How Leeds United can solve major goalscoring problems after Eddie Nketiah blow
Leeds United will hope to find the net more regularly in the coming weeks.
Despite sitting just outside the automatic promotion places in third, things are looking rosy for Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United as things stand.
28 points from 15 games leaves the side in touching distance of the summit at this early stage, and having only conceded eight goals so far at a rate of just 0.53 per game, they have by far the best defensive record in the division.
Leeds once again look on a par with the very best sides in the division and likely to go close if they continue to concede so rarely, yet if there is one niggling doubt, it is at the other end of the pitch.
If you look at the 'goals for' column of the Championship table you will see 19 next to Leeds United's name. You'll no doubt have seen the expected goals (XG) table that suggests Leeds are the Manchester City of the second tier, yet the fact remains that they have scored nine goals less than the top scoring sides in the division, West Bromwich Albion and Preston North End.
Before Saturday's game against QPR, Leeds had only scored four league goals at Elland Road.
Although a tireless worker, Patrick Bamford's goal drought has led some fans to see young striker Eddie Nketiah as the solution, and many have bemoaned his wait for a first league start. They were set to see their wish granted against QPR, yet the Arsenal loanee suffered an abdominal injury and had to be withdrawn.
Now that Nketiah has been ruled out for a reported four weeks, what factors could help Leeds improve their goalscoring prowess?
Sometimes the best solutions are the simplest ones - thank goodness for the return of Pablo.
Put simply, creatively the Spaniard is on another level to anyone else in the squad.
Hernandez completed more final third passes than any Championship player last season, despite attempting more difficult passes than other players. As a result he racked up 12 goals and 12 assists throughout last year's campaign, making him an indispensable cog in the Bielsa machine.
Whilst two draws in tricky away games at Preston and Sheffield Wednesday were creditable, they involved a lot of Leeds engineering themselves into a good position at the edge of the final third, where they would duly give the ball away with a sloppy pass. Leeds were solid but unspectacular, and particularly at Deepdale will have felt that they could have returned with an extra couple of points with Hernandez' killer final pass in their arsenal.
If he shows the form he has in recent years then Leeds can expect Hernandez to contribute to goals in the coming weeks.
The big money signing
Portuguese flyer Helder Costa was tipped as the man to solve all of Leeds' problems when he joined for a reported £15m in the summer. Whilst we have seen glimpses from the pacy winger, we haven't yet seen the player that tore the Championship to shreds with Wolves.
Costa undoubtedly needs to chip in with more goals and assists, yet there is an argument that the system isn't wholly suiting his style as of yet. He is covering a lot of ground on the right side of the pitch, and when Leeds are out of possession, Costa is playing a wing-back type role that sees him drop much deeper than he ever had to at Wolves.
As a result, he is also starting his dribbles further away from the opposition net. Much as Bielsa spoke of Bamford running for the team, the Argentine expects Costa to put the hard yards in for the greater good.
Costa must take his share of the responsibility for his so-so performances, but it would be good to see Leeds tweak their system slightly to allow him to receive the ball in areas that give him a chance to run in behind opposition defences - if Leeds can revive his form of a couple of years ago, they could benefit from a fantastic source of goals.
Who needs possession anyway?
Leeds United scored two goals in a home league match for the first time this season in the win over QPR, and curiously it was one of the only games in which the Whites have had less possession than their opponents.
Famously the 1-0 victory over Sheffield United at Bramall Lane was for a long time the only occasion on which Leeds United had surrendered the lions share of possession under Marcelo Bielsa. That feels like history now, as the QPR game was the second time it has happened in two months - West Brom also had more possession than Leeds at Elland Road in October.
Bielsa's side were recording more possession than ever at the start of the season and the emphasis has very much been on control this season, hence why the Whites have conceded so few goals. Bielsa teams do look to exploit space though, and allowing the opposition some of the ball presents the chance to dispossess them in dangerous areas.
QPR had more of the ball on Saturday, yet Leeds were the only side who looked like scoring - Leeds fans won't mind the possession stats being a tad lower than usual as long as the wins keep coming.