Leeds United yet to fully explore if answer to latest burning question lies from within

Leeds United have already shown they can score enough goals to win games minus the services of Patrick Bamford.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 23rd January 2022, 4:47 pm

The Whites no 9 is clearly one of United’s most important players.

Yet even without him, three goals were netted in this month’s victories against West Ham and Burnley, on the back of which the Whites were seeking a third-straight league win.

A Newcastle United side who had bagged just one victory all season stood between Marcelo Bielsa’s side and a hat-trick of consecutive league triumphs on Saturday afternoon at Elland Road.

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TOO LATE: Exciting teen forward Joe Gelhardt, above, was finally brought on with ten minutes left in Saturday's clash against Newcastle United but by then Leeds United were 1-0 down and chasing the game. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

On paper, even without Bamford, it looked more than achievable.

Yet the failure to beat ‘keeper Martin Dubravka even once has clearly highlighted the Leeds striker issue which United could do with resolving quickly.

Quite when Bamford returns remains to be seen, the striker missing Saturday’s contest due to a new issue on the bottom of his foot.

Joe Gelhardt, Tyler Roberts and Sam Greenwood were also all out injured for last weekend’s clash at West Ham to which Rodrigo only returned from a heel issue to the bench and that meant winger Dan James started against the Irons.

Leeds then recorded an impressive 3-2 victory via Jack Harrison’s hat-trick.

But neither James, Harrison, Raphinha the returning Rodrigo or anybody else was able to make a single breakthrough against the Magpies which has to be a big concern.

United created more than enough chances to be out of sight by the time Jonjo Shelvey netted what proved the only goal of the afternoon at LS11.

The Magpies also had their openings and indeed Eddie Howe’s side had two more attempts at goal than Leeds, 15 compared to United’s 13.

The visitors also only had one less shot on target, three compared to four from Leeds.

But Newcastle’s best chances arrived when they were already 1-0 up, by which time Bielsa’s side were suddenly chasing a strange game in which they should have been home and hosed.

As United’s centre forward, the best opportunities fell to James who, missed chances aside, had a fairly good game.

But goals win games and the Welsh international was twice unable to beat Dubravka from close range at which point the score was goalless.

Moreover, there were several occasions when United sent fine crosses into the box only for there to be no takers in the middle to convert.

In short, Leeds needed Bamford who might well have filled his boots against the Magpies but his absence and United’s failure to convert led to Bielsa looking for a different plan.

The Whites head coach had two more striking options available to him this week following the returns of Gelhardt and Roberts from injuries and both sat on the bench.

Eventually, in the 71st minute, Roberts was selected as his first port of call in replacing James but Roberts was dispossessed for the move that led to the decisive free-kick four minutes later and failed to land any sort of blow upfront.

Finally, exciting 19-year-old forward Gelhardt was then called to replace Mateusz Klich but only with ten minutes left, Leeds seeking a leveller in a game in which they should have been heading for victory and 13 points ahead of Newcastle instead of seven.

Gelhardt also failed to seriously threaten but the teen again looked lively, as he always does.

Crucially, unlike James, he is also a natural striker, something which Leeds were quite clearly missing against the Magpies, Bielsa resisting any temptation to use record signing Rodrigo upfront too, instead playing him in the no 10 role.

The Whites now have eight more days to strengthen the squad in the January transfer window and there have long been calls for the Whites to add in midfield, the club hoping to sign USA international Brenden Aaronson from Red Bull Salzburg.

Saturday’s defeat, though, turned the focus on what Bielsa's side have or don’t have upfront at present although the picture will change when Bamford returns.

Leeds, though, could do with the picture of the Premier League table changing too and more minutes for Gelhardt could be key to making that happen.

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