To put things bluntly, Leeds were terrible when they faced Crawley last Sunday.
Having been so free-flowing and full of spark in the Premier League, you’d have expected them to win at a canter. However, they lost 3-0 and suffered one of their most embarrassing defeats in recent history.
Marcelo Bielsa’s team selection last Sunday was an intriguing one. It combined youthful exuberance with a host of their experienced stars. Kalvin Phillips, Helder Costa, Pablo Hernandez and Kiko Casilla all started while club-record signing Rodrigo was also in the team.
The Spaniard was given a rare chance to play in a central striking role but struggled considerably.
He was brought off at half time after a pretty hopeless performance leading the line. Rodrigo made just seven passes and touched the ball on only 11 occasions. Furthermore, the 29-year-old sent both of his shots off target.
For someone who cost £30m, you’d expect him to score plentiful against Crawley. His performance, though, was ineffectual.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t for the first time this year. Against Tottenham, the Spain international struggled as well. Bielsa clearly wasn’t best pleased with him because he was brought off after 65 minutes.
Bielsa hasn’t been afraid to leave Rodrigo out of his starting XI this season – appearing as a substitute six times – so, he must take him out the firing line again on Saturday.
Brighton are likely to sit back more than Tottenham did so Rodrigo could enjoy plenty of possession but after his last two performances, he deserves a rest and an opportunity to rediscover his focus.
The 29-year-old has been poor and thus, the manager needs to bring in someone like Pablo Hernandez. In completing a woeful 66% of his passes, a number that was down 12% from his season average, he didn’t have the best of afternoons v Crawley.
That being said, he did create three goal-scoring opportunities for his teammates. That’s a tally seldom replicated by Rodrigo this term, someone who has managed more than two key passes in a match just twice.
Of course, it was League Two opposition, but at least Hernandez did his best to create chances, something very few players managed against Crawley.
He deserves a chance to prove himself in the top-flight. It might be ruthless given Rodrigo scored three games ago, but he hasn’t been good enough in 2021 so far.
Costa came into this game as the prime candidate to be ousted judging by his lacklustre display last weekend, but Rodrigo must end on the bench beside him.