Leeds United strikers up against more than Aston Villa defence with Patrick Bamford still out

Whoever Marcelo Bielsa chooses to put up front against Aston Villa will have their work cut out to outperform Patrick Bamford.

By Graham Smyth
Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 4:40 am

The centre-forward won’t be playing; he’s not even jogging yet as injuries continue to keep him from action.

His ankle, hamstring and now a painful foot have left him to savour just 22 minutes of Premier League football since mid-September.

Bielsa can’t even say when the 28-year-old will return because, until the pain subsides, he can’t start training.

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In his absence, Bielsa will select one of his current options, including Rodrigo, Joe Gelhardt, Tyler Roberts and Daniel James, pitting them against not only Steven Gerrard’s defence and still-fresh memories of Bamford’s superb Villa Park hat-trick, but the hypothetical notion that he would finish any chances that come their way.

And as Bielsa said this week, there’s only one winner when you take on the hypothetical - particularly when you don’t win.

In the defeat to Newcastle United, Bielsa once again entrusted winger James to lead the line, before latterly turning to Tyler Roberts and Rodrigo.Eventually, he turned to Joe Gelhardt, sending the youngster into the fray for the final 10 minutes.

The post-game discussion centered around Leeds’ inability to turn possession and chances into goals with suggestions in many quarters, including in this correspondent’s ‘verdict’, that a natural centre-forward like Bamford, or possibly even Gelhardt, was what they were lacking. Bielsa accepted that such hypotheses would come his way because they didn’t score, but had arguments of his own to bring to the table.

FORWARD OPTION - Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has used Daniel James as a lone striker during Patrick Bamford's absence. Pic: Getty

“We managed to score six goals [against West Ham and Burnley] prior to the game against Newcastle,” he began.

“In the game against Newcastle, we didn’t manage to score. The player who played the least was Gelhardt. And the ones who have had the minutes in the centre-forward position were James, Rodrigo and Tyler.

“Evidently in the last game, what we were missing was the finishing off of chances. The problem existed. First I went with James, then I opted for Tyler Roberts and Rodrigo Moreno, and after I opted for Gelhardt, Tyler Roberts and Rodrigo. The moment in which we created the least danger was when we played three central attackers through the middle part of our game.

“What’s been demanded from my point of view, the demand is totally justified, is that we didn’t win such an important game, that it was accessible. The demand has to be argumented. The view is put on Gelhardt, which is the option that I didn’t utilise - or that I used for the least amount of time. Obviously, I have a lot of arguments.

“Fifteen days prior to the game against Newcastle, Gelhardt had an injury in his ankle. A day prior to the game against Newcastle, something that is not at all frequent, I organised a small football training session to verify that, without 15 days of football activity, whether Gelhardt could participate in the game the following day. That’s something that made me think that the Gelhardt situation had to be managed carefully.”

Bielsa ultimately decided to first try and solve Leeds’ goalscoring issue against the Magpies with three established senior internationals, before turning to Gelhardt.

Leeds didn’t score, however, and, in fact, with three forwards including Gelhardt in the side they struggled to even create a chance as they fell to defeat on the pitch and, in the post-game argument – because Bielsa says the hypothetical cannot be defeated.

“The decisions that you make, you are able to verify them, but the ones that you don’t make always win because they are hypothetical,” he said.

“What I did, that’s the decision I made - then it’s judged. It’s judged negatively because I didn’t get what was necessary. The decision I didn’t make - of Gelhardt coming on - can’t be verified so the demand comes from this.

“It’s logical that they claim or demand something. They’re demanding or claiming something because I didn’t do it and, because what I didn’t do can’t be verified, the critic wins.”

There is, of course, one sure-fire way to silence the critics and whoever gets the nod to be Leeds’ striker tomorrow night can play a big part in helping their boss to do just that.