capable of matching and bettering the performance levels White shown last season.
Written by Thomas Wilson.
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