Leeds United could fix a big Marcelo Bielsa problem by signing Feyenoord midfielder Orkun Kokcu.
The Whites have enjoyed an impressive first season back in the Premier League, currently finding themselves ten points off fourth-placed West Ham.
But one major area of concern for Bielsa has been the lack of creativity and goal-scoring threat from his central midfielders. The last game against Aston Villa saw Patrick Bamford manage just two shots on goal, with a real absence of services from those behind him – in fact, not one of the Whites midfield options created a big chance for their striker.
It’s been a theme that’s run throughout this season, with only five players in this entire Leeds squad averaging more than just one key pass per game. Mateusz Klich leads the way with 1.5 per match, but he’s more of a box-to-box presence rather than someone genuinely tasked with trying to unlock the door – the Polish ace also leads the way for goals, with just three.
The Whites have been at their best when Raphinha’s been on his game and so it’s no surprise that only 24% of their attacks comes through the middle of the pitch – that ranks them as 16th in the Premier League table.
But in Kokcu, they could find someone who could complement the holding midfield talents of Kalvin Phillips much better. The 20-year-old Dutchman was reported to be of interest to Leeds in the January transfer window, and has now opened the door to a summer exit after admitting that Feyenoord financial problems could lead to him being sold.
If that’s the case, Leeds should snap the Dutch side’s hands-off and land someone who could fix that big creative hole. This season has seen his Klich’s numbers of 1.5 key passes per game, but crucially, he is much more of an all-round threat going forward.
He averages far more shots, dribbles and crosses, while he also gets fouled more per match too, an indication of how opposition defenders have looked to bring him down more often than not to cut the supply at source.
Speaking to Goal, former Manchester United defender Jaap Stam raved about Kokcu’s quality, saying: “He has the ability. He is a player who has the personality to want to improve, he always wants to do better. He’s never happy with himself, he’s disappointed if he doesn’t score, or his passes aren’t good enough.
“When I joined Feyenoord, he hadn’t played a lot because everyone said he was too young. I put him in the first team and let him play most of the games, I trusted him and saw a lot of ability in him. Now he’s proving himself in Holland and is one of the best midfield players in the country.
“He’s certainly got the ability to make that step to the Premier League. He has creativity, scoring ability, stamina and running ability. He keeps on going. I saw him as a very promising player.”
Stam also hailed Kokcu’s versatility, a trait Bielsa will no doubt admire.
He added: “When we played with one holding midfielder, he was one of the two who played a little bit higher up the pitch. But he can play as No.10 or he can play as a left midfield player. Sometimes he can drop in deep as well to get the ball forward to link up the play with strikers.”
With Stam himself raving about Kokcu’s creativity and scoring ability, that could go a long way to addressing a key issue for Bielsa, and offer them a much better balance alongside Phillips in the middle of the park.
While Phillips sweeps up everything in front of the back-four and dictates the play, Kokcu can drive forward and have the vision and guile to pick out runners and give Leeds a new attacking threat from the middle of the pitch.