Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has claimed that he felt strikers Patrick Bamford and Eddie Nketiah put in a similar standard of performance during his side’s 1-0 win over Birmingham City on Saturday afternoon.
Bamford – who is now without a goal in his last seven league appearances – was substituted at half time at Elland Road over the weekend to be replaced by Arsenal loanee Nketiah, as midfielder Kalvin Phillips scored the only goal of the game to secure the three points for Bielsa’s side.
Speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of his side’s trip to Deepdale to face Preston on Tuesday night, Bielsa was asked about the performances of his attacking pair on Saturday, with the Argentine quoted by The Athletic’s Leeds United reporter Phil Hay as saying: “The performance of both was quite similar. We played better in the first half than the second.”
It seems that Bielsa felt that Leeds’ drop in performance is something that had an effect on Nketiah’s individual efforts, as he continued: “Nketiah played when the team’s performance decreased and playing in those conditions is difficult to make an impact.”
Bielsa on the Nketiah for Bamford half-time swap on Saturday: "The performance of both was quite similar. We played better in the first half than the second. Nketiah played when the team's performance decreased and playing in those conditions is difficult to make an impact."
— Phil Hay (@PhilHay_) October 21, 2019
Nketiah is yet to start in a league game for Leeds since joining on a season-long loan from Arsenal in the summer transfer window, but has scored four goals in ten appearances in all competitions for the club.
Even so, it appears Nketiah will once again be forced to settle for a place on the bench against Preston, after Bielsa also revealed that he expects his starting XI to be the same from the weekend at Deepdale.
Leeds go into the game second in the Championship standings, one point clear of the play-off places, and two points adrift of league leaders West Brom.
Who should start up front for Leeds at Preston?
This is an issue that just continues to dominate Leeds’ season isn’t it.
With Leeds still struggling to kill off games in the way that they clearly want to, I am slightly surprised that Bielsa looks set to continue with Bamford in the starting lineup on Tuesday.
Having produced what Bielsa felt were similar performances, it could be argued that Nketiah should be given the chance to play from the start, so he is able to make an impact when his side is fresher, and therefore more on top of their game.
Indeed, with Nketiah having already looked like he has the potential to be a big asset for Leeds this season, it would surely make sense to use him sooner rather than later.