Ex Leeds United man on why Patrick Bamford is a huge miss, what Rodrigo needs and clutching Leicester City straws
Patrick Bamford being out injured highlights some of the things that he does extremely well for Leeds United, things that might go a little unnoticed.
His pressing, stopping the centre-backs playing out, is vital and we pick it up a little bit higher up the pitch. A bad ball or an average ball is made into a half decent ball by Bamford. He can do that running into the channels.
When we’ve got Rodrigo up top he’s never going to run into the channels; he wants to go deeper and get on the ball. We’re missing that aspect to our game. You looked on Saturday against Norwich City and it was Jack Harrison through the middle. The runs he’s making and where he wants the ball, they’re not the runs of a striker.
They swapped and Daniel James went in there, something we saw for 45 minutes against Wolves, and that didn’t particularly work either.
We’re missing that bit where Bamford holds it up, we can play off him and he makes bad balls good. Without Bamford, it has to be very, very precise and, when you have to be precise, it becomes that much more difficult, you maybe delay the pass because you know it has to be pinpoint and then that fluidity is just gone. We haven’t had it for a little while now. It’s easy to say our attacking game isn’t clicking just because Bamford isn’t there, but he certainly gives us a lot of things that we’re missing.
It was great to see Rodrigo get on the scoresheet on Sunday and, hopefully, that will increase his confidence levels. He seems a confidence player, he always wants to be involved in the game but he’s not overly physical. That No 9 position, certainly in the Premier League, I don’t think is quite suited to him. He has got ability and we need that confidence we saw from him at the back end of last season. His movement, his finishing can be great but the foil that he needs to play with is something we haven’t quite provided yet.
I was half expecting Joe Gelhardt to appear up front in the second half on Sunday but there’s so much hype around him that I suppose you don’t want that to keep building up and up. I just thought, when you’re looking for that foil, Gelhardt would be the best option. Physically he wants to get up there, he’s very positive, he stays in and around the box and then others can go and feed off him and around him. It was a slight surprise that we didn’t see him at Norwich. Adam Forshaw came on and brought some experience. Even getting a few passes in felt difficult on Saturday but he did it at times and that just relieved pressure, to a point.
We were never 100 per cent comfortable but Norwich were quite crude in the way they played and tried to get back into the game. They were making mistakes for fun and we managed to sort it out in the end. I think maybe the experience of Forshaw ruled over the inexperience of Gelhardt, for Bielsa.
I thought Pascal Struijk, once again, silently played really well with some really good passes. I thought Norwich were targeting Diego Llorente when he had the ball because they knew how he can get us going from the back. Teemu Pukki early on was all over him and a couple of times he overplayed but he recovered and got back into it. Liam Cooper made some great defensive interventions. You don’t want to keep having to rely on clean sheets and your backline but it helps a heck of a lot when they’re playing well. The Norwich goal came from a mistake, giving that corner away cheaply, but it was a heck of a ball and a heck of a header as well. You’re always disappointed to concede from set-pieces but, overall, we were looking pretty solid at the back.
In general, it wasn’t a convincing performance; it was edgy. It was clear it was such an important game that it was all about the result but, sometimes, that came through unfortunately in the performance. We made uncharacteristic mistakes, there was no great fluidity at times in our play and Norwich were a side you could see lacking in confidence, a route-one side, they couldn’t defend very well and they were there for the taking. We couldn’t see them off in the manner we would have liked but, overall, it is all about getting those three points. We showed character and spirit but the performance clearly needs to improve over the remainder of the season.
Once again we were indebted to Raphinha. I look at him and think he’s immune to pressure, he doesn’t know what it is. He just plays the same. You could imagine him playing on the beach the same way he does for the Brazilian national team. No matter what the situation is, he will get that ball, try and beat his man and produce something. You could see at the end he was angry, he was frustrated, he just lives and breathes playing football and winning. Fortunately for us, when we get him the ball in the right areas, things happen, it’s as simple as that, he makes things happen.
He’s becoming very important, we just need others to come up and join in on a more regular basis. At the moment, Raphinha is the benchmark. One or two others hitting it on Sunday against Leicester City would be helpful.
When you’re in our position, you clutch at every straw you can and we’ll take some sort of positive from Leicester playing on Thursday night. They will think the opposite if they get a positive result; you always feel fresh when you win games. Ultimately it’s all about us getting some momentum and some confidence.
The performances might not have been at the heights we would like but four points from two is a big improvement, we’re at home and we know how ridiculous the crowd was against Wolves, so the players will want to show something the fans can get behind. Leicester are a decent side, we know the danger and the quality they possess, but they’re not tearing up any trees either. We’ve also got quality and we need to raise our game a little to give Leicester a good game.