Leeds United’s surprise Patrick Bamford replacement endures mixed success

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Patrick Bamford remains on the sidelines and without a return date at Leeds United.

Leeds have missed him, too. Not least for his finishing ability. After all, last year he was the man to fire in 17 goals in 38 Premier League fixtures as Leeds finished ninth.

Marcelo Bielsa experimented with Rodrigo as his replacement, but has quickly reverted to the Spanish international in a slightly deeper position – a good call and an entirely different topic.

As Leeds drew 1-1 with Leicester City on Sunday, it was Daniel James who got the nod to lead the line.

It wasn’t the first time we’ve seen it, Bielsa had James in that role against Wolves last month and watched him struggle through the opening 45 minutes before changing it up.

However, there’s clearly a reason Bielsa keeps reverting to the tactic.

As our graphic above shows, James was particularly good out of possession.

He made one interception and recovered the ball four times in the Leicester half, giving Leeds the opportunity to attack deep in the Foxes’ territory.

Even without crunching numbers, you can see how hard James works to win the ball back for Leeds. He’s potentially the only forward that can come close to mimicking what Bamford does at the top of the pitch.

James also received 17 passes and looked to play Leeds into dangerous areas with possession; two passes into the final third were accurate and he found a teammate with two of his balls into the penalty area.

On top of all that, James tried to put his speed to good use, attempting six dribbles and completing three.

There were certainly positives in James’ performance and even a few similarities to what we see from Bamford. However, in other areas, the 24-year-old felt wasteful.

He failed to create anything with his three attempted crosses, whilst six shots on Kasper Schmeichel’s goal failed to test the Leicester goalkeeper; James’ wait for a first Leeds goal is now 10 games.

If Bamford had been presented with those kind of chances, at the very least, Schmeichel would have been tested.

Simply, that’s what Leeds are missing this season. The fact that Bamford has sat out of over half their fixtures has contributed to a sluggish start for Bielsa’s men.

It’s not difficult to see where he fits in; at the top of the team, with Rodrigo behind him, Raphinha to the right and, likely, James to the left.

The sooner that return date becomes clearer, the sooner Leeds can start plotting their climb through the table.

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Leeds United Season Ticket Holder at Elland Road for over 20 seasons. Currently nestled in N12, but occasionally offering views from the press box. We’ve been through it all together? You bet.