Leeds United have signed Robin Koch from SC Freiburg for a bargain price at £13m. This is due to Koch being in the last year of his contract and showing little interest in renewing. In January the likes of RB Leipzig wanted him who have just reached the Champions League semi-final. He has also been called up for the German national team again for this round of international fixtures. This shows how highly thought of Koch is in Germany. He is a 24 year old with 82 Bundesliga appearances and 2 appearances for the national team.
Robin Koch has mainly played as a centre back playing 60% of his minutes there this season. He played the other 40% in defensive midfield and centre midfield. This is a great attribute as Bielsa has a history of making midfielders into centre backs.
Freiburg varied between a 4 at the back and a 3 at the back. In the 3 man defense he was mainly the middle centre back and in the 4 he was either the right centre back or played as a midfielder. His heatmap shows the part of the pitch he predominately occupies but for Leeds this will shift slightly as he will become our new right centre back partnering with Cooper on the left.
Wyscout have Koch standing at a huge 6ft,4. He is an extremely dominant player in the air and uses his height to win the ball back for his team regularly. He attempts the second most aerial duels per 90 in the Bundesliga out of centre backs, as the above graph shows. Koch is represented by the blue dot. He is also above average for aerial duels won% per 90.
Robin Koch being an aerial force is a huge attribute to add to Bielsa’s Leeds as crosses and corners have been a weak point of our defense and attacking corners proven wasteful. Koch will help protect our box from wide attacks and sure up our defense from corners, which were a weak point this season. Going forward Koch will give us a new threat from set pieces. He scored 3 goals last season from corners in all competitions racking up a 3.81xG, compared to White and Coopers 1.71xG and 2.68xG respectively.
Defensively Robin Koch won 68.6% of his defensive duels showing that he is effective in those situations despite not having many defensive duels per 90. He is very good at positioning himself, which is one reason for his low tackles. His 1.37 interceptions per 90 are average among starting centre backs in Europe’s top 5 leagues.
He is very mobile and versatile position-ally. This makes him excellent at being able to press and change positions with players like Phillips fluidly in certain situations. This is common in Bielsa’s system and fits Koch really well as he loves to step out of the back line into a more midfield position. Although he is a centre back by trade, his defensive ability is not his strongest asset. Nor the reason Bielsa and Orta have recruited him. Below is Marcelo Bielsa’s description of a centre back and the attributes he needs them to have.
This is a predominantly defensive function. The function of the centre back is linked to the recovery of the ball but also who plays this position must like and know how to take the ball from the rival. They have to have that instinct however, the two players who have the ball the longest at their feet with the possibility of choosing who to pass, are the centre backs. They are the ones who pass the most on condition that they can choose who to pass the ball to. The centre backs choose who to pass to and the offensive players don’t have time to choose, what’s more, they are in a hurry. So, when I choose the centre back, I want them to defend, be strong, know how to header, good in recovery of the ball. But I want them to have good management of the ball, so that our construction of the play is clearer. So, if I have to relegate some aspects of the specific function, which is recovery of the ball, to be able to gain other profiles that have to do with a less frequent and important aspect of the function, but that contribute to the beauty of what the team is building, I prefer to give up defensive ferocity and gain better management of the ball.Marcelo Bielsa
As you can see Marcelo favors the ability’s of a ball playing centre back. This is exactly what Robin is. In possession is where Koch thrives. He loves to have the ball at his feet and is always making himself open and giving his teammates options, again his positional awareness is excellent. Previously being a midfielder has made him very comfortable on the ball and he is very effective with it.
Freiburg often play a 3 at the back with wide wing backs. Koch would always look forward when he got the ball and was tasked with finding the open wing back. Something he will similarly be asked with Leeds, to find the wide open Jack Harrison hugging the opposite touchline. The image below is an example of such a pass where he perfectly switches play from a right centre back position to the open space on the left wing. The radar shown previously also shows how effective he is with these passes with a 86.7% completion rate, ranking in the 91st percentile.
The radar also shows he is above average for passes into the final third and progressive distance. Demonstrating even though he is the deepest player on his team he is a big creative force, something similar in Bielsa’s teams where the centre backs initial passes put the machine in motion. Something Bielsa eludes to in the quote earlier.
The radar also shows he has very low clearance numbers. This is a positive and shows he tries to play out of the back. He can lose possession in dangerous areas and a high press can cause this, but I see it as a positive and I think Bielsa will too. With more passing options, which Leeds will give, he will be in increasingly less positions with no one to pass too. Him losing the ball just means he is determined to keep possession and try to play his way out of defense which is a trait Marcelo will applaud.
How he will fit into Bielsa’s side:
Koch will be White’s replacement in our line-up and become our new right centre back. This is not dissimilar to him playing in the middle of a three and I think it will be an easy transition for him. Its a more possession based system at Leeds than at Freiburg but he has many attributes that will help him fit in. He loves to have the ball at his feet and is not afraid of receiving in tight situations something that could happen a lot with the high press top teams will implement against us.
Koch has shown some quality’s that White showed last season like starting our build up play and being able to switch play and start attacks with a long pass which he is better than White at. He doesn’t dribble like White but his passing range is more expansive which makes up for this and gives him more options to progress than ball via a pass. As touched upon earlier his aerial presence is a huge addition and will make a big impact in both boxes.
For only £13 million it is an outstanding bit of business from Orta and it shows how excellent our recruitment team is. Personally I see it as an excellent fit and I think Koch will come into his own in a more possession based system. Top talent and if Marcelo Bielsa and Joachim Low think hes good enough then who are we too argue.
Credit to football slices for the radar and all other stats via wyscout and images created by me.
Written by TheYoungPeacock, Thanks for reading hope you enjoyed.