Leeds United are on the hunt for a new midfield target following the failed attempt to bring Conor Gallagher on loan from Chelsea.
It has been well documented throughout the summer that Leeds are keen on bolstering their options in the middle of the park, with Gallagher the club’s number one target prior to his move to Crystal Palace.
Marcelo Bielsa found himself short on numbers in central midfield at times last season due to injury problems to Kalvin Phillips, Rodrigo, Pablo Hernandez and Jamie Shackleton, while Mateusz Klich struggled for form during the winter months.
Centre-back Pascal Struijk was often tasked with filling in the number six position in the absence of Phillips, but never really looked comfortable in that role.
Click to play
Tap to play
The video will auto-play soon8Cancel
Leeds will be keen to avoid that scenario this season with Struijk and appear to have found a more suitable replacement for Phillips in Robin Koch, who looks to be building in confidence in that role with each passing game.
Koch was particularly impressive in the 3-1 victory over Tottenham Hotspur at Elland Road in May and has looked reasonably assured in there during the pre-season outings with Blackburn Rovers and Real Betis.
While the German international may not possess the long passing accuracy Phillips does, he is confident on the ball in tight areas and has a strong reading of the game defensively that enables Leeds to win the ball back high up the field in the press.
But there is no one at the club who can play the holding midfield role quite like Phillips and it is unlikely a player similar to his level would be happy to come in and play second fiddle to the 25-year-old.
In the more advanced midfield positions is, perhaps, where Leeds would be better served investing their money given the volume of changes that Bielsa made in that area throughout the season.
Stuart Dallas was arguably the Whites’ most consistent player in the centre of the park, although he did not play that position across the whole season as he was sometimes needed at full-back.
The Northern Irishman has all the attributes needed for a midfielder due to his incredible engine, eye for goal and tidiness in possession but arguably lacks the ability to find that killer pass, which is something Leeds could look to address.
Klich was often that man during Bielsa’s two seasons in the Championship but his drop in form meant goal contributions were at a premium for the Pole.
Where he potentially eclipses Dallas in that role is his exceptional ability to play in tight areas thanks to his quick feet and given that he does appear to be on his way back to finding his best form following two periods of rest, he could be a key player for Leeds this season.
With doubts over whether Adam Forshaw will be able to reach the heights he hit prior to his two-year injury absence, Shackleton is the only other available option to Bielsa in the number eight role.
Shackleton started just three times last season but his performance in the 3-0 victory at Aston Villa showed signs that he is more than capable of cutting it at the highest level.
Despite midfield being his preferred position, he has played both pre-season matches so far this summer at right-back, suggesting he could be first in line to replace Luke Ayling if he was to encounter any fitness issues.
The number ten role is another area that Leeds struggled to find any sort of consistency in last season too.
Get all the latest Leeds United breaking news, transfer rumours, injury updates and analysis of what’s next for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
Our newsletter will drop into your email inbox twice a day and it’s absolutely FREE!
Sign up here – it only takes a few seconds!
Rodrigo was Bielsa’s primary go-to in that position and while in patches he showed why Leeds forked out a reported £27 million on him, a mixture of COVID-19 and niggling injury problems meant he couldn’t put together a run of form until the end of the season.
The Spain international’s run of four goals in as many matches also arrived when he was handed minutes in his preferred number nine role, but Patrick Bamford appears to have that nailed down thanks to his 17-goal return last season.
Another alternative to Rodrigo in attacking midfield is Tyler Roberts, who enjoyed an extended run in the side in the second half of last season.
The Welshman is often creative on the ball and is not afraid to beat his man or attempt a killer pass, and if he can add that required cutting edge in the final third he could turn into a useful option.
With that in mind, there is no question that Leeds do need to add another central midfielder to their squad this summer.
A player with both relentless energy and creativity would help to propel the Whites to that next level.
Do you want an exclusive pre-season Leeds United preview – both in your inbox and through your letterbox? Head over here to find out more and secure your copy.