LEEDS UNITED head coach Paul Heckingbottom sprang something of a surprise by selecting Caleb Ekuban in the lone striker role for Saturday’s Championship clash at Reading.
Top scorer Pierre-Michel Lasogga had to make do with a place on the bench with the German finally brought on for Ekuban with 13 minutes left.
But did Ekuban do enough to suggest he should be starting ahead of Lasogga on a regular basis?
Ekuban, who is still only 23, is clearly still learning his trade and Saturday’s outing was only the forward’s seventh start for the Whites and 11th appearance for the club overall.
The Italian of Ghanaian descent endured a difficult time of things in the first half and Reading went on to score the game’s opening goal after the striker was dispossessed when attempting to hold up the ball in the 16th minute.
But Ekuban produced a much improved display in the second half with much more movement though the forward managed only two attempts on goal during the game with one off target and the other blocked.
Strikers are clearly judged on goals and Ekuban has still only scored the once for Leeds with that strike coming in the 4-1 win at home to League Two side Port Vale in an EFL Cup tie back in August.
Lasogga, on the other hand, remains United’s top scorer for the current campaign with ten goals in 27 outings and the German came within centimetres of bagging an 11th and likely winning goal when charging down a clearance from Anssi Jaakkola which dropped on to the post.
Lasogga has failed to score in his last four games but there is no real suggestion that his performances are waning and the 26-year-old clearly remains United’s main goal threat.
As such, it was a surprise to see the German dropped to the bench though Heckingbottom also has the option of playing two upfront.
Yet striking options as a whole are in short supply at Leeds with January recruit Tyler Roberts facing an extended period out with his shin injury and Kemar Roofe not appearing particularly close to returning from a calf problem.
Jay Roy-Grot has also looked some way short of being ready for first team football though Grot did advertise his claims by scoring a brace for United’s under-23s on Saturday evening in a 2-1 win at Hull City with the 19-year-old starting alongside highly rated 18-year-old striker Jack Clarke who is seen as one for the future.
Leeds have also been heavily linked with a move for Carpi’s 25-year-old Nigerian forward Jerry Mbakogu in the summer and the fact remains that Lasogga is not even United’s player.
The big German’s loan spell from Hamburg will end this summer and the striker has one year left on his contract there.
Leeds are thought to keen on attempting to sign Lasogga on a permanent deal but the club are currently only paying around £15,000 of his reported £50,000 weekly wages with the rest subsidised by Hamburg, casting doubts as to whether the Whites would be able to sign the forward permanently.
That said, Hamburg sit second bottom in the Bundesliga - seven points from safety - leaving Lasogga’s future very much up in the air.
Ekuban, though, is United’s property for the long term having joined the club on a four-year deal from Chievo in the summer.
But for now Lasogga remains United’s main goal threat and it will be interesting to see if the German is back in the side for Saturday’s Yorkshire derby at home to Sheffield Wednesday.
If so, the forward will be looking for his 11th goal of the season but at this stage last year Chris Wood had already netted 25 times and two more followed in the club’s 38th game of the season.
That, therein, tells its own tale.