PROFILING HIS BEST ATTRIBUTES ASSESSING HIS FUTURE ANALYSING HIS STATS LEARNING ABOUT HIS STORY SO FAR
Who is Lewis Bate?
Leeds United have secured the signing of 18-year-old Lewis Bate from Chelsea, fending off strong interest from the likes of Liverpool, West Ham United and Leicester City. With one year remaining on his contract at Chelsea, the Englishman chose not to sign an extension in favour of pursuing first-team football elsewhere – a decision made by many of the Blues’ academy-produced youngsters this summer due to the lack of a pathway to first-team football, best demonstrated in the sale of Marc Guéhi to Crystal Palace.
Lewis Bate's style of play
Bate is a diminutive but combative central midfielder with a sweet left foot. Equally comfortable as a number six, number eight, or in a double pivot and at his best in the latter, it’s his work on the ball that stands out most.
He possesses strong close control, particularly in tight spaces, and is able to beat a man in midfield with a turn of pace, but his best attribute is in what he does when moving the ball on: always seemingly with minimum effort yet perfect weight, the mixture of purpose and technique in Bate’s passing forms a huge part of his game. He produces both flat, pacey switches of play and incisive, considered balls between the lines at high frequency throughout matches, and the quality is consistent within his expansive range – short passes are always crisp and with intent, and longer ones never hang in the air for too long despite often being played into space.
The 18-year-old also gives much thought to where his passes go relative to the receiver, depending what the situation demands, whether that be to their back foot, favoured foot, or ahead of/behind them.
Bate also has a tenacity to his game that makes him extremely hard to play against. Rooted in a blend of game intelligence, a willingness to get stuck in and an incredible engine, the amount of work he gets through between the boxes is remarkable: throughout games, the England under-18 international will at one point be the highest presser at one end before sweeping up at the other.
This is not to say that he is poor positionally, though – on the contrary, he is an excellent ball-winner through both interceptions and tackles, which is often down to the position he puts himself in relative to the ball and the opposition players. Notable about his ball-winning is that he always immediately wants to play forward after recovering possession, a trait he has in common with fellow Cobham graduate Billy Gilmour.
Whenever you look at him, Bate is always scanning the pitch. He is acutely aware of where his teammates are at all times and loves to get on the ball and turn quickly with his first touch, before spraying it wide or driving it between the lines. One of his favourite moves is to entice an opposition player in before playing a one-two with a team-mate or using his quick feet to bypass the press and drive into the space vacated.
Bate’s game is not without weaknesses, though. He is prone to getting caught in possession when dwelling on the ball for too long, and he can also get caught moving forward – a bit of this is natural considering his bravery in possession (which is undoubtedly a net positive), but it happens more often than he would like.
Standing at only 5’7”, he is a little undersized. Most of this is made up for in how snappy and dogged he is, but it is true that he is weak in aerial duels and can be outmuscled. He still has a good amount of filling out to do, though, particularly in terms of his upper-body strength.
Lewis Bate's future at Leeds United
At Leeds, Bate will presumably be tasked at first with playing a backup role to Kalvin Phillips, arguably their most important player, who lines up as a number six at the heart of Marcelo Bielsa’s midfield. Given that Phillips is usually out for around 6-8 games a season, due to either injury or suspension, this will provide an immediate route to some first-team minutes for Bate. He is for the most part likely to play for Leeds’ under-23s whilst appearing on the bench for first-team games, though, as the two sides are very closely aligned.
There is also a clear pathway to more regular minutes as he progresses further. The current starters for Leeds in the two number eight positions ahead of Phillips – a role Bate is more than capable of playing – tend to be two of Tyler Roberts, Mateusz Klich or Stuart Dallas: Klich is 31 years old, Dallas is 30, and Bate would offer something different in terms of his ball-playing, regardless of age difference.
He is also the latest in a trend of young domestic players picked up by Victor Orta, the club’s sporting director. Leeds have made a very concious effort to sign some of the best teenage talent in England, be it from League One side Wigan Athletic or Premier League champions Manchester City. Bate joins a core of talent that will need minutes over the coming couple of seasons.
Leeds’ playstyle suits him almost perfectly, too: lots of running and lots of high-tempo football, but all within a desire to construct attacks through playing from the back and progressing the ball through the thirds. The combination of Bate’s relentless engine and his masterful on-ball ability could be a sight to behold in a Bielsa side in years to come.
Ultimately, Bate’s move to Leeds is a great one for both the player and the club. All things going well, he immediately gets some first-team football, is at a club with a clear upwards trajectory, under a fantastic manager, and has a route to more regular minutes in the future. As for Leeds, they have got their hands on what is, without exaggeration, one of the very best midfield talents out there.
Lewis Bate is an high-level passer, one with excellent technique and range. He can hit any pass with effortless style and skill. He also has strong technical fundamentals, typical of a player developed at an elite academy. Bate is a tireless presser as well, very active and tenacious in the way he harries after the ball.
The most obvious weakness is his height, or lack of it. Standing at 5’6″, he struggles to compete in the air and can be overwhelmed in contact – even if his dogged tenacity makes up for it. He can also get caught in posssession at times.