When Robbie Gotts made his Leeds United bow against Arsenal last January it was a landmark moment for the youngster.
Marcelo Bielsa had talked up his first-team opportunities prior to that but it was a surprise he earned his debut in such a high profile game.
Gotts didn’t disgrace himself either before being withdrawn on 60 minutes. It was a minor taste of what was to come and it was an ode to how much Bielsa rates him.
It’s rare the Argentine allows players to go on loan but with the club finally reaching the promised lands of the Premier League, minutes were going to be hard to come by for the 21-year-old this season.
He spent the first half of the campaign on loan at Lincoln in League One and will now spend the second part of the term at Salford in League Two.
It’s a step down from what Gotts was expecting in 2020/21 but he’s already showing what he can bring to the table.
Salford boss Richie Wellens already loves him and gave the midfielder the following assessment last month: “I thought he was outstanding all night, his energy, his decision-making, he played two or three through balls as well, I thought he was really, really good and it’s been difficult for them.”
Those words came after a match where Gotts starred on the left-wing in a 0-0 draw with Newport County. He completed four dribbles for Town and had two shots blocked. It was a brief glimpse of what he’s capable of, and it came in an unfamiliar role.
Gotts is usually a central midfielder but he is demonstrating impeccable versatility for someone of his age. Against Arsenal in the FA Cup, he started in the middle of the park, but he’s also played at full-back and on the wings in his short career to date.
At the moment, he’s showing shades of the dependable Stuart Dallas. The Northern Irishman can play in similar positions, and they also boast similar qualities.
“I have never seen a player play with such a dynamic. A player full of skills,” Bielsa noted in 2019.
His progression since those comments has been minor, but that hasn’t stopped the club’s top pundits from tipping Gotts for big things.
Noel Whelan told Football Insider last month: “The club know that they have a quality player on their hands in Robbie, it is just about finding the right fit for him. He is a player that is exciting and is one that the club have high hopes for in the future.”
But why could Gotts’ progression help save the club millions? Well, he’s a viable option for Leeds’ midfield. It’s been well documented that Bielsa needs more depth in the middle of the park and when Phillips is missing, they tend to struggle. As a result, numerous midfielders were tipped with a switch in January including Erick Pulgar and Yan Dhanda.
Last month, Leeds lost to both Crawley and Brighton when Pascal Struijk was forced to play in a holding role but coincidentally, it’s a position on the field where Gotts is more than adept.
In just three matches for Salford this term, the prodigy has won three tackles per game, numbers that would come in handy in a defensive role. To bring Dallas back into the equation, that tally also usurps his seasonal average of 2.2 successful challenges in the Premier League.
Of course, the latter is playing at a higher level but it’s eye-catching that Gotts is churning out such consistent performances.
If the youngster keeps playing like that, there’s no reason he can’t kick on and be included in the manager’s plans for next season.
By untethering Gotts, he could just save Leeds from entering the transfer market too. After all, Bielsa and Victor Orta don’t spend money unless it’s truly necessary.