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Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink on Leeds v Arsenal, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Patrick Bamford

| 19.11.2020

Leeds United have taken the Premier League by storm, with manager Marcelo Bielsa’s all-action, hard-running style leading to some of the most exciting games this season.

But after a flying start, the Whites have lost heavily twice on the bounce to Leicester and Crystal Palace.

Ahead of his Leeds v Arsenal Ladbrokes’ 5-A-Side selection, we spoke with ex-Leeds forward Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink…

On Leeds’ season so far

Leeds are a breath of fresh air for the Premier League. They play the kind of football you need a lot of energy for and not a lot of teams can cope with them. However, they do play a style which leaves them exposed to their opposition, and that has shown on a few occasions already this season.

They’re very good against teams who say ‘come on then, let’s play football’ – it suits them well and they normally take points from those games. But they have it harder against teams that sit in and counter, like Crystal Palace, Leicester and Wolves. They struggle because they don’t keep people behind the ball and sometimes, they attack with seven players and it leaves them in trouble at the back.

I think it’s important that they maintain their Premier League status this season – that’s all. If they finish 17th, it’s a good season. They’ve spent nearly £100m but it doesn’t really say a lot these days. You must spend that money to give yourself a chance but I think they’ll be safe because simply there are worse teams in the league. West Brom being one. Fulham being another.

It’s sometimes like Fulham don’t play for a result, they play to play well – that’s the feeling that I have. They don’t have those ‘killer’ players.

If you look at that (missed) penalty against West Ham, it says a lot about them. I really like Ademola Lookman, but for him to do that it’s a mentality thing. If I was in the dressing room with him, I would have killed him. I wouldn’t have been one of those who put their arm around him walking off the pitch. It would just never come up in my mind to take that shot. You can miss a penalty, that’s fine – everyone can miss – but there’s a way to miss.

Since I left Leeds in 1999, you’d never have expected to see the journey they had for the next 20 years. The year after I departed, they were in the Champions League and were spending money. Then in 2004 they went down and didn’t return for sixteen years.

I followed the club quite a bit over the last two seasons and they were absolutely the best team in the Championship. They had a very bad finish to their season in 2018/19, losing games they shouldn’t have lost. But they played the best football in that division for two years, so it wasn’t a surprise at all to see them getting promoted.

On Patrick Bamford

Patrick Bamford is having a great season and I’m really happy for him because last year he had a lot of trouble putting that ball in the net – he needed a lot of chances. But he’s doing extremely well on the big stage and I think it’s just a confidence thing. Sometimes it’s as simple as your first goal going in and you suddenly forget about everything. He was gifted a goal at Liverpool and from there he hasn’t looked back.

Can he make the England squad? I don’t know. After Harry Kane you’ve got Dominic Calvert-Lewin who has improved significantly, you can see that. It’s difficult for me to say ‘Patrick Bamford should be in the England squad’ because I think it’s too early in the season.

He’s doing well, don’t get me wrong but he’s only played eight games. If playing well for eight games gets you into the England squad, then it’s not really an honour anymore, is it? You need to work hard to earn your first cap, over a longer period of time. Back in the day we had to work hard to make the national squad and had to play well for more than a season, and then we got our recognition.

 On Arsenal and Mikel Arteta

I think it’s completely right and fair that Mikel Arteta is spoken of so highly in the media. It’s a fair assessment. If you compare them with Man United, there is a structure in place at Arsenal. Yes, they have lost four matches in the league this season but there is a clear structure; I understand what they’re trying to do. At Man United, I don’t understand what they’re trying to do.

Even though Arsenal are losing matches, they’ve improved since Arteta took over. Look at Chelsea, as well. Although they have conceded a lot of goals already this season, especially at the start of the season, I understand what they are trying to do and I can’t say the same for Man United.

I don’t know what the players’ roles are. In their last game against Everton, maybe there was an improvement, but that’s in keeping with their inconsistency – something which has been there for some time.

I really like Arteta at Arsenal and what he’s trying to do at the club. I like what he stands for. His problem is that he doesn’t have a lot of money to spend. He’s having to implement these changes with the players that are already there. Since his arrival, he has improved them significantly.

If you look at Man United, have they improved since Jose Mourinho left? They got off to a great start and went on a fantastic run for the first few months, but now we’re nearly two years on since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took over and they haven’t really improved.

Advice for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

I like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang a lot. I do think he should be playing through the middle, though.

He just knows where the ball is going to fall and will find himself in the right place at the right time often when he’s playing through the middle.

He’s such a calm finisher; he doesn’t panic. I know he’s going through a difficult spell now but it’s just one of those things. It’s not a nice feeling when you’re not scoring as a striker, because that’s your job.

I think the longest I went was nine matches without a goal. It plays with your head but you must stay strong and keep believing. But things can change very quickly; he might get one goal which changes everything. You must keep believing.

Aubameyang is doing everything really, really well. It’s just the final part; getting that goal. It was the same for Patrick Bamford last season; sometimes his timing wasn’t quite right but look what’s happened to him now. He’s feeling on top of the world and it’s like nothing can go wrong for him – but he’s not working any harder now than he was last season – and it’s the same with Aubameyang. He knows it’ll be sooner, rather than later, that he starts scoring again.

It happens when you see a striker in form sign a contract, then they go on a bad run of form. I don’t know why; it must be a psychological thing – he just needs to recapture that momentum.

Match prediction: Leeds 3-2 Arsenal

“There’ll be goals in this game and I think Arsenal will be in for a hard afternoon. They’ll want to play out from the back and control the game and that suits Leeds.”

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