BBC pundit Noel Whelan has lauded Patrick Bamford’s ability to play as the target-man type centre-forward at Leeds United, in an attack on Eddie Nketiah’s style.
Boss Marcelo Bielsa was without Bamford at the weekend for our trip to Birmingham City, as the Grantham-born 26-year-old was sidelined with a dead leg and is a doubt for our top-of-the-table clash with West Bromwich Albion on New Year’s Day.
Nketiah started on Sunday as Bielsa handed the Arsenal loanee his first league start since arriving on Deadline Day in August, though the Gunners youngster was not among our five goals and remains without a strike to his name since October 22.
Should Bamford return to fitness in time to face the Baggies on Wednesday, Whelan would appear to back Bielsa dropping Nketiah to make way for the former Middlesbrough man, or at minimum, start the duo together.
“My problem with Eddie is that he spends so much time out wide and he likes to take that Thierry Henry role – coming in off the left, coming in off the right,” Whelan told Football Insider.
“That’s great, but I want my centre forward in the middle to score goals. He’s one of these players that will score you goals when he’s in the box. If you’re going to play that sort of way, you’re going to have to leave Patrick Bamford on the field, as well.
“If that’s how he wants to play the game, and not an out-and-out centre-forward role, then you’ve got to play him in that position, you’ve got to play him as the wide man, or play him as the number 10 and let him roam.
“You’ve got to have a focal point, which is Patrick.”
Does Nketiah start at West Brom on New Year's Day?
Only if Bamford is injured
Only if Bamford also plays
No, he isn't good enough
Nketiah recorded 32 touches at St. Andrew’s on Sunday before being replaced by Tyler Roberts with nine minutes of regular time to play, having failed to use his 2.1 per cent share of possession to fashion a single shot or attempted dribble, per WhoScored data.
But what the £7.2million-rated 20-year-old did produce while on the field was 12 accurate passes from 16 attempts – no key balls – and won three of his nine aerial duels – each coming in the opening 21-minutes.
Nketiah also demonstrated exactly what Whelan has referred to during his first start in the Championship, with the England U21 striker’s heatmap from the weekend’s action showing most of his touches coming from the right-wing of our attack.
However, Bamford also took a large percentage of his 18 touches against Preston North End on the right-hand side of the field, and it was a similar story against Fulham, while his 27 touches were spread across Cardiff City’s half of the pitch.
In other Leeds United news, a second club have entered the race to land a 5 ft 6 Whites man in January.