'It's a gamble' - ex-Leeds United man lays down challenge for Elland Road decision makers
Former Leeds United midfielder and Sky Sports pundit David Prutton writes exclusively for the Yorkshire Evening Post as the Whites hunt for a striker.
No matter what happens with Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha, signing another striker option is a must for Leeds United this summer. Completely.
We spent all of last season talking about Patrick Bamford not being available for Leeds and whoever stepped in upfront, didn’t do the job. Joe Gelhardt showed glimpses here and there but he didn’t get enough of a run in the side. And I don’t think anyone else stood up at all.
Leeds had players that were there but Dan James isn’t a centre forward. Rodrigo didn’t step up and Jack Harrison is not a centre forward. Tyler Roberts didn’t step up either.
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I’m not judging any of these players by virtue of what they did, because if they’re not naturally inclined to be a goalscorer, it’s the hardest thing in football to do. It always will be the hardest thing in football being able to do that.
What Patrick evolved into was a real sight to behold but you can’t rely on a player, or not solely on one player, to be the one that is the spearhead. Yes, it’s good when things go right, such as that season when Leeds got promoted and the season of consolidation and establishing themselves, both under Marcelo Bielsa.
But Leeds have been left short in areas for too long as most of the course of last season showed, so they’ve got to make sure that the numbers are there. There are different types of forwards and Leeds need one that obviously dovetails into the style of football that head coach Jesse Marsch wants to play. I think it’s probably a bit remiss to think that you would just focus on one player to get that amount of goals.
At a team like Liverpool, they have the approach of three very, very good players making like the ultimate strike force. And I just think there’s a responsibility across the whole Leeds squad to get the goals that can help them consolidate.
Whether Jesse plays in a way that is helpful for a traditional number nine, I don’t quite know as yet. It’s a gamble whoever comes in because if they have scored a boat load of goals in English football then is that player even available and also how much is he going to cost?
On the flip side, if a striker is brought in from abroad then there is that unknown entity of whether he can actually hack it in the Premier League so it’s important that they get the mixture right. Whoever it is, as has been the benchmark laid down by the best teams, they have got to work their socks off and to be able to put that shift in that establishes Leeds as a force going forward.
I’m intrigued to see what happens and that’s where the Leeds hierarchy are really going to earn the money, director of football Victor Orta and the rest of them, by bringing in that right type of striker. You can’t guarantee goals but you need to get as close to something like that as possible. Manchester City’s new signing Erling Haaland is the early favourite for next year’s Golden Boot but it’s not just about one player. You’ve got to look at the chances created for that player too. As good as Erling is and he is obviously a world class player, he is going to play in a team that just absolutely creates chances all over it. He should be scoring the 40 goals a season that people are trying to moot It’s slightly different and that’s why I say it’s a collective responsibility.
Whoever’s leading the line, in a one or a two or a three, they need the supplementation of players that are there to create.
If it’s Raphinha he has got to be able to do that. If it’s Dan James down one side and Jack Harrison on the other or Joe Gelhardt in and around and behind it, these are all players who have to step up because it’s not just good enough now to be a part of that team.
You’ve got to be a functionally creative part of the team of the attacking part of the side.
I am intrigued to see how it starts, how it goes in the middle and how it ends because it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
Whether it will be a case of us talking about the same things over the course of this season I sincerely hope not but it will not be easy, not by any stretch.