Leeds United are one of the best teams in The Championship, of that there is little doubt, the fact that they sit atop the table at the end of January would support this. But there are stats out there that show weakness in the output of the Whites.
When it comes to creating chances, the boys at Elland Road are unrivalled in their achievements, but creating chances and converting them are two massively different things. So where are Leeds faltering?
Well, a fairly new performance stat that surrounds clubs now is that of xG (expected goals per game), a stat that shows the amount of clear-cut scoring chances that each team create in each match where a goal would be the expected outcome.
A recent table depicting this shows that, before the last match, Leeds would be top of the Championship with an 11-point gap to Brentford in second place and a 20-point gap to third-placed Sheffield Wednesday, a purely hypothetical scenario. What it did show that Leeds have been hugely wasteful in-front of goal, an issue they struggled with towards the end of last season where their seemingly solid promotion push fell by the wayside.
Why then? Why are Leeds United struggling so much in converting chances? Many fans have pointed the big, red finger of blame at Patrick Bamford, a common target being the only senior striker at the club for the last five weeks, but I believe there is more to it.
Bamford is fitter than he has ever been, less injury-prone, a willing gut-buster for his team-mates and the cause and has actually got a very good record in terms of goal totals from his previous campaigns at this level, so why do some fans at Leeds chose to obliterate the player on social media at any given opportunity?
Well, I believe that Bamford is an easy target for the Whites fans, they see the amount of chances created and automatically blame the front-man, it’s his job after all, but is it really that simple?
Of course, stats don’t lie, Patrick Bamford is guilty of too many missed chances, he would admit to that himself, but he has twelve goals this season, just outside the top five scorers in the league and he has had spells without goals, but has still been preferred to Eddie Nketiah by manager Marcelo Bielsa… that tells you a lot about what Bamford brings to the table.
It is an argument that those sitting atop the goal-scoring charts bring much less to their teams as a whole than Bamford does to Leeds in terms of system and tactics, maybe they do, maybe they don’t, but the overwhelming argument is that goals win games and it’s very difficult to disagree with this.
In Leeds and Bamford’s case, the beautiful and effective system and style that Marcelo Bielsa insists upon brandishing requires an extra level of ‘commitment to the cause’ from his players, a commitment that can sometimes hinder personal gains… and this is where Patrick Bamford excels.
He isn’t the quickest, the most powerful, the strongest or the most clinical player in the Championship, this is evident, but he brings a passion, a commitment and an energy that binds the team on every attack, the striker role is pivotal in any team, but the way Bamford plays it for Leeds is priceless for the team and the way they play, he has even added a note of aggression to his play.
The abuse he receives on social media is somewhat understandable from frustrated fans who expects more goals from their number one striker, but I would urge those of the ilk that before their next post, they look at the bigger picture, they think about how their post can affect a player and a teams morale and ultimately look at the glaring fact that these chances are not just being missed by their number nine… many players contribute to the wastefulness who appear to glide underneath the radar.
Strikers are endangered animals that feed on confidence and the crowd that the player yearns to impress are the main source of such confidence, so any excessive negativity from the very people they wish to gain acceptance from can only harm a player who is giving his all and more for the club that the fans love… it seems strange to me that people would choose social media to air their frustrations in such a toxic manner, however understandably, especially when it affects players, which it does, Recent celebrations show you that and it will eventually inadvertently affects results.
Another issue for Bamford is that he hasn’t had any competition for his place, with Nketiah a different kind of striker, he knew his place wasn’t up for grabs for any meaningful measure of time because Bielsa would reintroduce him at his first opportunity, for the sake of the system, but when he has felt his place is up for grabs, hey presto, the goals have appeared, this is no coincidence.
Now Leeds have moved to sign Jean-Kevin Augustin, Bamford’s place is hugely at risk, Augustin comes with the expectation of greatness, in all probability to knock Bamford into a back-up striker role… so a day after the Frenchman signs, Bamford scores two goals in a game that could be pivotal to the eventual success of Leeds United’s season… Voilà!
Bamford is back in the good books… for now!