The international break came at a good time for Marcelo Bielsa and his Leeds United side, who had won just once in their previous four games and slipped down the table into fifth.
They remain the tightest defence in the Championship, having conceded just six goals, and are still only two points shy of league leaders West Bromwich Albion, so ahead of their clash with Birmingham City on Saturday they should feel confident their promotion push is still in good health.
One thing that has been concerning this season is their form in front of goal. They’re the lowest scorers in the top six and have slipped up after squandering chances in numerous games this season–Nottingham Forest, Charlton Athletic, Derby County all come to mind.
Patrick Bamford, who has four goals in 11 appearances, has remained Bielsa’s first-choice striker throughout the season meaning Arsenal loanee Eddie Nketiah is yet to start, despite having scored four goals himself for Leeds and multiple times for the Whites U23s and England U21s.
The 20-year-old scored a hat-trick for the England U21s on Tuesday night, but based on what we’ve seen so far it is difficult to see anyone other than Bamford will be the man to lead the line at Elland Road on Saturday.
There is a recall clause in Nketiah’s loan deal, which, according to football.london, is likely to be discussed when representatives from Arsenal and Leeds meet after the November international break.
The Leeds forward spoke out about his lack of first-team opportunities scoring a hat-trick for the U21s, telling the Yorkshire Evening Post: “It’s been disappointing for me not to start in the league, I went there to play games and get games.
“I think tonight was a good statement and a good way for me to put across a performance and hopefully I’ll be starting in the next run of games.”
It will be interesting to see whether he gets that chance over the next few months. If he doesn’t you’d imagine both the player and his parent club will have a decision to make. Here we look at the three paths available to Nketiah as January approaches.
Stay at Leeds United to fight for a starting place.
There are understood to have been a number of teams interested in signing Nketiah on loan in the summer and he chose Leeds for a reason. He told the Yorkshire Evening Post that he feels he has learnt a lot at Leeds and he may still feel that Elland Road is the best place for him to develop as a footballer.
The 20-year-old has made an impact in the few chances given to him so far and he may back himself to displace Bamford in the team and lead the line for a side that is likely to be competing for automatic promotion and perhaps the Championship title this season.
Push for a move to Bristol City.
The Robins are believed to have been Leeds’ main competition for Nketiah in the summer and following the season-ending injury to Benik Afobe it has been reported that they’re interested in making another move for him in January.
City have started the season well and are sixth in the Championship, equal on points with Leeds, and Nketiah may look at the success Tammy Abraham had there a few years ago as evidence for why he should make the move.
The recent signing of Rhodri may provide some additional competition but it seems likely that the Arsenal striker would be first choice at Ashton Gate.
Return to Arsenal to fight for a first-team place.
This seems like the option that Nketiah is least likely to take.
Nketiah impressed for the Arsenal first team in pre-season, so much so that Unai Emery reportedly didn’t want to let him leave on loan, and the 20-year-old may feel the best move for him is to return to the Emirates to fight for a first-team place.
Arsenal appear well-stocked in terms of attacking options this season, with Nicolas Pépé, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, and Alexandre Lacazette the Gunners’ first-choice options and young players such as Reiss Nelson, Gabriel Martinelli and Bukayo Saka waiting in the wings.
However, Nketiah may see the opportunities that those young players have had this season and feel that he has a chance of forcing his way in.