Jesse Marsch on Patrick Bamford and Leeds United striker options including surprise candidates

Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch is determined to get even more out of Patrick Bamford, Joe Gelhardt and Rodrigo as the wait for a fourth striker goes on.

By Graham Smyth
Friday, 5th August 2022, 4:10 pm

The Whites have a budget for an addition to Marsch's forward options but are 'evaluating' their options according to the American, having failed in a bid to land Charles De Ketelaere.

The Belgian joined AC Milan this week and his agents went public to suggest that while the Serie A champions were always his preferred destination, Leeds pushed hard to bring him to the Premier League.

With the noise around that ultimately doomed pursuit abating, a hush has descended over the club and their transfer dealings.

Other than the imminent arrival of ex-Real Betis and Everton goalkeeper Joel Robles, things have gone quiet while discussions take place between Elland Road chiefs, Marsch and the recruitment team.

There's a distinct sense that they want to be certain before they make their move and in the meantime, Marsch is focusing more on who he has than who he can get.

Read More

Read More
Andrea Radrizzani on Leeds United striker and left-back hunt after huge bid for ...

Bamford, without doubt, is the main man at Leeds in the striking department.

UNTAPPED POTENTIAL: Whites head coach Jesse Marsch believes there is even more to come from a fully fit Leeds United striker Patrick Bamford, above, even compared to his 2020-21 achievements. Photo by Ashley Allen/Getty Images)

A torrid 2021/22 campaign is disappearing in his rear view mirror and last Sunday's Cagliari friendly handed him a first 90-minute run-out since last September.

That particular benchmark was 'massive' for the striker in his manager's eyes.

"It's been a huge week for him," said Marsch.

"He looks great. He looks fit. He looks strong, he looks sharp.

"The good thing as well is now having Patrick closer and closer to 100 per cent is we've actually been able to work through what tactically we want him to look like.

"And I thought the way he played against Cagliari was very good and in the vein of the direction that we want him to go."

Leeds fans will remember the Bamford who took the 2020/21 Premier League by storm, scoring 17 goals in 38 games and adding another eight assists to put himself squarely on the radar of England boss Gareth Southgate.

He went into last season dreaming of World Cup involvement only for injury to derail his campaign completely.

He's back now though and Marsch wants to get more from him than Leeds have ever seen.

"I believe that there's a lot of room for improvement for Patrick as a player and that's our goal is to help him to be more dangerous, to score more goals, to be a better pressing player, to be more complete," said the head coach.

"But he looks great. He looks fit. He's psychologically incredibly excited. And I know we have a great player on our hands and then he's only going to get better. Is he at 100 per cent?

"Probably not quite yet, but he's really, really close."

As for his current competition - or support as Marsch prefers to call it - Joe Gelhardt, with the ink still fresh on a new five-year deal, is champing at the bit to play a bigger role than he did last season.

And Rodrigo, who fired in a hat-trick against Cagliari, is another option, although his likeliest role at present is in the three positioned behind Bamford.

Last season's Daniel James experiment up front will not be remembered fondly by Whites supporters – it simply didn't work - but between him, Brenden Aaronson and the three more natural forwards, Marsch is convinced he has enough options to give Leeds the required firepower.

"We're going to need Joffy to come off the bench at times to help [Bamford]," said Marsch.

"I think we can play with both of them at times. I think Rodrigo can play as a striker as well.

"We know that's not Dan's [James] preferred position, but there's different ways where we can play with nine, half nine, two strikers, central 10. There's different flexibility we can have at different times.

"[Striker'] is not necessarily naturally what [Brenden Aaronson] does, but he could play like a false nine or nine and a half position as well.

"Brenden's work ethic is different than probably any player I've ever known. His ability to cover ground and his intelligence and ability to adapt is one of the best I've ever seen."

James and Aaronson, plainly, would be emergency measures because a fit Bamford plays and Gelhardt should steadily up his first-team involvement.

Marsch wants the 20-year-old to push Bamford hard.

"I think they will dictate that more than anything," he said.

"You know if Patrick is fit and strong and healthy, which we're thinking he can be, then Patrick will play a lot of minutes.

"But I also have to be cautious of the fact that he hasn't played a lot in the last 10 months and not kill him from the beginning where then physically I put them in danger of picking up little things.

"Joffy, the more he pushes himself and the more he takes advantage of every minute he's on the pitch and continues to show his quality and understanding of what we want the game to look like, then he's going to obtain more minutes and he'll be rewarded."

And Marsch is adamant that Rodrigo should remain part of the conversation, as a £27m signing really ought to.

Two seasons fraught with injuries, Covid and underwhelming periods of form had led to the Spanish international being written off in many quarters, but he is fixed in Marsch's thinking.

"Rodrigo is still a big piece of that puzzle," said the head coach.

"And for me, Rodrigo has made big progress in the last weeks as well, and obviously the performance he had on the weekend was quite good.

"That's where you talk about healthy competition, and guys pushing each other and I think we have that more in our squad right now."

Whether Marsch has enough is very much up for debate but there's a real buzz around Bamford and Gelhardt right now and a growing hope that Rodrigo can re-write his Elland Road story.

Until such a time as one arrives, that trio are charged with firing Leeds to a positive start in the Premier League.