The Athletic’s Phil Hay has delivered his verdict on Leeds United star Rodrigo following his performance against West Ham on Saturday afternoon.
Marcelo Bielsa handed the Spaniard the role of playing up top in the absence of Patrick Bamford, and Hay has now delivered his verdict on whether this could be the start of something exciting at Elland Road.
Writing on Twitter, he said: “I thought Rodrigo’s false nine performance on Saturday was worth another look. Lots to admire and ponder in his positioning, movement, interplay and switches of position with Raphinha. More displays like that could spark Leeds United into life.”
Then, in a follow-up article for The Athletic, he added: “The most distinctive aspect of Rodrigo’s game was his insistence on dropping deep when Leeds were in possession; so deep that he drifted regularly into gaps between West Ham’s defensive and midfield lines.
“His running was a problem for West Ham, who took the best part of an hour to get the measure of him. Rodrigo, brought positive unpredictability to Leeds’ performance and it is one of the things that can make Bielsa believe that Leeds are about to turn the corner.”
After the Whites were handed the huge blow of seeing Bamford ruled out ahead of the game against the Hammers, Bielsa’s lack of genuine alternative options meant he moved Rodrigo from that number ten role into a position further forward.
While not everything the Spaniard did came off – as per Sofascore, he completed just 67% of his passes and lost possession 14 times (the second-most of any Leeds player) – there were enough signs to suggest that this could be something to really work with going forward.
He provided two key passes, attempted two dribbles and fired off three shots on goal, and that greater involvement in the play could bring the best out of a player who has really struggled for form this season in that withdrawn role behind the striker – he’s still failed to score or assist in any game.
But, as Hay says, the tactical tweak from Bielsa could be the exact thing that Leeds needed to spark them into life, and it’s surely something that will leave fans excited.