Leeds United finally return to competitive action this evening as they head to Aston Villa in the Premier League.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side did not have a game over the weekend after they were knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round by West Ham United, whilst last time out in this competition, they tasted defeat to Newcastle United.
So the 66-year-old boss will be looking to see some sort of reaction down in the Midlands tonight.
The Yorkshire giants have often struggled in the final third this campaign and that’s largely been due to the absence of last season’s top goalscorer Patrick Bamford, who remains missing through injury.
Without him, the Argentinian has tried an array of options, ranging from youth striker Joe Gelhardt – who Football FanCast have backed to earn a start against Steven Gerrard’s side – to playing a winger out of position like Daniel James.
Well, it’s the latter that he must not do at Villa Park this evening.
The Welshman, who joined in a club-record £30m deal in the summer, has hugely underwhelmed since his move from Manchester United. They must’ve been more than happy to cash in at that absurd figure.
James ranks outside of Bielsa’s top ten best-performing players in the Premier League this season, averaging a seasonal WhoScored rating of 6.54 – only one player who has started 15 or more games has managed worse (Diego Llorente, 6.49).
That is rather telling in itself but the 24-year-old winger has only delivered two goals and one assist.
There are seven more players that are averaging more key passes per game than the summer signing (0.8 per game), whilst his average of two shots per game has not correlated into goals whatsoever.
Ex-Premier League striker turned pundit Darren Bent once summed James up well.
“The only thing about Dan James at times, for me, he’s a little bit headless,” he told Football Insider back in November 2020 – when he was still at Old Trafford.
“He’s shown great potential, when he first went to United he played really well, scored a few goals but at times he for me he’s fouled or he shoots sometimes when he should pass it, he’ll pass when he should shoot.”
That’s just not what you need from someone expected to lead the line and it’s not as if he has the right physical attributes, at 5 foot 7, to truly fill Bamford’s shoes.
Then elsewhere, the £16.2m-rated wide man clearly not cutting it either, as evident by his paltry returns.
As such, it’s time for Bielsa to be ruthless in his team selection and he can do so by axing the lightweight James against Villa this evening.