Eddie Nketiah turned Sunday’s clash with Barnsley on its head for Leeds United, finding a breakthrough himself before winning a penalty to help secure a 2-0 win for Marcelo Bielsa’s side.
Leeds have the Arsenal loanee competing with Patrick Bamford for a starting berth at Elland Road, with the latter starting all seven Championship fixtures so far this season.
Calls have been made for both to start, and, off the back of Sunday, for Nketiah to replace Bamford.
In this Six Point Opinion, we discuss the selection headache facing Bielsa…
Firstly, how have the duo performed this season?
“Both have done well when given the chance to lead the line.
“Bamford has four Championship goals to his name so far, along with one assist, but he’s not found the back of the net in his last two outings.
“Nketiah also has four goals, but two of those have come in the League Cup.
“He’s yet to register an assist, but as mentioned, he stepped off the bench to win the game for Leeds against Barnsley on Sunday.”
What traits do they share and what’s different about them?
“Both players bring goals, there’s no denying that.
“Bamford is more experienced at 26, with the former Middlesbrough man showcasing his battling qualities alongside his goalscoring instincts this season.
“Nketiah is raw, but the Arsenal loanee is very talented and looks a threat every time Bielsa turns to him.
“The 20-year-old is always lively, but you question whether he could battle for 60/70 minutes in the same way Bamford does.”
What will be going through Bielsa’s mind?
“As per Phil Hay at The Athletic, Bielsa has been non-committal on Nketiah coming in to replace Bamford.
“He rates his No.9 highly and that’s evident given he’s started every Championship fixture so far.
“Obviously, Nketiah’s goals in the first-team, under-23s and England under-21s are difficult to ignore, but it’s hard to imagine Bielsa will panic and make any rash selections.”
Is there any chance both could start?
“Possibly – we saw Bielsa get both onto the pitch in the 1-0 victory over Brentford a month ago.
“In that system, Leeds were 3-3-2-2, with Nketiah even scoring the winner against the Bees.
“You can’t rule anything out with Bielsa.”
Can you see it happening?
“Honestly, no, especially not in the near future.
“Bielsa doesn’t change too much whether things are going right or wrong, and he’s been very loyal to his 4-1-4-1 system.
“He’s tinkered with 3-3-1-3 on occasion, but that still only requires one central striker.
“To get both in the side Leeds might have to play 3-5-2, which would limit the need for Pablo Hernandez or Helder Costa on the wing, and given their influence, you can’t see Bielsa favouring that.”
Finally, in your opinion, who should be starting?
“You can’t ignore the impact Nketiah is having at so many different levels, but we are yet to see him start a Championship fixture, which gives Bamford a big edge.
“Bamford battles so well, and although he wasn’t on the scoresheet on Sunday at Barnsley, his performance deserved a goal and he laid the platform for Nketiah to come on and do what he does.
“Bielsa is so loyal to his players and I can see that continuing for the next couple of weeks at least.
“Fairplay to Nketiah for banging on the door, but his chance to start might still be a few weeks down the line.”