What Jean-Kevin Augustin has shown in Leeds United cameos and the promising signs of what RB Leipzig man could do

New boy Jean-Kevin Augustin doesn’t just have to get match fit, he has to get Patrick Bamford match fit, if he wants to start for Leeds United.

Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 12:02 pm
Updated Tuesday, 18th February 2020, 12:21 pm

Whites head coach Marcelo Bielsa did his best to temper the excitement and expectation that greeted the Frenchman’s arrival in West Yorkshire last month, but there were still voices calling for him to start within days of landing at Leeds Bradford Airport.

Bielsa explained, in great detail and with notes of exasperation, that a player who had completed three 90-minute games in eight months could not lay claim to a starting place at a club like Leeds, without underestimating the team, the club and the institution they have joined.

Having gone through all this once already this season with Eddie Nketiah, for whom there were loud calls from the fanbase at times when Bamford was struggling to hit the net, Bielsa was evidently keen to avoid a repeat of the same debate and discussion, ad nauseum, simply swapping one loanee striker’s name for another.

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And just like when Nketiah was brought into the team and Leeds United’s build-up play wasn’t quite as effective, fans and pundits alike have been given a dose of realism with their first glimpses of Augustin.

He has looked distinctly human in his first appearances, almost like he’s not the saviour Leeds United need to rescue them from the Championship. Not yet anyway.

We haven’t seen the same effective targetman play Bamford has become renowned for, dropping deep, turning defenders or laying the ball off to bring a slick fluidity to a Whites attack, maintaining the pace at which Bielsa’s men play, before popping up in the area to get on the end of the move.

We’re yet to see a sustained commitment to the defensive press, one element of Bamford’s game that cannot be questioned, partly because Augustin has had to make do with cameos on his journey to full fitness and full integration at Thorp Arch.

Jean-Kevin Augustin is looking sharper but has a long way to go to shift Patrick Bamford from Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds United side (Pic: Bruce Rollinson)

And we’ve yet to see a goal.

He came close on Saturday, when Kalvin Phillips found him smack bang in the centre of the area and, having made space for himself with his movement, he shot just past the post.

For any yet to get the message about his mortality, that was it. And if it didn’t silence the debate about whose name should appear on the team sheet in that lone striker role, nothing ever will.

Augustin is not quite ready to start and even if he did, goals are not guaranteed, just like when the club’s number nine plays.

But he looked sharper, to the untrained eye, when he came on against Bristol City.

He’s full of enthusiasm, if not yet full of running.

The extra training and long runs around Thorp Arch will undoubtedly be progressing his fitness levels and the longer he spends in the camp the closer he’ll get to whatever target weight has been set by the regime – it’s unlikely he arrived ‘on weight’ given that Kiko Casilla needed to drop a couple of kilos when he swapped Real Madrid for the Championship and Leeds United.

It was unfortunate that the 23s game against Burnley on Monday fell victim to the recent weather, because that would have brought another 45 minutes of match action at least, that thing professionals are always telling us cannot be replicated by training, professionals who haven’t lived through one of Bielsa’s ‘murderball’ sessions it has to be said.

Augustin appears to have a shoot-on-sight policy.

Having a go from an acute angle against Wednesday Under-23s, swinging from distance – albeit missing the ball and connecting with a defender – against Brentford, and thumping an effort goalwards from his own half against Derby County Under-23s, even if that was born of frustration, show his willingness to test goalkeepers.

Leeds have been shooting fewer times from outside the area this season than last and when defences pack the penalty area, as they do on a weekly basis, it feels like someone just needs to take matters into their own hands and pull the trigger.

And later in games, particularly when defences might be stretched and spaces might open up, the way Augustin hovers on the shoulder of the centre-half and makes himself an option for the ball over the top or around the corner, could be an effective weapon for Leeds.

There are promising signs that he could make an impact before too long, he just needs what Bielsa just happens to have in spades: patience.