December 3, 2022

Rasmus Kristensen completed 90 minutes of Denmark’s goalless draw with Tunisia on Tuesday afternoon, with Leeds United supporters watching on with particular intrigue.
Leeds brought Kristensen to the club to evolve their options at right-back, with his knowledge of Jesse Marsch’s Red Bull system expected to offer an upgrade on Luke Ayling and free the Whites of defensive frailties in the wide areas.
There’s been an improvement in Kristensen after a shaky start and that’s been noted by the majority of the fanbase. He’s not quite looking as assured in the Premier League as a Tyler Adams or Brenden Aaronson, but the Dane is getting there.
Personnel matters aside, Leeds are struggling tactically and a narrow 4-2-3-1 might be helping Marsch find goals, yet it’s leaving them exposed defensively, conceding three or more goals in four of their last fixtures. The full-back positions remain the area to target Leeds, bringing us back to Kristensen.
In Denmark’s system, Kristensen plays at right wing-back, free of those increased defensive responsibilities: three interceptions, seven recoveries and one clearance all below his Premier League averages this season (Wyscout).
With those shackles off in a way, Kristensen excelled in other areas, completing 66% of his actions against Tunisia successfully and posting an overall pass success of 74%, with both those statistics bettering his EPL numbers – 59.6% and 72% respectively.
The 25-year-old’s positive attacking performance was further underlined by his three successful dribbles and three attempted crosses, one of which was successful. Again, an improvement on what we’ve seen from Kristensen as a more traditional right-back. 75% of his overall offensive duels were successful, as were five of his seven attempted passes into the final third.
It’s not like Kristensen’s entire performance in a Leeds shirt has been below the standard of what we saw for Denmark, though, with the full-back only taking a single touch in the opposition penalty area and failing to make a progressive run. He wasn’t accurate with either of the passes he attempted to play into the penalty area, numbers we are used to seeing at Elland Road.
Kristensen’s performance gave you food for thought, though, as Phil Hay pointed out on Twitter following the game, highlighting the defensive pressure the Leeds man was playing without.
Decent contest that one. It was quite obvious how much Denmark's system let Kristensen play into the final third and carry the ball into that area. Took pressure off him defensively too
It’s not like Leeds don’t have the personnel to trial a wing-back system on the other side of the international break either. They often do that in the closing stages of games they are winning, tucking Ayling onto the right of a back-three and tasking him with helping Kristensen man the right channel; having limited success, of course.
Despite Leeds’ wins over Bournemouth and Liverpool prior to the World Cup lifting the pressure off Marsch, tactically Leeds are going to have to change and evolve. A tweak in system feels it might benefit the entire team and individuals like Kristensen.
That might force something of a rethink in January, admittedly. Reports from TEAMtalk suggested Ayling’s position down the pecking order and constantly running down contract will spike interest in the New Year. If Leeds are giving any consideration to a rejigged formation, the man that fits the right centre-back role perfectly cannot be freed up.
The World Cup break offers Leeds time to dwell on decisions like those and no domestic fixtures certainly helps.
International fixtures might tempt you to take your mind elsewhere, though, which could well be the case when weighing up Kristensen’s best role back at Elland Road and, indeed, what Leeds allow to happen in January.
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Leeds United Season Ticket Holder at Elland Road for over 20 seasons. Currently nestled in N12, but occasionally offering views from the press box. We’ve been through it all together? You bet.
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