Leeds United striker's 'Premier League worst' statistic is why Jesse Marsch must not drop him

Jesse Marsch doesn't need xG to tell him that Patrick Bamford could save his Leeds United job and turn the season around.
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It's plain to anyone watching Leeds, with or without the benefit of a laptop and a spreadsheet, that Bamford represents the Whites' best chance of sustained goalscoring.

His presence changes games, allowing Leeds to create the kind of opportunities that, if taken, would have snapped this winless streak long before it got to eight games and potentially prevented the current crisis. Bamford plays like a number nine. He makes runs that give full-backs and wingers a target to hit in the penalty area. His movement takes him beyond the last defender, giving Brenden Aaronson and others a target for a through ball. If there's a right place for a striker to be at the end of a move, Bamford knows where it is and how to get there.

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Those chances have given Bamford an xG [Expected Goals] total of 3.6, putting him just outside the Premier League's top 10 for that metric despite his scant minutes that barely compare with most others who could have been expected to score three or more this season. Most importantly, his goal tally for the season stands at zero, which defies not only the data but belief, given the quality of the chances he has been in the right place to take. Going one-on-one with goalkeepers, plural, as a Premier League striker, should result in at least one bulging net, once.

By failing to score any of those opportunities, Bamford has put together the biggest xG underperformance in the Premier League thus far, which is obviously a problem and a big one, but one that should, you would think, right itself. Bamford is the man who earned unflinching faith from Marcelo Bielsa, even in the midst of Championship goal droughts and the Argentine, like his successor Marsch, would worry more about the striker if he was not getting chances, than getting and missing them.

It's very possible that rust, thanks to a horribly disrupted 2021/22 season, played a part in Bamford's misses earlier on in this campaign, and equally possible that failing to take those has chipped away at his confidence. Even if his decision to go with his left foot in one-v-one situations against Crystal Palace and Fulham, when a right-foot finish looked more natural, was no indicator of a lack of confidence, the finishes he produced were.

And yet even so, a goal would do wonders for him and if he gets one, you would back him to get a flurry, like the three in three, four in three, three in five and three in four he bagged in Leeds' first season after promotion. All of this, added to his pressing ability, would make it an easy decision to start with him and to persist with him.

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Marsch, though, faces a conundrum up front and is almost having to pick his poison.

NO GOALS - Patrick Bamford has had chances good enough to get his Leeds United season up and running but is yet to find the net. Pic: Bruce RollinsonNO GOALS - Patrick Bamford has had chances good enough to get his Leeds United season up and running but is yet to find the net. Pic: Bruce Rollinson
NO GOALS - Patrick Bamford has had chances good enough to get his Leeds United season up and running but is yet to find the net. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

Bamford isn't scoring and even now as November approaches, he clearly isn't fit to play a huge amount of football, failing to last a single 90 since the campaign began.

Rodrigo is fit enough to play more football, not as good a fit by any stretch for the nine role in this team, but he has at least found the net, five times no less. That the man leading the Whites in goalscoring has been less than reliable for weeks on end, up until Sunday, spells out the scale of the problem however.

The other possible option, Joe Gelhardt, presents an entirely different conundrum because up until his assist for Crysencio Summerville's consolation against Fulham the youngster hadn't done a huge amount with his minutes this season. His minutes, though, are a problem in themselves - how much can he realistically do coming on so late in games that are all-but beyond rescue?

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So Marsch can gamble on Bamford's fitness from the start, praying he sticks away one of the very good chances he's almost certain to get, yet knowing that if he doesn't, Rodrigo will come on in a move that might hamper chance creation when you need it most.

He can gamble on Rodrigo, who might well poach one even if the general attacking play suffers, but if not Bamford might have to come on with too much to do, for a player lacking sharpness and confidence.

Or he can gamble on Gelhardt, who looks at his best running at defenders rather than spearheading the frontline and battling much bigger, stronger and more experienced centre-backs.

The argument that there ought to have been a fourth option, a Premier League-ready summer signing, has been all but won thanks to Bamford's 389 minutes and Rodrigo's continued struggle to show what exactly he is for Leeds, but right now it's goals and wins that Marsch needs, not arguments. At a time when it's hard to see where victories are going to come from, at least, at the very least, it's easy to see who might get the goals. He's got to go with Bamford.