Friday, July 30, 2021

YEP 30/7/21 Rodrigo hungry to fulfill ambitions with both Leeds United and Spain as record purchase also helps Junior Firpo cause

Leeds United’s record signing Rodrigo knows his first season at Elland Road was not exactly plain sailing.

By Lee Sobot

Setbacks through either injury or coronavirus meant game time was limited during his first year with the Whites.

Despite finishing the 2020-21 Premier League campaign with a bang, Rodrigo was overlooked for a place in the Spain squad at the European Championships.

Yet the £27m recruit is looking forward, not back, and says he has time on his side to achieve his next goals for both club and country.

From a club perspective, even a repeat of last season’s efforts would be a major achievement given United’s ninth-place finish as a newly-promoted side.

Rodrigo, though, hopes he will be in for a less disrupted passage throughout the forthcoming campaign having been hampered by either groin and muscle injuries or Covid-19 last term.

The Spaniard sat out 12 league games and 12 of his 26 league appearances came from the bench.

Despite finishing the campaign with four goals in four games, Spain boss Luis Enrique opted against including Rodrigo in his squad for the Euros.

But, at 30 years of age, Rodrigo has his sights on the next major international tournaments and first and foremost a smoother second year at Leeds.

“Every season is a new opportunity to grow,” Rodrigo told The YEP.

“Last season, unfortunately, I had some injuries and different moments that broke my progression a little bit during the season.

"In my opinion, I finished the season in a good way.

"Unfortunately, I couldn’t go to the Euros but, fortunately, I have the time to prepare myself better for the next one so that’s part of football.

"I am really focused and have the hunger to show again that I can help the team and help my team-mates to achieve or to do something similar to what we did last season.”

For Rodrigo, there is already one big difference as he and Leeds approach the new campaign.

The forward joined Leeds from Valencia at the end of August 2020 which meant missing United’s pre-season last summer.

Ask anyone at Leeds and they will tell you that this year’s pre-season is even harder as Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa looks to not just equal but better the efforts of last term.

“It’s really, really hard!” admitted Rodrigo, asked about the demands of pre-season 2021.

“Last season I didn’t do the pre-season because I arrived at the end of the summer. But we are working really hard during these weeks and I think we will be good and ready for the next season.”

In amongst the hard yards at Thorp Arch, Rodrigo has been fulfilling another role within United’s squad in helping new recruit €15m Junior Firpo settle in.

Dominican Republic-born left-back Firpo joined Leeds from Barcelona last month and Rodrigo says the presence of himself along with fellow Spanish speakers Raphinha and Helder Costa is helping Firpo bed in.

“Everyone is trying to help him to get used to the team, to get used to the way that we work,” said Rodrigo.

“It is not easy arriving to a new country - new teammates, a new language, everything.

"But it’s true that he has me, I speak a little of Spanish with him and Rapha and Helder also.

“I think each day he feels more comfortable and I am sure we will have a great season if we have everyone helping each other do their best.”

One year after his own move to Leeds, Rodrigo is well and truly settled - with all eyes on United’s remaining pre-season friendlies and the new Premier League campaign.

The £27m star took in his first action of the summer when playing 61 minutes of Wednesday’s friendly at Blackburn Rovers which ended in a 1-1 draw but Rodrigo says the side will naturally be better when the season gets going.

Asked what Bielsa was looking for in the friendlies, Rodrigo reasoned: “I think he wants to try and see the team and the intensity that is there and the different characteristics in our group.

"We know that, from a physical point of view, we are a really strong team and, of course, it is not easy to achieve this level in the first game of the pre-season.

“It’s quite a long process. We have to work on the coordination of movement, defensive movements, offensive movements because we are a team that needs it.

“Now we have other training to keep going to arrive in the best way for the next season.”

Leeds Live 29/7/21 Rodrigo lifts the lid on Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United message to players at Blackburn Rovers

Rodrigo played a little over an hour in Leeds United's 1-1 draw at Blackburn Rovers on Wednesday night.

Busting the inevitable rust around the edges of Leeds United’s intense patterns of play was the message from Marcelo Bielsa to his players at Blackburn Rovers.

The Whites turned their pre-season programme up a few notches from the curtain-raiser at Guiseley on Tuesday night with a strong squad at Ewood Park.

Aside from Sam Greenwood, everyone to feature could be considered bona fide members of Bielsa’s core group for the coming season, and yet the match failed to catch light.

Pascal Struijk levelled affairs as late as the 81st minute in what was an archetypal pre-season friendly full of disjointed phases, loose passes and wayward shots.

Speaking after the match, Rodrigo summed up what the head coach’s message had been going into their first match for more than two months.

“He wants to see in the team the intensity which is characteristic of our group,” he said.

“We know from the physical point of view we are a very strong team and, of course, it’s not easy to achieve this level in the first game of pre-season.

“It’s quite a long process and that’s it. We have to work on the co-ordination of movement, the offensive movements and defensive movements because we are a team that needs it.

“I don’t know if he’s happy or not because he hasn’t said anything, but I know, for him, it’s another training [step] to keep going and arrive in the best way for the next season.”

Rodrigo is in the midst of his first full pre-season at Thorp Arch where he now has more than four weeks of heavy training in his legs.

The Spain international got through a shade beyond one hour at Ewood Park with tired legs and while it wasn’t the perfect performance he wanted, it’s all a part of the process.

“It’s another good training, another good step for arriving in the best conditions for the first game of the league,” he said.

“Of course, we have been working really, really hard those last few weeks, so legs are a little bit heavier than normal, but it was a good game and we are looking forward to the next season.”

Sky 29/7/21 Deloitte: Clubs can bounce back from coronavirus and be more sustainable

Key findings from the finance company's 30th Annual Review of Football Finance, published on Thursday, reveal the combined football market across the 'big five' European leagues contracted by 13 per cent in 2019/20, down to 25.2bn euros (£22.1bn).

Football clubs can hope to emerge from the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic as more sustainable in the long-term, says Deloitte's Dan Jones

Football clubs could emerge from the impact of coronavirus as more sustainable in the long-term despite new figures from Deloitte showing a European-wide 3.7billion euro (£3.4bn) reduction in revenue.

Key findings from the finance company's 30th Annual Review of Football Finance, published on Thursday, reveal the combined football market across the 'big five' European leagues contracted by 13 per cent in 2019/20, down to 25.2bn euros (£22.1bn).

As initially reported by Deloitte in June, Premier League clubs' revenue fell from a record £5.2bn in 2018/19 to £4.5bn over 2019/20 - which was a reduction in total revenue for the first time as a lack of matchday spectators coupled with a rebate and delay of some broadcast income hit home.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic - which saw football shut down from March 2020 until the Premier League's 'Project Restart' behind closed doors in June last year - produced a record level of clubs' combined pre-tax losses of £966m, driven by the £648m revenue reduction and worsened by the £126m increase in wages.

However, wage costs of Premier League clubs saw the smallest increase since 2004/05, up by four per cent to £3.3bn in 2019/20, while the aggregate total of player salaries remained largely 'flat' through Europe's major top-flight competitions.

The English Football League reported a combined reduction in revenue of 13 per cent to £943m in 2019/20 (£1.1bn in 2018/19) across the three tiers.

The period covered by the latest Deloitte report only crosses the early part of the pandemic - with the 2020/2021 season going on to be played out, but for a handful of matches, mostly behind closed doors as coronavirus restrictions and national lockdown measures were extended.

Premier League clubs are, though, expected to see a rebound in the figures for 2020/21 before, should supporters again be allowed to attend as planned, then pushing back towards setting a new high over 2021/22.

Dan Jones of Deloitte's sports business group feels the way football has been rapidly forced to rethink its business model over the past 18 months could serve to see a lasting positive impact.

"This shows the story from the early stage of the pandemic, the first signs of the (financial) hit," Jones said.

"It was the first time revenues had gone down in the Premier League and there was a similar contraction across the whole of Europe, the big exception being Germany, who got up and running before anybody else.

"It picks up fundamentally two things - the closing of the gates, with matches going behind closed doors, and of fixtures being deferred.

"So in some cases TV money for those games drifts over into the next financial year (2020/2021), also of course there are rebates to the broadcasters which does impact on this year.

"The long and short of it all is we have this reduction of Premier League revenue for the first time ever in the 2019/2020 financial year, but we expect that in 2020/2021 there will be a decent rebound.

"If you asked us this time last year what we were forecasting it would have been for an all-time record in that financial year because you would have had the new season and the additional revenue held over from 2019/2020.

"Obviously this time last year we were not expecting the whole season would be played behind closed doors - I don't think anyone was envisaging that.

"We think for 2020/2021, it will be a bounce-back, but we don't think it will be quite getting back to the highs of 2018/2019.

"Then for the 2021/2022 season coming up, it looks like there will be no restrictions (on supporters at grounds), so it will probably be a record year."

Tim Bridge, director of Deloitte Sports Business Group, says the football industry will have to change to recover from the financial damage done by the pandemic.

Jones feels a collective "tightening of the belts" across clubs looking to restrict increasing wage costs against a severe decline in revenues could lead to a much more stable environment.

He said: "If that carries on into when everything gets back into full working order again, you could actually see clubs, after an extremely nasty financial shock over the past 18 months, kind of come out of this in a stronger position for the future because you have managed to put the breaks on that wage inflation.

"The resilience clubs have shown so far, if they can build on that they can make themselves much more sustainable than they probably looked 18 months ago.

"The support and passion is clearly out there for clubs at all levels in this country, so if that means we get to a more sustainable position from here on, then that would be a good outcome."

YEP 28/7/21 Leeds United fans back where they belong as pre-season starts with Blackburn Rovers draw

A night to remember for each of the lucky 4,500 in attendance at Ewood Park.

By Joe Urquhart

Leeds United s first team were back in action against Blackburn Rovers and in front of their adoring public for the first time without restrictions for 18 months.

Traffic halted many journeys over the Pennines, pub gardens were filled around Ewood Park on the drive in and cheers along with boos were heard as the Whites emerged from the tunnel; for a brief second all was right in the world.

Every tackle was felt in the opening exchanges of the 1-1 draw and every 50-50 roared in anger - when Raphinha slid in on the far side to save a corner it was like a goal had been scored for the visitors.

Had an onlooker stepped in off the street they could've been forgiven for not knowing a friendly was being played between the Whites and Rovers.

A first rendition of Marching On Together from the packed Darwen End must've caused lumps in throats. A salute at full-time came, too. Bielsa's charges being remembered for their 2019-20 exploits as Championship champions.

The Whites have been unable to celebrate a historic promotion to the top flight of English football. Unable to take in the Premier League from the terraces and unable to say goodbyes to legends lost.

When Pascal Struijk equalised in the 81st minute to cancel out Connor McBride's opener the visiting support erupted into life like they'd never been away; let's hope they never are again.

It was football as we know it. Pure, unrestricted joy. Roll on Old Trafford on August 14. It is going to be some day out for the Leeds United faithful.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Highlights from Blackburn 1 Leeds 1


YEP 28/7/21 Blackburn Rovers 1 Leeds United 1 - Pascal Struijk strike earns Whites Ewood Park draw

Leeds United's pre-season kicked off with a 1-1 draw against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park on Wednesday night.

By Joe Urquhart

Marcelo Bielsa unleashed the big guns at Ewood Park as Junior Firpo was handed a Whites debut in Lancashire.

Club captain Liam Cooper, striker Patrick Bamford and England's Kalvin Phillips were all absent in an otherwise strong senior line-up following the Under-23s outing at Guiseley on Tuesday.

United started on the front foot in a game that otherwise ebbed and flowed throughout the opening 45 minutes.

Raphinha provided the first spark as he cut a ball back to Rodrigo inside the area with the Spaniard forcing a good save from goalkeeper Thomas Kaminski.

Rovers almost opened the scoring themselves as a Ryan Nyambe ball found Adam Armstrong in on goal but Diego Llorente came to the rescue with a perfectly-timed tackle.

Llorente enjoyed a strong first half along with Jamie Shackleton - who was featuring at right-back - but in true friendly fashion both sides failed to muster a decisive effort.

Luke Ayling stepped off the bench at the break to replace United's number 14 at the back.

Raphinha - who always looked a threat throughout - tested the palms of Kaminski once again before Robin Koch saw a follow up effort blocked.

Pascal Struijk then jumped highest from a corner to force another save from the hosts stopper.

Stuart Dallas, Tyler Roberts and Sam Greenwood were all introduced along with four Blackburn substitutes in what turned into a somewhat frantic second period.

Ben Brereton - or Diaz, as the locals know him - gave Rovers some impetus going forward and he forced Illan Meslier into his first real save of the night with 20 minutes to go.

Three minutes later and Tony Mowbray's side had the lead through substitute Connor McBride.

The striker had barely stripped off before he saw a free-kick deflected into the far corner of the net with Meslier left no chance.

United, though, responded with 10 minutes remaining as pressure finally told in the second half.

Dallas resisted calls to shoot from the away end and found a pass for Struijk who coolly side-footed home into the bottom corner of the net.

Leeds went in search of a winner as Roberts acrobatically attempted and overhead kick but Bielsa's side were forced to settle for a battling draw to open up their pre-season account.

Blackburn Rovers: Kaminski, Nyambe (Pike 69), Pickering (Cirino 69), Magloire, Davenport, Armstrong (Vale 69), Garrett, Buckley (McBride 69), Carter, Lenihan, Dolan (Brereton 45). Subs not used: Eastham, Stergiakis, Annesley, Nolan, Butterworth.

Leeds United: Meslier, Firpo (Dallas 62), Koch, Raphinha (Roberts 62), Llorente (Ayling 45), Costa, Rodrigo (Greenwood 62), Struijk, Harrison, Klich, Shackleton. Subs not used: Van Den Heuvel.

Referee: Darren Bond

Through It All Together 28/7/21 Match Recap: Blackburn Rovers 1-1 Leeds United

The Whites draw at Ewood Park in the senior team’s opening pre-season match.

By Ciaran O'Hare

Blackburn Rovers v Leeds United - Pre-Season Friendly - Ewood Park

Leeds United played out a 1-1 draw with Blackburn Rovers to kick-off the 2021/22 pre-season fixtures.

The Leeds fans got their first look at Junior Firpo in a white jersey while the familiar faces of Raphinha, Struijk and Llorente starred as the team’s best performers.

It was Mateusz Klich who provided the first sniff of danger in this one, as the ball was cut inside to him by Raphinha before Klich’s looping shot across the keeper was tipped wide by the Blackburn stopper.

Raphinha was the only other Leeds player to test the goalkeeper in the first half as his whipped strike from outside the area forced him into a decent stop to tip the ball over the bar.

The Whites didn’t have too many problems defensively, but Diego Llorente was ready for battle when a loose pass from Pascal Struijk left the defence in a spot of bother. Armstrong looked set to latch onto the cross for a great chance, but Llorente recovered brilliantly at the last second to slide in and tap the ball out of Armstrong’s control.

In the second half, things remained fairly quiet, with Pascal Struijk coming close from a corner kick as half-time approached.

Blackburn took the lead thanks to a deflected free-kick from substitute Connor McBride whose lashed effort hit the wall and nestled into the far corner, and there was nothing anybody could do about it.

But Leeds responded soon enough, as Jack Harrison collected a loose ball from a set-piece before cutting the ball to Struijk on his right. The young centre-half looked to guide the ball into the far corner, only for a deflection to take the ball in the other direction and slip past the keeper.

All in all, a solid start to pre-season. A little rusty, but that is to be expected in a pre-season opener. What did you think of the game? Let us know on Twitter @ThruItAllLUFC.

YEP 27/7/21 Guiseley 2 Leeds United 3 - Adam Forshaw returns from injury as young Whites start pre-season with victory

Leeds United began their pre-season friendlies with a victory as Mark Jackson took charge of a young side that recorded a 3-2 triumph at Tuesday evening's hosts Guiseley.

By Lee Sobot

Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa was also present at Nethermoor and looked on as Leeds went ahead in the 17th minute through a Crysencio Summerville penalty.

The tricky Dutchman won the spot kick after being tripped following some nifty footwork and Summerville coolly slotted home the penalty into the bottom left corner.

Guiseley then drew level just seven minutes later as Kaine Felix broke clear down the right hand side and sent in a low cross that Bailey Thompson side footed past Elia Caprile.

The rest of the half then became the Sam Greenwood free-kick show as the Whites won three set pieces on the edge of the box.

Greenwood took them all and sent the first two over before the third hit the wall and Amari Miller scooped the rebound over.

But Greenwood made it fourth time lucky when curling a rasping effort into the top left corner.

The strike put the Whites 2-1 up at the break but Leeds were dealt a blow shortly after the restart when Joe Gelhardt took a knock and hobbled off injured to be replaced by Max Dean.

As one Whites player went off with an injury, another one came back from one as first team midfielder Adam Forshaw was brought on to huge cheers on the hour mark.

As Guiseley looked to draw level, the second half for Leeds became about digging in and Forshaw looked in good shape in the holding midfield role.

With seven minutes left, Leeds opened up a two-goal cushion as more superb skill from Summerville took him to the byline to provide the opportunity to send in a low cross from which substitute Charlie Allen could not miss.

Guiseley pulled a goal back within 60 seconds as Lewis Hey slammed home from a tight angle after Elia Caprile's initial save.

The strike set up a grandstand finish but United's young side held firm to ensure pre-season began with a win.

Leeds United v Guiseley: Caprile, Drameh, McCarron, Jenkins, Cresswell, Kenneh, Summerville, McKinstry, Gelhardt, Greenwood, Miller. Subs: Van Den Heuvel, Forshaw, Allen, Moore, Dean.