Jesse Marsch’s Leeds United side head into Saturday evening’s Premier League clash against Manchester City in a fine run of form, with the Whites remaining undefeated over their last five league fixtures.
However, with Pep Guardiola’s outfit very much in need of a result at Elland Road in order to maintain their position at the top of the table, the 48-year-old Leeds manager will be well aware that his side are in for a tough task this weekend.
Although the Whites currently sit five points above 18th-placed Everton with just five games left to play, the American will certainly be hoping to fully secure the club’s place in the top flight next season sooner rather than later.
As such, if Marsch is to have any hope of picking up a result against City this evening, he must ensure that his team selection is absolutely spot-on. One big decision that the former RB Leipzig manager faces is that of who to start up top.
Indeed, with Patrick Bamford remaining sidelined, it would appear to be a choice between Joe Gelhardt, Sam Greenwood or Daniel James, with the latter having started seven of the club’s last nine league matches at centre-forward despite being more renowned as a winger.
However, with the £25m summer signing failing to find the net in this period, many have started to question exactly why Marsch continues to deploy the Wales international through the middle while the likes of Gelhardt and Greenwood remain on the bench.
This is something the 48-year-old addressed in his pre-match press conference, stating: “I’ve spoken to Dan multiple times, I know this isn’t his desired or best position. But Dan there can mean we’re able to control what [the opposition] are doing better.”
This point of view is questionable, with James having been largely ineffective when attempting to hold the ball up, being unable to interlink play with the Whites midfielders adequately and – most importantly – being wasteful in front of goal over the last couple of months. Indeed, the 24-year-old has failed to earn a SofaScore match rating above 6.8 over his last 11 league outings.
As such, it would seem advisable for Marsch to actually deploy one of the two centre-forwards he has available for selection in that role against Manchester City, as it is clear that the £50k-per-week James – who Chris Sutton dubbed “pathetic” – is just not good enough to lead the line for Leeds.