Leeds should buy Brenden Aaronson in the summer: Here’s why.
Brenden Aaronson is an American attacking midfielder who plays for Red Bull Salzburg in the topflight of Austrian football. Aaronson has been linked with a possible summer move to Leeds United and in this article I am going to cover what I think he could bring to the team and how.
Tactically, Leeds like to get the ball up the pitch quickly with direct passes from the defence out to the wingers. It seems to be a common trend that Leeds are heavily reliant on this wing-play and the players who enable it.
An example of when this move was used was when Leeds beat West Ham 3-2 at the London Stadium. In particular I want to look at the first goal scored by Leeds.
As we see here, the move is started when Luke Ayling holds onto the ball and launches a direct long ball to the right wing.
The ball reaches Raphinha, who beats Vladimír Coufal and begins to speed into the box to the by-line before cutting the ball back which eventually leads to a goal for Jack Harrison.
In this instance, the tactical play where Leeds utilise their wings is generally very successful. However, sometimes these moves have tried to be created through the middle and have proved much less effective.
A prime example of this happening was in Leeds’s most recent fixture against Newcastle at Elland Road where Leeds suffered a 1-0 defeat.
As we see here, Struijk starts the move with a low direct pass into the left half space for Rodrigo to run on to. This pass almost doesn’t come off due to it being into space and rather directly to a player. Here, Klich or Rodrigo should drop deeper or into the half space to give Struijk an easier pass.
Luckily for Leeds, Rodrigo manages to beat the defender to the ball. This then sets Leeds off on a promising attack with the opposing centre-back out of position and a 4 on 3 in Newcastle’s final third.
Even though this makes for a great chance at getting into the box and scoring for Leeds, it doesn’t come to fruition on this occasion as Rodrigo over hits his pass for Dan James, suggesting that maybe the placement by Aaronson could’ve been better.
Following this analysis, how can Aaronson fulfil what Leeds are needing?
Having watched a good number of Salzburg’s champions league games I have gained an insight into Aaronson to see what he can do at this high-level of football. However, we can first take a quick look at some of his stats.
It is well-established that Leeds like to get the ball forward quickly through direct, line-breaking progressive passes out to the wingers. This is an area Aaronson can excel in as he is in the 77th percentile for progressive passes received according to StatsBomb via FBRef, and he is receiving 7.3 progressive passes per game on average. If Aaronson can stick to his ways of dropping deep to receive or dropping in and out of the half spaces to create options, then he can certainly keep up these numbers at Leeds which could really help to create more attacking chances for them.
Now let’s take a look at how Aaronson actually performs these movements on the pitch. I’ll be using Salzburg’s 1-0 win over Sevilla in the Champions League at the Red Bull Arena as an example.
Here we see that Salzburg have just won the ball back from a 50/50 challenge and Aaronson is fairly stationary in the central lane of the pitch, being loosely marked by a Sevilla player.
In the next image we can see that Aaronson has now come over to the left-hand side into the half-space to give his teammate a better option for a dangerous attack through this half-space.
Now we see that Aaronson has received the ball due to his smart off the ball movement to give a better passing option. With the ball, he drives forward well at pace as he assesses his options before playing a perfectly weighted through-ball right to the feet of Karim Adeyemi out on the left wing as shown below.
Adeyemi receives the ball and then crosses into the box which leads to a goal.
As highlighted through the breakdown of his play, Aaronson could most definitely be a key piece of the puzzle for Bielsa in this current Leeds team. While it seems the possibility of a deadline day move for the youngster is completely off, it does seem Leeds hold an interest in signing the player next summer, so there’s still a good chance Aaronson may find himself at Elland Road in the near future.
Image Credit: Forbes