The Marcelo Bielsa effect is in full swing at Elland Road as Leeds currently sit third in the Championship table having only lost one game so far this season and boasting the second best goal difference in the league.
The Argentine coach has brought wonderful, intricate, high-tempo attacking football to Yorkshire and has also instilled hard-working, high-pressing values in the squad. Every match, the Leeds players give all they have and run for all they’re worth under the gaze of the man sat on the bucket in front of the dugout.
On an individual level, perhaps no player has been transformed by the arrival of Bielsa more than Kemar Roofe. The 25-year-old has recently suffered an injury, but prior to this setback the forward was in blistering form and keeping big money summer signing Patrick Bamford out of the starting XI.
The Englishman already has four goals to his name so far this season in just six Championship appearances. Last time out he found the back of the net just 11 times in 36 league outings. What’s more, Roofe has also notched two assists in this campaign, just one short of the total he managed in the entirety of last season.
The reasons for this sudden upturn in form and end product from Roofe can be seen when taking a detailed look at his stats. Comparing last season’s figures with those he is racking up this time around, it is clear that he has upped his game and become more efficient in several key areas under the influence of Bielsa.
The most obvious reason for Roofe’s increased potency in front of goal is the fact that he is simply taking more shots this season. Last time out he averaged 1.5 shots per game, whereas now he is producing 2.5 efforts on goal per match – an increase of a shot per game. This can largely also be attributed to the more central role Bielsa has deployed Roofe in, compared to the wide berth he regularly took up last season.
Not only is the forward taking more chances of his own this season, he is also creating opportunities for others on a more regular basis. In his role as the focal point of Bielsa’s front line, Roofe has so far excelled in bringing his teammates into the game in the final third. He is averaging 1.2 key passes per game this season, a 0.6 increase upon last season’s average – Roofe has exactly doubled the number of shooting opportunities he carves out for others per match.
In his central berth, Roofe is now also utilising his 5’10” frame to far more impressive effect too. The attacker now wins 1.3 aerial duels per match, up from 0.9 last season – another significant performance increase in a key area, this time by a margin of 0.4 aerial bout successes per match.
Roofe’s new-found prowess in the air can be put to use in both attacking and defensive phases of the play too, and it is clear that this season he is making greater efforts to chip in with his defensive dues. The number of tackles he makes per game exemplifies another area of improvement from last season with the former Oxford United man now averaging 1 tackle per match. Once again, he has doubled his output in this area, as he was only contributing 0.5 tackles per game throughout last season.
Perhaps the one tangible drawback to utilising Roofe through the middle rather than on the flanks is that it has reduced his opportunities to run with the ball. Last season, he was completing 0.6 dribbles per game on average. This time around he has only been successfully taking on his opponents on 0.3 occasions per match. However, considering the huge improvements that have been evident elsewhere in his game, Roofe’s decreased dribbling figures are a sacrifice well worth making.
If Roofe can return to full fitness quickly and pick up where he left off, then Leeds have every chance of making a long-awaited return to the top flight this season.