6th June 2016. By Edward Stratmann.
Jonathan Leko followed on beautifully from his overwhelmingly positive showings against West Ham and Bournemouth by putting in yet another accomplished performance against Jurgen Klopp's Liverpool.
West Brom's wildly gifted 17-year-old continued to look remarkably comfortable at the Premier League level, with his pace, directness and unpredictability combining to give the Reds plenty of headaches in the Baggies' 1-1 draw with the Merseysiders.
Leko hit the ground running and got off to a flying start, registering his first EPL assist inside 13 minutes courtesy of a wondrous passage. Here, after picking up possession in a slightly right of centre location, his intentions were clear: to rapidly drive at his opposition. And he did precisely that, as he used a blend of acceleration, trickery and close control to sensationally glide past Joe Allen, Cameron Brannagan and Kevin Stewart. Leko then found himself near the 18-yard-box, and subsequently set up Salomon Rondon with a deft through ball for the Venezuelan hitman to finish. Indeed this move encapsulated so many of his strengths, with his composure to find Rondon capping off the move with real polish.
From his right wing post, Leko notably remained a threat throughout his time afield thereafter. His opponent, Brad Smith, endured a tough afternoon on the Congolese born starlet, in a match where he struggled to cope with Leko's explosive set of attributes.
Direct, powerful, skillful and physically imposing, Leko's technical proficiency, when parlayed with his strength over the ball, saw him able to competently keep possession under pressure. Although he didn't always execute his passes as he desired, something that's forgivable for such an inexperienced player, he did, however, still make some excellent decisions and exhibit some intricate link up play in confined spaces.
In addition, the way he drifted infield to occupy vacant spaces gave an insight into his capacity to identify and utilitise space within the opposition's defensive setup.
Due to West Brom ceding possession to Liverpool, the way Leko remained disciplined and concentrated in undertaking his defensive duties served as another hugely positive facet of his match.
Tony Pulis would've loved seeing his young charge adhere so well to his instructions, plus display the required tactical acuity needed to deal with the many dangerous scenarios he was confronted with. West Brom right-back, Craig Dawson, supported him wonderfully, communicating with him regularly about where best to position himself and when to perform a marking crossover. Having such an experienced campaigner behind him clearly gave him plenty of confidence to go about his stopping work enthusiastically.
All things considered, Leko's dynamism, maturity and diligence, on both sides of the ball, enabled him to put in a shift that was littered with upside. Doing so against one of the league's premier teams suitably illustrated what a great future he looks set to enjoy at the Hawthorns.
While Leko's undoubtedly still got plenty of scope left for improvement, producing such an influential, game changing performance certainly bodes well for the club looking ahead to next season. Moreover, with fellow West Brom academy graduates, Tyler Roberts and Sam Field, also receiving valuable minutes, the club's future looks to be a very exciting one indeed.
"I thought he was fantastic. I think he's a bit similar to (Yannick) Bolasie at Palace," explained his delighted manager.
"He has raw pace and talent and does things that are so instinctive. The kid could be a good player but he needs to learn the game and be put with professional people."
The sky well and truly appears the limit for this fearless prodigy, who possesses so many of the ingredients necessary to make it all the way to the top of the sport.
Only time will tell if he, in fact, does, but for now he'll just be hoping to continue his incredible upward trajectory into the 2016/17 Premier League season.
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A Bright Start for Jonathan Leko at WBA
6th June 2016. By Edward Stratmann.