After making his return to the bench for Leeds United’s last Premier League clash against Chelsea, Robin Koch is surely pushing for a place in the starting line-up.
The Whites make the trip back to London on Friday night – a city in which they have a wretched record of losing 13 of their last 14 games in all competitions – when they take on Fulham at Craven Cottage.
Last time out saw Marcelo Bielsa pair summer signing Diego Llorente with Pascal Struijk, but after Koch’s appearance for the U23s earlier in the week, the German could well be in contention for a long-awaited start.
The 24-year-old had been out of action with a knee injury since early December, when he was forced off the pitch against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
While Bielsa may be reluctant to throw him straight into the thick of things, Koch has shown just what an important and influential player he is for Leeds during the first-half of the campaign.
As per Whoscored, he boasts the best passing accuracy of any senior Leeds centre-back, and that is vital for Bielsa as he looks for his side to play out from the back.
Koch also ranks very highly compared to the rest of his Leeds teammates when it comes to his defensive contributions too, averaging the third best in terms of interceptions per match, and being dribbled past the fewest amount of times per game of any defender.
Vincenzo Grifo, Koch’s former teammate at Freiburg, raved about his ability to The Athletic, saying: “He’s very vocal at the back and he loves to have the game in front of him. He’s an outstanding organiser. His improvement is incredibly rapid, including in the national team, and he’s on a path to become a world-class player, a monster centre-back.”
Former Leeds defender Tony Dorigo dubbed him the “rock” in the middle of the side’s defence earlier in the campaign, and so it must have been incredibly frustrating for Bielsa to be without one of his key men for so long.
The £17m-rated Koch could be the key to ensuring Leeds remain solid at the back and can keep a clean sheet, but also offer more in terms of his passing and building things from the back. It’s exactly why Koch could be a game-changer for Bielsa as they look to seal all three points tonight.