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Patrick Bamford: How crucial is striker to Leeds’ success?

| 11.12.2021

The importance of Patrick Bamford to Leeds

Patrick Bamford stepped off the bench to earn Leeds a point with a late equaliser against Brentford at the weekend, a return which was welcomed by fans at Elland Road.

The striker had been out of action for more than two months with an ankle injury but stuck out a knee in the fifth minute of stoppage time to secure a 2-2 draw against the Bees which sparked wild celebrations and a yellow card for Bamford for removing his shirt.

Head coach Marcelo Bielsa said: “The players that are used to scoring normally, they are in the right place at the right moment. What you value about this goal is the opportunism of it.

“Patrick scored a goalscorer’s goal. The time on the pitch he came on made it difficult to find the ball but finally he gave us the equaliser, that is very valuable for our expectations given how we got it.”

Bamford’s goals last season helped the Whites secure a top-10 finish and hopes were high they would be pressing for one of the European spots in the new campaign but a poor start means they are 40/1 to finish in the top six.

Sidelined since the 1-1 draw with Newcastle in mid-September, Bamford was initially thought to be out for around four weeks but his absence turned out to be almost three times longer.

“It was frustrating because I set my sights on coming back each match for the last six matches, so yeah it was a frustrating period,” Bamford said.

Bielsa initially turned to Rodrigo to lead the line but Jack Harrison, Dan James and even teenager Joe Gelhardt all got their chance to play as the sole striker.

So we have decided to take a closer look at Bamford’s importance to Leeds.

In terms of goals, Bamford is a vital component and no player came close to matching his 17 goals from last season, scoring twice as many as his nearest rivals Harrison and Stuart Dallas who struck eight times.

What stands out when we crunch the numbers is Leeds score 1.52 goals per game (64 in 42 matches) when the 28-year-old attacker is in the starting XI compared with 1.18 when he is absent (13 in 11), so the inference is United perform much better as an attacking unit when he is playing.

The draw with Brentford was only the second time Leeds had scored at least twice this season, something they achieved in their first two games on their return to the Premier League.

Bamford netted in the first three games of that season against Liverpool, Fulham and Sheffield United which he followed with a hat-trick in a 3-0 win at Aston Villa to ensure he started the season with a goal a game from the first six matches.

Since Bamford’s injury, the whole team have averaged just one goal a game over the course of 10 matches without their star striker in the line-up.

That does not tell the whole story, though, as strangely Bamford’s absences over the last two seasons have resulted in Leeds earning slightly more points.

In the team, Leeds have bagged 1.40 per game but without him their average is 1.45, a fact not lost on Bielsa in the build-up to the 1-1 draw with Leicester in the first week of November when he was asked if other players need to do more in front of goal when last season’s top scorer does not play.

He said: “If you also look at the data you will notice that Bamford has also gone times without scoring when he has been in the starting line-up for Leeds.”

Bamford defied expectations in first top-flight season with Leeds

When Leeds were promoted to the Premier League in 2019-20, when they finished 10 points clear of West Brom, the feeling amongst most supporters was Bamford would fail to make the grade in the top flight having flopped in brief spells with Crystal Palace, Norwich, Burnley and Middlesbrough.

The record signing of Rodrigo from Valencia for £26million that summer was seen as a positive sign should Bamford struggle in a demanding league but the opposite turned out to be true.

The Spaniard took five games before he was considered in the right condition to start but his first season at Elland Road was disrupted by Covid in November and injuries in January and April before he signed off for the campaign with a flourish, scoring four goals in his final four games.

Bamford, though, went from strength to strength and his form ensured a first England call-up for the World Cup qualifiers against Hungary, San Marino and Poland in September, shortly before he signed a new five-year contract with the club.

His debut against Andorra was an underwhelming affair and he was hooked an hour into the game when England were leading 1-0.

But there is more to Bamford than just goals as ex-United striker Jermaine Beckford told the Official Leeds Utd Podcast in September, describing him as “the ultimate team player”.

“Just seeing him coming off the football pitch at the end of the games…you could see he is physically drained and having next to nothing left in the tank,” Beckford said.

“That is how much he actually puts into his performances at Leeds United whether it is at home or on the road.

“He is brilliant and the new contract is well deserved because he offers us so much more than just the 17 or so goals he scored last season and the goal he scored against Burnley.

“He offers the rest of the players the freedom to express themselves and to get forward and create so many more opportunities and spaces for the likes of Jack Harrison on one side and Raphinha, then [Daniel] James, he is going to experience that as well. He is the ultimate team player.”

The stats from the 2020-21 season show not only how prolific Bamford was in front of goal but also that he provided the second highest number of assists, one fewer than Harrison’s eight.

Bamford may be Leeds’ shining light in front of goal but he is also one of their chief suppliers and his return to the starting line-up cannot come soon enough.

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Author

Warren Barner