Rodrigo is set to be joining Leeds United in a deal worth £27 million with around £10 million extra in add-ons according to Guillem Balague. This is considered by many in the footballing world to be a coup, including Balague. It is an expensive transfer fee for a newly promoted team to be spending on a 29 year old striker who has only scored 4 goals in La Liga this season. However there are reasons for that, Valencia have been in complete self destruct mode and the environment has been anything but favorable. This has led to Rodrigo having an ‘off year’ and i believe it is just that. Which is why a lot of these statistics will be from the last few seasons. When you properly analyse Rodrigo’s performance this season and over the last few season’s you can start to see exactly what Bielsa and Orta see in him. He has the makings off a perfect fit and this article will explain why that is. This is an in depth analysis of his style of play and how he will fit into Bielsa’s side.
Style Of Play:
Rodrigo is a modern number 9 with exceptional pace. He has played in a 4-4-2 for Valencia starting 27 games upfront. He can also play as a right winger. which he has done throughout his career and often for the Spanish national team. He can play either position extremely well. His heatmap shows us that he spends most of his time centrally or on the right hand side of the pitch. This is perfect for Leeds as most of our attacks are built up on the right side. He loves to run in behind the defenders and with his pace, if the opposition play a high line he is deadly at exploiting that. This offers Leeds a different dynamic than with Bamford as he is more likely to hold play up. Rodrigo is also very effective when drifting wide to the right side as he cuts inside onto his stronger left foot.
“He doesn’t like to be the nine that holds the ball with his back to goal, he likes to run at defenders”.Gulliam Balague
To the left is Rodrigo’s shot map this season in all competitive competitions including for Spain. He has scored 10 goals with an expected goals of 10.87xG. In La Liga he did struggle only scoring 4 goals but this was heavily down on the last two years where he scored 8 goals in 18/19 and 16 the year before. Averaging 10.9xG across the last three La Liga seasons. The below radar shows he achieved a high non-penaltyxG per shot of 0.159 which shows us that he takes high quality shots compared to other top 5 league forwards. However his conversion rate is poor at 10.4%. Rodrigo is not the most prolific striker and there is a high likelihood he wont score more than 15 goals this season. This is why i think he could start in the same lineup as Bamford not necessarily as his replacement, More on that later in the article.
Rodrigo is a very intelligent player with good decision making and technical ability. This is his strongest asset, His creative ability. The image to the right is Rodrigo’s stat radar. Which shows certain statistics per 90 minutes and where he ranks in them being compared to other forwards in Europe’s top 5 leagues over the last two seasons. As you can see he ranks highly in passes into the box, 1.14 per 90, and in xA, 0.17 expected assists per 90. Rodrigo also made the third most assists in La Liga last season. Rodrigo also created 12 big chances in the league only bettered by three other players, one being Messi. These numbers showcase his exceptional play making ability but it doesn’t demonstrate how he does them.
Below is an image of one of Rodrigo’s 7 assists. He runs at the defense while waiting for an overlapping teammate and then perfectly weights the pass in behind the defense for him to run onto and score. Like Hernandez he is a very clever passer who is capable of unlocking a defense with the killer pass. Rodrigo’s link up play is also excellent. He is very good in tight spaces where he has to make quick passes with limited touches and fast movements. Perfect for what Marcelo will want from him.
As well as being a very smart passer who is able to play nice little intricate passes in tight spaces. He also possesses a great passing range. Completing 60 long passes with a 51.5% completion rate in all competitive competitions last season. The image below shows his capability of switching play from the right wing to the left wing. This is an important asset to have at Leeds. With our ‘overload and isolate’ strategy of overloading the right side of the pitch and leaving Harrison alone hugging the left touchline. This is a key part of Leeds offensive strategy and having Rodrigo able to do that from day one is a bonus.
Rodrigo is also a talented dribbler and gives us a player who can really beat players 1v1 and drive head on at the defense and be direct. What he often does is receive the ball with his back to goal in the centre of the pitch. Before using his silky first touch and agility to sharply turn and start to drive at the oppositions defensive line. Rodrigo is extremely efficient at driving into space in the centre of the pitch, The graph below showcases that. The graph shows progressive carries p90 and average carry distance p90. As you can see he is one of the top forwards in Spain when it comes to progressive ball-carrying, carrying the ball on average 12 meters. The radar shown previously also shows his dribbling ability where he averages 1.41 successful dribbles p90 with a 52.3% success rate.
His dribbling ability combined with his pace and decision making make him absolutely frighting on the counter attack. In attacking transitions with room to run into Rodrigo is at his best. He often makes the right decision of who to pass to or when to pass to them in 3v2 or 2v1 situations. Combine this with our press, when we win the ball back high up the pitch and turn defense into attack instantly then Rodrigo will be a fierce weapon in these situations. We will see a lot more of this in our upcoming Premier League campaign due to teams having more of the ball against us and setting up with higher defensive lines.
How He Will Fit Into Bielsa’s Leeds:
There are three ways I can see Rodrigo being used by Bielsa in the Leeds squad.
Option 1- He has mainly been used as a striker at Valencia and is widely thought of as a direct replacement for Bamford. This is the most likely option as Bamford is our only out and out striker in the squad. Rodrigo is not the most prolific striker and is a different type of striker to Bamford. He is much more of a threat on the counter and against teams who play high lines. This will be a situation we find ourselves in more increasingly in the Premier League. A front three of Harrison, Rodrigo and Costa would be very quick and a better counter attacking threat than with Bamford. Although Bamford offers better hold up play this doesn’t mean Rodrigo is bad at this, he just does it differently. Rodrigo likes to receive the ball with his back to goal and has not problem with this. He just likes to turn quickly and progress the ball himself with passing or by carrying the ball with his dynamic dribbling. Bamford definitely needs help or competition and cannot be left to carry the load himself like last season. Rodrigo will certainly help can definitely replace him upfront.
Option 2- Rodrigo has also been used throughout his career as a right winger and could play alongside Bamford as a replacement for Costa or Hernandez, whoever would be playing at right wing. Rodrigo spends a lot of time drifting out wide even when operating as a striker and is very effective at cutting inside onto his stronger left foot. This will work well as Ayling will be making his lung busting overlaps down the right touchline to keep the width. If Costa struggles in the Premier League then this is definitely a swap i could see happening. Especially if Bamford starts well as he is more of a traditional number nine than Rodrigo.
The above image demonstrates his crossing ability. This was against Chelsea in the Champions League. Rodrigo got down the right wing, cut back onto his left foot before perfectly delivering a cross in between two Chelsea players. For the incoming Valencia man to head home. This is just a small snippet of his abilities as a right winger.
Option 3- Bielsa could also use him as an advanced N.10. Sort of doing the job Hernandez does when he plays there. He would give us a different dynamic option if he played there. As his pace and dribbling ability could be another way to progress the ball centrally. Although he has played the majority of his career upfront with stints at right wing. He could be a very good number ten under Bielsa. He has all the attributes of and a N.10 or as a second striker, As the club app suggests. If Hernandez struggles physically or gets injured then i wouldn’t be surprised if Rodrigo comes in to replace his role. Rodrigo is a natural creator who first instinct is to pass not shoot. He can progress the ball two ways and loves to pick up the ball and drive at defenders which is easier if you receive the ball slightly deeper.
Conclusion- Personally i think this is a perfect transfer and a perfect fit. For £27m we are getting a player with hundreds of top flight games along with champions league and national team experience. He is slightly older than you’d like to spend big money on admittedly. However at 29 he is just ending his peak and still has at least 3 good years left if not more, See our immortal Pablo Hernandez. Rodrigo has so many traits that Bielsa wants in a player and certainly gives us a different dynamic with his pace and dribbling ability. He also gives us cover for three positions and that versatility with Bielsa keen on keeping a small squad is a huge plus. I think this is a masterstroke by Orta and one that will pay off big time.
Thanks too @E_Designs_ for the featured image. Thanks too @lufcblog_ for the graph and Thanks too @FootballSlices for the radar. All other data from Wyscout.
Written by TheYoungPeacock, Thanks for reading hope you enjoyed!