Dan James opens up on newfound striker role at Leeds United under Marcelo Bielsa

Dan James has had to adapt to life quickly at Leeds United.

By Joe Urquhart
Saturday, 5th February 2022, 2:09 pm
Updated Saturday, 5th February 2022, 2:12 pm

The Whites summer deadline day signing had barely stopped shaking the hands of his new teammates before he was thrust into on-pitch action.

James arrived at Elland Road as a winger but due to Marcelo Bielsa' s ongoing injury crisis he has often found himself selected as a No 9.

Last season's top goalscorer Patrick Bamford has only been able to play a part in six games this term, which has heavily hindered United's front line.

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Leeds United forward Dan James. Pic: Getty

Injuries to Rodrigo, Tyler Roberts and Joe Gelhardt in recent weeks and months have also played a role in his continuing appearance as the man leading the attack in LS11.

James has managed two goals and one assist in his 17 Premier League appearances to date under Bielsa - a return he could and should probably have improved upon.

His natural skills mean Bielsa-ball seems like an ideal fit though the stop-start nature of having to move inside and out has seen him struggle for a run of real form.

The 24-year-old's pressing ability is a huge bonus as a striker despite the obvious physical mismatch with top flight central defenders.

He has, though, tried to do the best he can when plugging the gaps for his manager in the knowledge it isn't an area he is likely to remain long-term.

"I think I've enjoyed it," James told BBC Radio Leeds over his newfound forward role. "It's not a position I see myself playing in the long-term, but with the injuries we have and it's somewhere he [Bielsa] has seen I can play.

"It's not somewhere I have played before but I'm learning everyday and I need to learn all positions. I said before you can end up in any position up there at times and you've got to know what the striker or the winger is thinking.

"It has helped me a lot, especially when I play on the wing again and I now know what the No.9 thinks and what position to be in."

James believes his experience as a striker could actually benefit him as a wide player moving forward under Bielsa.

Leeds have a host of options on the wing - Raphinha, Jack Harrison and Crysencio Summerville - and the link up play he continues to develop can help, rather than hinder, he says.

"When I play there again, it will be something I am thinking of," James added.

"I get into those positions as a No.9, I'll make a movement as it was me who was making that cross, but it's different with different players, such as Jack [Harrison] or Raphinha.

"I've got to think about what they're thinking and try to be on the same wavelength. I'm learning everyday and the gaffer believes in me. I've never played as a one up front, it's probably not one that I thought of.

"As I said, I can grow into that position but it's not one that I can see me playing in the long-term. But I have relished it and I've taken as much as I can from that position. A lot of the stuff is back to goal, making runs and trying to see the ball."