Klich vs Arsenal: A player ready to step up to the Premier League?
There have already been many words written about Leeds United 0–1 Arsenal in the last few days, so I’ll keep this brief. I just wanted to highlight a performance that stood out to me while watching the game back.
The player in question was Mateusz Klich.
Klich divides opinions on social media. He seems to be one of Marcelo Bielsa’s undroppable players. As a result, the accusation that he looks tired is often thrown around. On top of this, he hasn’t contributed goals and assists in the same way that he did last season. Unsurprisingly, this is now being used as a stick to beat him with.
Klich’s performance against Arsenal justified Bielsa’s trust and highlighted how well he knows his role in the tactical system.
Going forward against Arsenal, Klich had 2 key passes (passes leading to a shot on goal) and 100% accuracy with passes into the penalty area.
However, the aspect of his game that was particularly impressive in the game was his pressing. Rather than looking overly tired, he ran Granit Xhaka ragged, causing the Swiss international to repeatedly foul him out of frustration. In fact, Klich recovered the ball 11 times in the Arsenal half, which was a game-high total.
As you can see from the graphic above, the cluster of recoveries around the right-central half-space show that he was winning the ball in extremely dangerous positions. Many of these recoveries led to balls being delivered into the box or a shot on goal.
Below is a perfect example. With Rob Holding looking to pass into midfield, Klich was far more aware than Xhaka was. He had actually started his movement to get in front of the midfielder before Holding had even released the ball.
Arsenal were extremely fortunate that this didn’t lead to the opening goal of the game. Perhaps Patrick Bamford might have liked the pass slightly ahead of him so that he could have struck the shot without breaking his stride, but it’s hard to criticise Klich too much here. He completely manufactured this dangerous situation himself.
In the first half particularly, it felt as if Klich was first to the ball in front of Xhaka on every occasion. In this next clip, Klich annoyed Xhaka so much that he made no attempt to win the ball at all and simply hurled him to the ground. One has to ask how he managed to avoid a yellow card on this occasion.
As Mikel Arteta said afterwards: playing Leeds is ‘like a trip to the dentist.’ Klich’s tireless running in midfield would have been a major reason why the new Arsenal manager found Monday night’s game to be such an unenjoyable experience.
Going forward, Klich made several of his trademark runs beyond Patrick Bamford where he would then look for the cutback. As you can see in the clip below, the chance he created for Robbie Gotts had a similarity to how he delivered the ball across the six-yard box for the late winner against Luton Town.
As Bamford came short for the ball, Klich instinctively rotated in behind him, meaning he was ready to sprint into the channel to receive the next pass. On this occasion, the cutback was very good and a better finish from the young debutant would have seen Leeds take the lead.
On Monday night, Klich looked every bit a Premier League footballer. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Bielsa continue with the Pole as a regular starter if Leeds did win promotion back to the top tier.
You can follow Josh Hobbs on Twitter @JoshAHobbs.
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