Marcelo Bielsa feels Robin Koch needs to ‘toughen up’ amid reports the Leeds boss is concerned the German does not have what it takes to become a success in the Premier League.
Koch, 24, joined Leeds in a £12.9m deal from Freiburg last August as United prepared for their Premier League return. Koch had played every minute of the Whites’ Premier League campaign until injury struck on December 5. He was forced to limp out of the 3-1 loss at Chelsea with a meniscus problem after just nine minutes.
Having returned to fitness, Koch has made three brief appearances off the bench. However, he now appears to be down the pecking order under Bielsa.
Fellow summer signing Diego Llorente, who has overcome fitness issues of his own, is now first choice. His preferred partner is club captain Liam Cooper, with Pascal Struijk proving a more than useful deputy.
Now, according to Football Insider, Koch is very much fourth choice at Leeds. Quoting a ‘Leeds source‘ they state Bielsa regards Koch as a fine player. However, there’s a sense at Thorp Arch he is “too soft” to thrive in the Premier League.
It is said he “doesn’t like the aerial challenges” and this weakness is considered a major issue by their coaching staff.
They use the argument to state that was the reason why Koch wasn’t overlooked for the less-experienced Struijk on Monday. With captain Cooper suspended after his red card at Manchester City, Struijk was given the nod to partner Llorente against Liverpool.
Struijk enjoyed another solid evening in the 1-1 draw and it’s fair to say he’s not put a foot wrong for Leeds.
The Whites have also enjoyed much more defensive solidity since Llorente’s emergence in the side. Indeed, Leeds have conceded just six goals at home in 2021, the lowest in the Premier League.
However, the report does seem unjust to Koch, who was first choice before injury struck. It’s also unfair towards Struijk, whose performances have been a major plus this season.
Bielsa praise for Llorente and Koch
Bielsa did make a point of praising both Llorente and Koch before Monday’s clash with Liverpool. Indeed, the Leeds boss claimed the duo’s displays have been among his personal highlights of the season.
“He (Llorente) has played well, he hasn’t had any bad games,” said Bielsa, with Leeds facing Liverpool at Elland Road on Monday night.
“He’s had a performance level that has improved every single time we have played. He started playing well and from there onwards he’s been playing better.
“Llorente, as well as Koch, in the first part of the season, they have been high points of our season.”