Eddie Nketiah eyeing first Leeds United league start with room for two with Patrick Bamford
EDDIE NKETIAH is hoping Marcelo Bielsa will reward his hard work with a Leeds United Championship starting berth with the young Gunner insisting he and Patrick Bamford can both line up in the same side.
Arsenal loanee Nketiah has enjoyed the perfect start to the weekend with his latest call-up to the England under-21s squad ahead of their fixtures against Turkey on Friday, September 6 and Kosovo on Monday, September 9.
But Saturday’s top-of-the-table Championship assignment against Swansea City at Elland Road is more immediately on the forward’s agenda with Nketiah still awaiting his first Whites league start.
Last summer’s £7m recruit, Patrick Bamford, has continued to be given the nod in the lone striker role over the first five games of the season by Whites head coach Bielsa with a thriving Bamford already on four goals for the new campaign.
Nkteiah, though, is already on three goals himself from just two starts in the Carabao Cup and two second-half Championship outings from the bench with the 20-year-old scoring the only goal of the game in the 1-0 success at home to Brentford after replacing winger Jack Harrison to line up alongside Bamford with 25 minutes left.
Another 16 minutes followed in last weekend’s 3-0 win at Stoke City as Nketiah replaced Bamford with Nketiah now itching to start in United’s Championship side and adamant that it need not be a case of Bamford or him.
“There’s good competition in every position and my position is obviously as a striker,” said Nketiah.
“That’s where I have played my whole career and that’s where I will continue to play but I can play in the two up front.
"We did that a bit when I came on against Brentford which was good and it’s down to the manager to select the tactics.
“He knows where everyone can play and where everyone is best and I am sure he will select the best team that he feels is ready to play. I feel like I am ready to play.
“I show that when I get the opportunities to play and if I keep working hard I am sure the manager will reward me for doing well.
“Hopefully I can get in the team and work hard and show that I deserve to stay in the team.”
Nketiah’s sparkling displays have left Bielsa with a welcome headache with Bamford continuing his strong games-to-goals ratio, even allowing for his first season at Leeds being disrupted by two knee ligament injuries.
Those disruptions forced Bamford to miss 21 games but the former Middlesbrough forward still netted into double figures finishing with 10 in his first season at Leeds.
Nketiah is now hoping he and Bamford can help each other’s games with both also continually improving and developing under the watchful eye of Bielsa.
“Pat’s a good player,” said Nketiah. “He has played at this level for a while now and he is a great player.
“I am sure once we have worked together for a bit longer I can learn things from him and he can learn things from me.
“It’s good competition in the squad, it’s all round, not just up front and in every position.
“It’s a really good, in-depth squad and I feel like we have a really strong squad this year.”
Reflecting on how he has found working with Bielsa, Nketiah beamed: “He’s good. I think he is a really demanding coach both in training and in the games and I feel like he does a lot of reviews and one-to-one stuff and looks a lot at your game and works on it.
“It has been a good experience to learn under a different manager and coming a bit out of your comfort zone a bit and learning more.
“Hopefully I can continue learning and developing and see how the future goes.”