Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Leeds: Wober could get bring from Struijk

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Leeds United have announced their first signing of the January transfer window.

The Yorkshire outfit have signed Maximilian Wober from RB Salzburg for a fee of around £11m, subject to a work permit. The 24-year-old of Austrian descent has signed a four-and-a-half-year contract to 2027.

He’s a player that has plenty of Leeds connections – current manager Jesse Marsch made him the Austrian Bundesliga’s most expensive signing ever in August 2019, bringing him to the Red Bull Arena to eventually play with Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen.

Wober is a hugely versatile defender who is capable of playing as a centre-back and as a left-back, and the latter is where he could help the Whites the most, given their struggle in the position since the American took charge.

It’s a position that he has primarily played for Salzburg this campaign, featuring 16 times there, compared to just three in the middle, via Transfermarkt.

Should Struijk now start at centre-back?

Struijk step-up

With Wober likely to take his place on the left-hand side of defence, Pascal Struijk could be set for a massive boost as he’ll now be able to shift back into his natural central defensive role, where he could prove to be a far more reliable option than the likes of Liam Cooper, Diego Llorente and Robin Koch.

Despite being played out of position, the £50k-per-week Dutch colossus is currently Leeds’ best-performing player in the Premier League, averaging a WhoScored rating of 7.07.

The next centre-back on the list is ninth (Cooper), whilst Marsch’s other left-back – Junior Firpo – ranks 20th out of 25 but he has been injured. Although dubbed a “liability” by Mirror journalist David Anderson only last season, it’s clear that he’s not dependable either.

A lot of the Whites’ issues this term stem from the back, with only four teams leaking more goals than them from their opening 16 matches and as such, a tactical tweak that involves Wober coming in at left-back and Struijk in the middle could prove to be beneficial in the long run.

Struijk, 23, also outperforms Koch and Llorente for aerial duels won per game, proving to be a bigger “monster” in the air – as once lauded by journalist Daniel Fraiz-Martinez.

The 6 foot 3 titan (3.2) is behind only midfield machine Tyler Adams (4.1) for tackles per game and ranks third in the squad overall for interceptions (1.6) per game, via WhoScored, so it’s clear that these solid defensive attributes and his towering presence are best served through the middle and that’s certainly aided by Wober’s arrival.

It’s a role that LeedsLive reporter Beren Cross has spoken glowingly about in regard to the £18m-rated star in the past.

“He’s going to become a supreme centre-back,” he said. “[Bielsa has] worked with so many players in world football, and for him to say the things he’s saying about Pascal, it’s very, very exciting.

“Defenders don’t always get a very exciting press. It’s all about Raphinha, it’s all about Joe Gelhardt. But Pascal is the future.”

As such, director of football Victor Orta may have pulled a blinder by signing the Austrian for as little as £11m as it could see Marsch bring the very best out of Struijk and in turn, get the Yorkshiremen back on track defensively.

AND in other news, “Unfortunately” – Beren Cross claims Marsch favourite could now be dropped at Leeds…



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