With Patrick Bamford set to be ruled out of Leeds United’s Premier League clash against West Ham on Saturday afternoon, Marcelo Bielsa must surely turn to Rodrigo as the man to lead his line.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of the game against the Hammers, the Leeds manager said: “Don’t think I’m holding back information, but my first response on Koch, Llorente and Bamford not participate.
“These three cases, apart, subject to evolution on whether that will allow them to participate. If I said they would definitely play or not, neither would be certain.”
Bamford has been a virtual ever-present for the Whites under Bielsa, and has started every game in the top-flight so far this term. That record is set to end later today, however, and while the Argentine may consider utilising Tyler Roberts in that role, he could find more joy by giving Rodrigo the chance to start up top.
Dubbed “extraordinary” by former Barcelona boss Quique Setien, Rodrigo hasn’t been able to hit the ground running at Elland Road; and while he was quick to dismiss speculation that he wanted a move back to Spain over the summer, it was still a rather disappointing debut campaign for him with the Whites.
He managed just seven goals in the Premier League all season, and that was largely down to a real hot streak of form towards the end of the campaign – his start to the new season has been less than stellar as well, failing to find the net in any of his appearances thus far.
However, the Spaniard remains someone with the speed of thought to really change a game for his side, and that’s something Bielsa will be hoping the forward can do against West Ham today.
Indeed, after an impressive performance against Arsenal earlier last season, former Leeds striker Noel Whelan explained just how important Rodrigo is to Bielsa’s side, telling Football Insider: “He’s always looking for it, he’s never ever standing still, he’s always on the move and that’s what I like about him. He can’t be marked, he’s always looking for a space – very much the next Hernandez.
“He is a player that looks like he can make things happen. He’s very intelligent, he brings other people into play and makes space for them.”
Whelan also insisted that the £100k-per-week Spaniard should be starting ahead of Roberts, saying: “If you ask 100 Leeds fans who they would prefer in that position, Rodrigo or Tyler Roberts, they would all say Rodrigo all day long.”
Giving him a new role up front in the absence of Bamford may just be the boost he needs to get firing again.
Meanwhile, Leeds are still tracking this rising star…