Pascal Struijk lifts lid on personal impact of Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa

Pascal Struijk believes head coach Marcelo Bielsa has improved every aspect of his game at Leeds United.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 9:53 am
Updated Thursday, 7th October 2021, 9:54 am
Leeds United defender Pascal Struijk. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

The 22-year-old central defender joined the Elland Road ranks as an academy signing from Dutch giants Ajax in 2018.

Struijk played a small role in the club's Championship promotion-winning campaign but came to prominence under Bielsa last season in the Premier League.

He featured in 27 league games in both defence and as a holding midfielder - though found more joy in his natural home at centre-back.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Amid injuries to his senior peers Struijk excelled under pressure, becoming a key part of United's ninth-place finish in the top flight under their Argentine boss.

"He has improved me in every aspect of the game: weight-wise, physicality-wise, reading the game and passing. Basically everything," Struijk said over Bielsa's impact.

"He's shown me a different side of the game, such as usually zonally marking players and you would, say, go left or right. It's a bit different here where we sometimes go man-for-man.

"We're working on both ways now so that man-for-man gives you the ability to go one-v-one. I can win the duel instead of when you go out wide you're not really sure you're going to win your duel. I am now."

Asked about building on a strong first full year of senior football for the Whites, Struijk added: "I want to play as much as possible. Well, I want to try to play as much as possible, but there are no guarantees.

"I will try to get a few goals, hopefully. But, again, the most important thing for me is to play as much as possible and that the team does well.

"You earn trust by working hard every day, that is the same for everyone here and the hardest thing is maintaining the level when you eventually get there.

"When you get yourself into the team the big thing is how do you stay there because, with the quality behind you, it's not so easy to keep them on the bench.

"If I want to stay there I have to work really hard and show myself every day. I think it's going to be more difficult now because people know how we're going to play, and they have more to analyse about us. But it's the same way for us.

"It's going to be difficult because we had a really good season last year but nothing is impossible, so we'll see where we get."