How Leeds United have uncovered a Premier League gem in Pascal Struijk - YEP 29/1/22
Pascal Struijk’s rise at Leeds United has been nothing short of remarkable.
By Tom Morley
The former Ajax defender has stepped up over the last few years making him arguably one of the best young defenders in the Premier League under Marcelo Bielsa.
But the injury crisis that has plagued Bielsa and Leeds has also seen Struijk miss a chunk of the season.
On Saturday, together with partner Diego Llorente, he helped contain Newcastle United, with Leeds controlling the game for large periods despite falling to a Jonjo Shelvey free-kick 15 minutes from time.
Struijk coped well with the threat of Chris Wood, marshalling the former Leeds forward and limiting him to half chances.
He stepped in when he needed to, and won the ball well in the air, a trait that has been synonymous with his game during his time in West Yorkshire.
It does beg the question however, what does the future hold? Leeds have an ageing spine, Liam Cooper, Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas are all 30.
That’s where Struijk comes in. When played alongside Llorente at centre-back, the pair look one of the best partnerships Leeds have had since their return to the best league in the world.
Both having a similar playing style of building attacks while also having the awareness to cut off and isolate attackers.
West Ham United away was a key example of that, the chips were down and the job of containing an explosive Michail Antonio didn’t faze Strujik, he was physical, aggressive but also gave Leeds solidity.
It was a performance that Leeds have come to expect from him. It truly does show how Leeds have got their academy recruitment so right in recent years, with Struijk being a player brought in from Ajax, a club known for its pedigree of total football, a philosophy created there by the great Johan Cruyff.
Struijk is a player that fits the bill perfectly, a talent that will be at Leeds for a while and, all being well, he is the future.