The good news for any incoming striker at Leeds United, the bad news and the Patrick Bamford debate

The good news for whoever Leeds United bring in to play up front alongside or instead of Patrick Bamford is that they will be presented with plenty of goalscoring chances.

Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 5:21 pm
Updated Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 5:22 pm
Patrick Bamford missed this chance against Sheffield Wednesday, but his all round play has made him a mainstay of Marcelo Bielsa's side (Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

The Whites create more opportunities than any other Championship side, averaging a dozen chances per game and any forward who fancies himself as a finisher will have the opportunity to fill their boots.

It might even be a factor in a player deciding to come to Elland Road instead of elsewhere.

But first, of course, they have to get into the team and that isn’t such a simple task under Marcelo Bielsa, who wasn’t entirely convinced that Leeds would create as many good chances if it was Eddie Nketiah playing up front in place of Bamford.

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Bielsa values the work and the running Bamford puts in to help the team defend from the front, win the ball back as high up the pitch as possible and build attacks, which Leeds do relentlessly.

If the good news is that Leeds create more chances than all the rest, the bad news is that they miss more than anyone else too.

‘Big chances’ are defined by data experts Opta as a situation where a player should reasonably be expected to score, usually in a one-on-one scenario or from very close range when the ball has a clear path to goal and there is low-to-moderate pressure on the player taking a shot.

Leeds have made 62 of those and squandered 40 of them.

Bamford, the focal point of Leeds’ attack and, until such a time as they sign another, the only senior forward at the club, has missed more big chances than any other individual in the division.

The 15 ‘big chances’ that he has failed to convert is just two more than Brentford’s Ollie Watkins, but the Bees forward has eight more goals and jointly leads the Championship in scoring with Fulham’s currently injured Aleksandar Mitrović.

You can use statistics of one kind or another to prove almost any argument and it would be fascinating to see each player’s kilometres and sprints, but the goals column always has and always will be the barometer of individual success for strikers and everyone, even Bamford agrees that he should have a fair few more than he’s got.

He gets paid to score goals, is one of the most frequently used criticisms in the daily debate around Bamford, but a Bielsa player is paid to do lots of things and he ticks many boxes for his boss.

What isn’t highlighted quite as often is the fact that Bamford needs help, goals need to come from elsewhere.

A new signing is one obvious source of assistance, someone else to shoulder the burden of goalscoring expectation.

But his current team-mates have a responsibility that currently isn’t being met on a frequent enough basis – a lot of them are paid to score goals too.

Opposition players are the second top scorer for Leeds United this season, accounting for six own goals.

Jack Harrison is next with five and he has missed six big chances.

Gjanni Alioksi has four goals and has missed four big chances.

Adam Forshaw, Ben White, Mateusz Klich, Stuart Dallas and the departed Eddie Nketiah have spurned 17 between them, while Pablo Hernandez, Helder Costa and Tyler Roberts have each missed a big chance apiece.

Just imagine where Leeds United would be right now and what the mood around the club would be like if even a fraction of those misses had gone in.

It is worth keeping in mind, however, that they have scored enough goals to sit second in the division, six points clear of third and outscored by just three other sides.

Leeds have a style of play and a group of players capable of cutting other teams open and creating opportunities.

That can take pace, vision, craft and the awareness to not only put the ball in the right place, but be in the right place to get on the end of a pass or cross.

At Fulham we heard Scott Parker describe Leeds’ movement into the area as scripted, but 12 chances per game says quite clearly that few opposition sides have read the script or even put together a good enough guess at what it might say.

Chances will keep coming and even a slight uplift in the conversion rate, from Bamford, his team-mates or any new boy who arrives, could make a big difference to how comfortable life is for Leeds United and their fans in the run-in.