Leeds United ended the 2022/23 campaign in disappointment as they were relegated back down to the Championship after three years at the top level.
Whilst it was a failure to be relegated to drop down from the Premier League after being able to achieve survival during their first two years in the top-flight, this has provided the club with a chance to refresh the squad and backroom staff.
German tactician Daniel Farke was brought in to guide the team into a new era and has instilled an attacking style of play that has helped the Whites to third place in the league as it stands.
The 47-year-old chief also came in with a track record of developing young players. He had worked with the likes of Ben Godfrey, Emiliano Buendia, James Maddison, and Max Aarons, among others, during his time with Norwich City earlier in his career in England.
Leeds are now starting to see the benefits of that as a number of the club’s current young prospects are thriving under the ex-Borussia Monchengladbach coach.
The likes of Archie Gray, Georginio Rutter, and Crysencio Summerville are grabbing headlines with their performances on the pitch for the Whites.
One player who may not garner as much attention, however, is central defender Pascal Struijk, who has developed into a fantastic option at the back under Farke’s management, and looks to be the German’s next version of Godfrey.
Struijk’s performances last season in numbers
The young Dutchman did not enjoy the best of times at Premier League level during the 2022/23 campaign as he struggled to deliver consistently impressive displays.
His passing ability also left a lot to be desired as the central defender only completed 79% of his attempted passes. This did not place him higher than the top 45% of his positional peers in the Premier League.
These statistics suggest that Struijk was not ready to play consistent minutes at the top level as his play in and out of possession contributed to their struggles.
Sky Sports pundit Gary Neville was critical of his defending back in January as the ex-Manchester United right-back claimed that he “struggled” all match against Aston Villa.
However, the drop down to the Championship has provided the defender with an opportunity to rebuild his confidence and develop as a player, which has been helped by Farke’s trust in him and his coaching ability.
Struijk’s performances this season in numbers
The 24-year-old colossus has started all 14 of the club’s league matches so far this season and that showcases how much belief the head coach has in his talent.
Leeds have only conceded 15 goals in those 14 games and that is a considerably better record than the woeful defensive statistics that contributed to their demise at Premier League level last term.
He has been a dominant defender in the Championship with a duel success rate of 58% overall, which shows that Struijk is able to get the better of opposition players in physical battles more often than not.
The Dutch ace has also made 6.6 ball recoveries and 1.5 tackles per game as he has been able to consistently retrieve possession for his side in order to create more attacking opportunities.
Struijk’s passing has also improved as the talented giant currently ranks within the top 7% of his positional peers at Championship level for progressive passes (5.79) per 90.
He has completed an impressive 89% of his attempted passes, 10% more efficient than his numbers last term, and that places him within the top 19% of his peers.
Farke recently hailed the 6 foot 3 centre-back as being “crucial” to his team and said that he has been “pleased” with the young stopper’s development so far this season.
Struijk has been an impressive, young, performer on the left side of the manager’s defence as his team look to earn promotion to the Premier League, and appears to be the manager’s new version of Godfrey.
Ben Godfrey’s Championship performances for Norwich in numbers
The England international, who currently plays for Everton, emerged as a standout performer for the Canaries during the 2018/19 Championship title-winning campaign.
Godfrey played 31 times for the Yellows that term and contributed with four goals and two assists from a centre-back position, although he was also deployed as a left-back at times – a role that Struijk has occupied many times in the past.
Playing out from the back was also a strength of Godfrey’s, as it has been for the current Leeds star this term, as the young Englishman caught the eye with his ball-playing ability.
The ex-York City prospect ranked within the top 2% of his positional Championship peers that season with a pass completion rate of 89%, whilst he also ranked within the top 21% for progressive passes (3.35) per 90.
Godfrey went on to play 30 Premier League games for Norwich the following campaign but was not able to prevent them from being relegated again under Farke.
Struijk already looks to be Godfrey 2.0 for Farke at Championship level, with their comparative qualities in and out of possession on the left side of the defence, but the German boss will be hoping that they have more success together at the top level.
If Leeds win promotion back to the Premier League this season then, hopefully, the Dutch titan will play a part in keeping them there for many more years to come.