Marcelo Bielsa has gone to great lengths to explain why he selects Patrick Bamford over Eddie Nketiah before confirming the former will start once again for Leeds at Sheffield Wednesday.
Much has been made about Nketiah’s lack of game time at Elland Road, with the striker’s notch at Preston on Tuesday salvaging a late 1-1 draw and ensuring he now tops Leeds’ goalscorer charts.
As a result, Bielsa is facing renewed calls to replace favoured frontman Bamford with Nketiah in Saturday’s clash at Hillsborough, though the Leeds boss clearly knows his own mind on the matter.
And with reports hotting up that Bristol City could look to swoop in and poach the striker from Leeds in January – those fears seemingly exasperated on Wednesday when the player’s (sort of!) advisor Ian Wright took in a game at Ashton Gate – Bielsa was again forced to defend his selections and explain why he is standing by Bamford.
In a lengthy explanation, Bielsa explained: “We cannot talk about Bamford when it’s necessary to talk in comparison with Nketiah. I know that it’s not your intention.
“But what I say about Bamford is going to be compared with what I say about Nketiah. So to talk about Patrick is more useful to describe Nketiah.
“Nketiah has developed at one club, Arsenal, and has to play at Leeds. I am not comparing the level of both. But you can see clearly the performance in one team or the other team. We don’t have the players who win the match themselves.
“Big teams, like Arsenal, they have a lot of players that can win one match with one play. This is natural Nketiah has developed in this school.
“And he has all the resources, skills, to resolve the needs of scoring one goal. But we need to build the chance at goal. And we cannot build the chances if we don’t have a structure within all the players to create the chances.
“You will see that every time is going to be less difficult to Eddie to be more similar to give this contribution to the team. When he in the last match went to the pitch at Preston, the match was played in the place of the pitch where he plays better, by the box.
“Against Birmingham he was far from the box and without offensive creation. And against Birmingham he didn’t have a good match, against Preston he had an impact. To finish this explanation, the most important, what he does when we have to score. Nketiah is very good at scoring. Also Bamford.
“But Bamford is missing chances and Nketiah is scoring. But there is a fact before you score a goal, you build the situation that allow the chance to score.
“Bamford or Nketiah – which player do you think ran more? [Journalists answer Bamford] No, Nketiah. You know why? Bamford ran for the needs of the team. Nketiah ran just to try and score.
“The metres that Bamford ran is true to the team. And to finish, Nketiah puts these meters in to finish the action.”
Bielsa, who also insisted his side are playing better than they were last season, continued: “It’s natural. What I’m looking for, to achieve that Eddie feels the needs of the team and that he understands if he doesn’t put the metres in both things, he is going to have less chances to score.
“After saying that, I am not 100% sure what I’m saying. Football is football. We are forced to analyse. We are forced to take conclusions. But if the conclusion we take analyses where we are, football would not be the first sport in the word.
“If you give him the option to chose between my way to analyse and free football, I prefer free football. I don’t prefer the football I build in my mind.
“Football is of players. Be careful. Every time you find less players who deserve the freedom of the free football.
“For this reason, Sheffield United can beat Arsenal. Because every time, there are less players who deserve one team where they don’t have to adapt themselves to a new situation.”
Bielsa then finished his explanation by stating that “Bamford will start” on Saturday at Hillsborough.