Leeds United's Cody Drameh outlines his next aim after producing impressive figures on Whites debut at Arsenal
Cody Drameh makes it sound pretty uncomplicated when assessing his next aims.
There was lots of running on his Leeds United debut at Arsenal at the Emirates.
Lots of touches, successful passes and strong tackles too.
These are early days for the 19-year-old right back but on this week’s evidence the teen looks ready made for United’s first team in which there is now a fierce battle at right back.
Drameh has been continually impressing for United’s under 23s since his arrival from Fulham last summer and the young Londoner’s first minutes for the first team arrived in Tuesday night’s fourth round Carabao Cup clash at Arsenal, ironically the team his mum supports.
Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa tends to introduce United’s young talents gradually, the still relatively limited minutes afforded to exciting forward Joe Gelhardt proving a case in point.
Yet Drameh was handed a Whites debut from the start against Arsenal in the absence of both Luke Ayling and Jamie Shackleton through injury and the teen grabbed his opportunity with both hands, giving him a fine platform to realise his ambition of breaking into the first team.
When everybody is fit - which would be something of a luxury for Leeds - that will not be easy with Luke Ayling and Jamie Shackleton standing in Drameh’s way.
Ayling, who is currently out following a knee issue, is one of the most established members of Bielsa’s squad, the team’s vice captain and a player whose form last season had him entering conversations when it came to discussing Gareth Southgate’s England squad, even allowing for the sheer number of right backs he has.
It’s not too dissimilar at Leeds as in Ayling, Shackleton and now Drameh, Bielsa has three very dependable options, Drameh handed his chance at Arsenal as Shackleton also missed out with injury though not an issue that is expected to keep him out of Sunday’s clash at Norwich City.
Ayling will remain sidelined for the trip to Carrow Road and whether Shackleton comes back into the side at right back remains to be seen
There is also an argument to suggest that the versatile Shackleton ought to be handed an opportunity in centre midfield, paving the way for Drameh or, when fit, Ayling at right back.
And in Drameh, Leeds appear to have a young talent not too dissimilar in style to Ayling, one who is clearly capable of bombing up and down the right flank and contributing to both defensive and attacking spheres in equal measure.
Drameh had experience all around him at the Emirates, lining up next to a Spanish international in Diego Llorente who partnered Pascal Struijk as part of a back four that also included Northern Ireland international Stuart Dallas.
England’s player of Euro 2020 Kalvin Phillips also lined up just in front of him in the holding midfield role but there was an early alarm for Drameh who was caught on his heels waiting for a pass from Llorente which allowed Gabriel Martinelli to intercept.
Llorente then mopped up the danger and offered some words of encouragement to the 19-year-old right back who then went on to excel, producing some strong tackles, fine forays forward and a very good passing success rate.
Despite Bielsa making the full permitted five substitutions, Drameh stayed on the pitch for the full duration of the game and only Struijk and Dallas had more touches of the ball from either side.
Struijk was way out in front with 85 touches, 17 more than next best Dallas on 68 but Drameh was next on his debut with 67 of them.
Of those 67 touches, Drameh attempted 48 passes, 42 of which were accurate for a passing success rate of 88 per cent, bettered only by Struijk, Dan James, Emile Smith Rowe and Nicolas Pepe of those who started the game.
Drameh also weighed in with two key passes, ones that set up a chance and the young right back was only dispossessed once.
Half of his two attempted dribbles were successful but Drameh’s defensive work was also strong and the teen won his only attempted aerial battle whilst also proving successful with two out of his three attempted tackles in addition to contributing one interception.
It was not all plain sailing and Martinelli caused a few scares but all things considered Drameh produced a very decent debut and one which will already be giving Bielsa food for thought, Leeds clearly boasting a very good young right back who can boast both pace and a strong physical presence too.
When it comes to the question of when Drameh will be handed his next chance, the answer might be the here and now and in Sunday’s clash at Norwich, depending on the condition of Shackleton and ultimately how Bielsa sees his pecking order.
But it’s clear that in Gelhardt, Drameh and Dutch winger Crysencio Summerville too that at least three of United’s youngsters are making big inroads up those ranks - four of them considering Charlie Cresswell’s recent progress - and there must be at least some sort of chance of both Gelhardt and Drameh starting at Norwich.
What is certain is that any of United’s youngsters will need to make the absolute most of whatever opportunities are presented as one obvious avenue for a game time is now over with United out of the Carabao Cup.
The third round of the FA Cup will not come until January but there is no time like the present and Drameh looks intent on making hay while the sun shines.
In the long run, Drameh is 11 years younger than 30-year-old Ayling and also has three years on Shackleton who is now 22.
Assessing his next aims after making his debut, Drameh pondered: “I just want to break into the first team, keep getting appearances, keep playing well, keep improving.
“Playing against players like Gabriel Martinelli, Lacazette, Nketiah, even though he didn’t come on Aubameyang, just these sort of players, I want to keep playing against them.
“Hopefully I can get better because there were some minutes out there where I struggled but some moments that I did well so hopefully I can learn from those moments and get better as a person.
“I’ve just got to keep working hard in training and keep pushing myself and keep showing the manager that I am ready.
“And keep running, the Leeds way.”
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Thank you Laura Collins