Former Leeds United striker Noel Whelan has tipped Marcelo Bielsa to drop Patrick Bamford to the bench and hand Eddie Nketiah his first start in the Championship against Barnsley on Saturday, as told to Football Insider.
Bamford has started each of the available second-tier encounters so far this term (TransferMarkt), while Nketiah has only been awarded league minutes from the bench following his one-season loan transfer from Arsenal, but Whelan feels the Gunners product is becoming almost irresistible.
Nketiah scored what proved to be the winning goal in his first Championship outing at home to Brentford in August, having opened his account for the West Yorkshire outfit days before in the Carabao Cup win away to Salford City.
The 20-year-old also scored the goal which inspired a second-half comeback against Stoke City before the Whites fell out of the EFL Cup on penalties, and has taken his form onto the junior international stage with a brace against Turkey for England’s U21s in a European qualifier last Friday.
Whelan feels his run of form will certainly have given manager Bielsa food for thought, as the Argentine considers who to call on for Leeds’ trip to Barnsley at the weekend.
“There’s no doubt Nketiah has given Marcelo Bielsa something to think about,” Whelan said. “He is firing for Leeds and firing for England Under 21s.
“He looks brilliant when you watch him play – sharp, mobile, hungry – and he knows how to finish. Patrick has done very little wrong after starting the season well.
“Nketiah will have planted [a] seed in Bielsa’s mind with his goals for England. It’s definitely increased his chances of starting at the weekend against Barnsley.
“It looks like one or the other up front at the moment, and Bielsa’s head will be turned by Nketiah. When you have a striker so full of confidence you have got to think about playing him.”
Bielsa is rarely a man to change his line-up outside of injuries, with the Argentine favouring six men in the starting eleven of 38 or more Championship fixtures last season (WhoScored). The likes of Jack Clarke and Jamie Shackleton also made 83% and 80% of their league appearances from the bench respectively, as they were unable to dislodge the men ahead of them in the pecking order.
Bamford has not performed horrifically this term, either, with the Grantham-born striker currently Leeds leading goalscorer in the second-tier with four, double that of Pablo Hernandez – the only other player to hit more than one.
While Whelan feels Nketiah may be knocking on the boss’ door for a starting call-up, it would be probable that the Argentine prefers to maintain the status quo for at least another fixture, given Bamford has also scored a goal in every other league game, which would see the 26-year-old net against Barnsley if he maintains his current tendency.
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