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Koch under fire, Northern Ireland woes continue: sour end to international break for Leeds stars

Injuries and first team snubs limited Leeds representation to just three players in the final round of Nations League fixtures - and it did not go well for them.

Northern Ireland v Romania - UEFA Nations League
Northern Ireland will be playing in the third tier of the Nations League next year following their relegation from Group B1.
Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

It was not the end to the international break that Leeds United fans would have hoped for; North Macedonia’s Ezgjan Alioski returned to Leeds injured, while Liam Cooper and Tyler Roberts were both left on the bench for Scotland and Wales respectively. Worst of all, it did not get much better for the Whites players who did feature in the Nations League on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The positive note is that this week saw Cooper’s Scotland earn their place at next summer’s European Championships, while Roberts’ Wales - who will also be at the Euros - earned promotion to the top tier of the Nations League following their 3-1 victory over Finland last night.

However, the last couple of days of international action have witnessed historical defeats and automatic relegation among the three games involving Leeds players. Here is how they performed.

Robin Koch - Spain 6-0 GERMANY

Spain v Germany - UEFA Nations League
Koch has been under fire following a woeful defensive display from Germany in Group A4.
Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Poor old Koch. Whether he is at fault or not, he has been involved in some heavy defeats of late, but none will have hit harder than this truly humiliating result against Spain. As well as scuppering their hopes of reaching the Nations League finals next year, Germany were also handed their worst defeat in 89 years.

It may not have been a complete disaster for the Leeds defender though, who seems to be as under fire for simply not being Jerome Boateng or Mats Hummels as he is for his actual performances. He still managed to complete 92 percent of his 39 passes, while registering more accurate long balls (3) than any of his outfield teammates along. Koch also topped the charts with the joint-most tackles (4), interceptions (2) and shots blocked (2).

While it was far from a stellar display from the 24-year-old, who was at fault for one of the goals and was generally overwhelmed by Spain’s fluid attack, it is worth remembering that he has completed 90 minutes on three occasions in the last week, with those first two matches yielding positive signs from the former Freiburg centre-back.

His less impressive performances seem to come when he is not offered enough protection; he was singled out by Jamie Vardy and subsequently tormented by the Leicester City striker earlier this month without the usual defensive coverage offered by Kalvin Phillips, while Germany’s defence as a whole was not given much of a chance in the system utilised by Joachim Low on Tuesday night.

Hopefully Phillips’ potential return in time for Leeds’ upcoming fixture against Arsenal will allow Koch the opportunity to regain the reputation he held before the Leicester defeat. If the England international is not back by then, it would be interesting to see him inherit the holding midfield role, although we are more likely to see Pascal Struijk retain that position in such a scenario.

Stuart Dallas - NORTHERN IRELAND 1-1 Romania

Northern Ireland v Romania - UEFA Nations League
Northern Ireland’s relegation from the second tier of the Nations League follows last week’s failure to qualify for the European Championships.
Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images

There have likely been brighter weeks in Northern Ireland’s football history, but Dallas can return to Elland Road knowing he gave his all as his nation fell short in their Euro qualifying and Nations League campaigns.

The Green and White Army were relegated before they had even kicked a ball last night, after Romania were awarded a win from their cancelled tie against Norway, and this result left them winless in their six group games.

Stuart Dallas’ touches for Northern Ireland against Romania.
Dallas was busy down the right flank for Northern Ireland last night.

In familiar circumstances though, Leeds’ utility man proved to be a shining light in a dark moment for his country - it was far from Northern Ireland’s worst display as the 29-year-old put in a solid shift for the third time in this week’s international break.

Only one NI player managed more touches on the ball than Dallas (73), and he also completed four interceptions, two tackles and two blocks. Having deservedly earned praise on social media over the last seven difficult days, he can now turn his attention to his landmark 200th appearance for Leeds, which is set to be made against Arsenal.

Mateusz Klich - POLAND 1-2 Netherlands

Poland v Netherlands - UEFA Nations League
Poland’s early lead was ruled out by two late goals from the Netherlands.
Photo by PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images

Having failed to impress Poland fans during his last performance, Klich put in another quiet display as his side were consigned to defeat via a late Netherlands comeback.

The 30-year-old was dribbled past on all six occasions he attempted a tackle, while his passing accuracy of 76 percent was among the worst of those who completed the full 90 minutes.

His international form of late has certainly contrasted against his performances for Leeds in the Premier League, where he is proving to be an underrated talent for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.


Was Robin Koch’s international break mostly positive or negative in your opinion?

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That’s it for international breaks until March 2021! Who had the best week among Leeds United’s national representatives? And how do you feel about Robin Koch’s overall performances over the last three fixtures? Vote in the poll above (viewable in browser) and let us know at @ThruItAllLUFC.