Leeds United’s playing squad underwent surgery over the course of the summer transfer window as they attempted to build a squad to take on the rigours of Championship football.
The Whites suffered relegation from the Premier League at the end of the 2022/23 campaign, after three years at the top table of English football, and decided to gut their group of players to refresh the team.
German manager Daniel Farke came in, having previously enjoyed success at this level with Norwich City, and was allowed to make a host of alterations.
Joel Piroe, Jaidon Anthony, Ilia Gruev, Karl Darlow, Ethan Ampadu, Glen Kamara, Joe Rodon, Djed Spence, and Sam Byram all came in either permanently or on loan.
The Yorkshire-based outfit, however, also allowed a staggering 16 players to move on from Elland Road, permanently or on loan, ahead of the 2023/24 season.
Rodrigo, Tyler Adams, Tyler Roberts, Adam Forshaw, and Helder Costa were among those who departed the club on a permanent basis, whilst a host of loans were sanctioned.
The likes of Marc Roca, Jack Harrison, Rasmus Kristensen, Robin Koch, and Luis Sinisterra, among others, decided to leave on loan deals to ply their trade elsewhere.
Whilst it remains to be seen whether or not any of them will ever return to Leeds to play a meaningful part in the first-team after their respective loans end, some may be wondering how they are getting on away from the pressures of Elland Road.
Roca, in particular, is catching the eye with his performances for Real Betis in his native Spain after a difficult first year in English football last term.
Roca’s Leeds statistics last season
Former Whites boss Jesse Marsch swooped to sign the defensive midfielder from German giants Bayern Munich in the summer of 2022 for a reported fee of £10m.
The Spanish battler put pen to paper on a four-year contract with the club and supporters may have been excited by the addition as he arrived off the back of making 24 appearances for the Bundesliga side in all competitions and being hailed as “impressive” by Julian Nagelsmann.
Formerly of Espanyol, Roca had done enough to earn himself a big switch to Bayern and Leeds then took advantage of his failure to establish himself as a regular in Bavaria with a swoop for his services in 2022.
However, the left-footed talent struggled to adapt to Premier League football and was not able to provide a consistently impressive presence in the middle of the park.
Of course, being part of a team that was ultimately relegated to the Championship was not the easiest environment for him to make his debut season in England but his performances left a lot to be desired.
In fact, the 6 foot machine ranked within the bottom 22% of his positional peers at Premier League level for his pass completion rate, which illustrates how poor his passing was in the middle of the park.
His tough-tackling nature did not make up for his struggles in other areas as six of his teammates averaged more than his 2.1 tackles per game for Leeds.
Roca’s statistics this season
However, a move to Real Betis has provided him with a clean slate and the defensive midfielder has grasped his opportunity to return to top form.
The 26-year-old ace has played 12 matches in LaLiga this season and caught the eye with his contributions in and out of possession in the middle of the park.
Roca has completed 84% of his attempted passes in those games, which is a marked improvement on his passing for Leeds, and made 5.94 progressive passes per 90 – ranking him within the top 26% of his positional peers in the Spanish top-flight.
He also ranks within the top 39% for tackles (2.08) and the top 28% for blocks (1.29) per 90 for Real Betis. This shows that the gem is making an impact at both ends of the pitch, with his progressive play and defensive nous.
The uncapped Spaniard has also chipped in with two goals and one assist from midfield as he has displayed his attacking quality, despite playing in a defensive position.
This is particularly eye-catching when you look at how Farke’s current midfield options have performed from an attacking sense so far this season.
Glen Kamara’s statistics this season
Leeds swooped to sign Finland international Glen Kamara from Scottish giants Rangers during the summer transfer window but the central midfielder is yet to secure his first goals in a Whites shirt.
The ex-Arsenal prospect has, however, recorded one assist and impressed onlookers with his dynamic showings in midfield for the Yorkshire-based side.
His metronomic performances have been impressive to watch as his passing ability has been on full display. Kamara ranks within the top 3% of his positional peers at Championship level for pass completion (91.5%) per 90 and the top 17% for progressive passes (7.24) per 90.
This suggests that the Finnish dynamo, who has won 61% of his duels, is an exceptional passer who rarely gives the ball away whilst also attempting to progress his team up the pitch, rather than being safe with his passes.
One area in which he could look to improve, though, is his goalscoring threat as the gem is yet to find the back of the net for the Whites and only managed one in 22 league matches for Rangers throughout the 2022/23 campaign.
In fact, no Leeds central midfielder has got their name on the scoresheet at Championship level so far this season, and Kamara’s assist is the only one by a player in that position.
This suggests that Roca has outperformed all of Farke’s current options in midfield from an attacking perspective, with his three goal contributions in 12 games for Real Betis.
That is not to say that he would be a better player overall than the likes of Ampadu and Kamara but it does suggest that he has been in fine form in Spain, and that Leeds’ current players should know the area in which they could improve over the coming weeks and months.