Is Pierre-Michel Lasogga the man to fire Leeds United into the Play-Offs?

During Thomas Christiansen’s post-match press conference following the thrilling 4-3 defeat to Millwall, the Leeds boss was met with a familiar question. Indeed, whilst Leeds were boosted by the acquisitions of Laurens de Bock and Adam Forshaw in the days prior to the Millwall game, questions over the club’s plans to sign a striker have remained rife.

However, Christiansen’s response may not have been received fondly by a large section of Leeds fans. Indeed, the Leeds Head Coach staunchly responded: “Everyone said we need a striker. Here, you have a striker – two goals”.

Lasogga’s second-half performance against Millwall has reminded many of the widespread adulation following his debut against Burton Albion, where he netted twice and assisted once, leading many to believe they’d found a more-than adequate replacement for Chris Wood at the first attempt. When it was later revealed that Lasogga had missed the birth of his daughter to play in the fixture his journey toward ‘cult-hero-dom’ at Elland Road appeared to be off to a flying start.

However, since then, Lasogga has found goals hard to come by (his goals on Saturday were his first since October) and with Christiansen, like his predecessor Garry Monk, keen to stick to a 4-2-3-1 formation, Kemar Roofe and Caleb Ekuban have often been the preferred choice in Lasogga’s stead.

The question now appears to be whether Lasogga’s performance against Millwall, has, like Christiansen suggests, eased the pressure on Leeds to find a new front-man. The forward’s pedigree would certainly suggest so.

At 19 Lasogga burst onto the scene in the 2. Bundesliga, firing Hertha BSC into the top-flight with 13 goals. He continued this impressive form in the Bundesliga the following year, finishing the season as Hertha’s top-scorer. It was here that the German faced the first major stumbling block of his blossoming career, suffering a torn ACL on the final day of the season, an injury that would ultimately keep him out of action for nearly a year.

Pierre-Michel Lasogga - Hertha BSC (tagesspiegel.de).jpgLasogga first burst onto the scene at Hertha BSC netting 8 Bundesliga goals in the 2011/2012 campaign (© tagesspiegel.de)

On his return to fitness, 6-time German Champions Hamburger SV decided to take a punt on Lasogga, bringing him to ‘Volksparkstadion’ on an initial season-long loan deal. It was here that he would fully establish himself as one of Germany’s brightest prospects, and earn himself a lucrative, permanent move to HSV in the process. Not only this, but Lasogga’s impressive 15 goal tally in the 2013/2014 season earned him a call up to the German senior squad, where he was unfortunately forced to pull out with injury.

However, when the goals began to dry up for Lasogga during the 2014/2015 campaign, critics were quick to point out his weaknesses. Indeed, Bundesliga journalist Daniel Jovanov said of the forward: “at 1.90 meters tall Lasogga’s ability derives mostly from his force. He has a tight shot and likes to put himself ‘where it hurts’. However, he isn’t a striker to combine, and despite his size, he lacks an aerial presence”. These are words that ring true with large swathes of Leeds fans today; when it’s not happening for Lasogga in front of goal, he has had a tendency to look disinterested and quite frankly, woeful. His performance against League 2 side Newport County drew widespread criticism, with many suggesting he be sent back to his parent-club Hamburg.

Nevertheless, a lack of self-confidence has never been a trait associated with Lasogga, and even after enduring a difficult second season at Hamburg where he managed a meagre 5 goals, he entered the subsequent 2014/2015 campaign with a new attitude. Whilst many players would have buckled under the pressure of playing for one of Germany’s biggest clubs, Lasogga dug deep, revealing a newfound ruthlessness – an anger of sorts.

This was perhaps best orchestrated by his confrontational approach to the German media for the first several weeks of season, during which Lasogga enjoyed a fruitful period in front of goal. Hamburg’s Media Director, Jörn Wolf, leapt to the striker’s defence. “He selects his interlocutors himself”, explained Wolf after one incident with a journalist. “It is his right. But the manner in which he does that is, at least, doubtful”.

Pierre-Michel Lasogga Vs Schalke 04 13th May, 2017 (t-online.de).jpgLasogga’s crucial strike against Schalke 04 in the penultimate game of the 2016/2017 handed HSV a life-line in their bid for Bundesliga survival (© t-online.de)

His ability to dig deep in testing times was even evident during his injury-plagued final season with HSV. With the club trailing 1-0 in their penultimate game of the season against Schalke 04 last May, Lasogga stepped up, scoring an injury-time equaliser to give HSV a chance of survival on the final day.

Leeds have been linked with a handful of forwards this window, including the likes of Peterborough’s Jack Marriott, Leicester City’s Leonardo Ulloa, Preston’s Jordan Hugill and PAOK’s Aleksandar Prijović to name but a few. However, in Lasogga they have at their disposal a player with undeniable pedigree, and a player who has proven that on his day, he is a real handful in this league, and undoubtedly good enough to lead the line for Leeds.

Perhaps Saturday was the start of Lasogga digging-deep and finding that extra gear; perhaps it wasn’t. However, if Christiansen’s remarks following the Millwall game are anything to go by, and with his side missing a number of key players through suspension, Leeds fans may find themselves relying on their number nine in the upcoming fixtures, which will be vital in keeping their promotion chances alive. Now is a better time than ever for Lasogga to silence his critics.

By Charlie Ibbotson

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