Leeds United will be looking to end their slump in the Premier League when they welcome table-toppers Arsenal to Elland Road this afternoon and manager Jesse Marsch has a tough selection decision to make.
The Gunners’ have had their number in modern times as the Yorkshire outfit have failed to defeat them since May 2003 and more recently, they have twice put four goals past the Whites in one game, so the American head coach has a tough task on his hands, even if his side are at home.
Leeds are now winless through five outings since that shock victory over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge back in late August and Marsch’s men have particularly struggled in front of goal, contending with inconsistencies and injuries.
The usually-talismanic Patrick Bamford was drafted in last weekend as they were defeated 2-1 by Crystal Palace. He managed only an hour before he was hooked by Marsch, unsurprisingly, having registered just one shot on target, whilst he also missed one big chance.
Indeed, Yorkshire Evening Post journalist Graham Smyth claimed the 29-year-old “looked rusty” just 30 minutes into the encounter, which is a rather telling sign.
He looked so off the pace to the point where questions have to be asked over his suitability to start matches right now, as the forward is still very much working his way back to full match fitness following a string of injuries.
Bamford and his struggles at Selhurst Park were uncharacteristic but it could well be wiser to bring him off the bench for short cameos instead until he is then ready to put in a 90-minute masterclass up top.
It’s not as if Marsch is light on options – Spanish veteran Rodrigo leads the squad for goals (four), wide threat Luis Sinisterra is back from suspension and then there are the unknown exploits of fellow summer signing Wilfried Gnonto, a senior member of Roberto Mancini’s Italy squad.
Not to mention young frontman Joe Gelhardt, too.
Both Rodrigo (4) and the young academy gem (4.8) outrank Bamford (3.5) for shots per 90 this campaign, via WhoScored, so that further highlights just how off the pace he is, some 18 months after his 17-goal return in 2020/21.
Therefore, it’s time for Marsch to make a brutal decision by axing the £35k-per-week lightweight against Arsenal this afternoon as it may benefit them, not just today, but also in the long run as a fit-and-firing Bamford holds the keys to Leeds’ success in the foreseeable future.
A rusty forward is only holding them back for the time being.
AND in other news, Transfer insider drops Leeds transfer claim…