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Leeds United must start £10m striker to secure automatic promotion

Leeds United striker's Patrick Bamford and Joel Piroe.

Don Revie once stated, “You get nowt for being second” and like on most topics where Leeds United were concerned, he wasn’t far wrong. Times have changed though since the Don ruled supreme as Elland Road potentate and anything north of third this season guarantees a plethora of headaches on the first Sunday of May. Standing in the way, however, is the incredibly vexing mathematical quandary that no matter how hard you try, three into two just won’t go.

Leicester City appear to be back on the horse after their recent wobble and have a potential ace up their sleeve in the form of a game in hand. Ipswich Town, to their eternal credit and to the dismay of rival supporters, have simply refused to go away and have produced more comebacks than Cher.

Leeds United are fresh off of a trip to Coventry that was about as pleasant as biting your tongue and once more there’s audible disputation around who should lead the line for the Peacocks in the run-in. Without further ado, and in a very particular order, here’s how I believe Herr Farke should shape the attack for the final games.

Joel Piroe

At long last give Piroe the role he was brought to the club to perform. In utilising the former Swansea man as a No.10 for the majority of the season, his main strengths have been somewhat blunted. The counter argument to Piroe leading the line is that he can’t press as effectively as the alternative options. As logical and valid an argument this may be, the opponents Leeds face prior to the visit of Southampton on the last day are not typically associated with playing out from the back – the need to aggressively press their centre-backs is considerably lessened.

If major pressing is to be done, let it come from the flanks and allow Piroe to navigate that priceless commodity of space. The kind of space that natural strikers find in their sleep but can’t explain how they do it – it’s an innate talent woven into their psyche. Goal-scorers are a rare breed, but in Joel Piroe, Leeds can count one in their ranks.

Patrick Bamford

Leeds very own brand of marmite. An affable, assiduous character, but also one who on more than one occasion has left the locals spitting feathers. No other forward at Elland Road hassles, harries or stretches an opposition defence more, but at the same time, no other forward is as culpable for missing a myriad of gilt-edged chances.

Bamford finds the back of the net with irregularity emblematic of a ‘Plan B’ striker. In a run-in such as the one Leeds find themselves in, that’s exactly how he should be used. Deploy him to the field of play via the bench, late in the game, with the mission brief of running endlessly at tired defenders or to just simply antagonise them. As with anyone else, play him to his strengths.

Mateo Joseph

Finally, the new kid on the block, Mateo Joseph. There can be no doubting the budding and aspirant talent that is Joseph. Evidently, he has an eye for goal. His positioning in the box creates a problem for defenders and he has the type of broad chest that was specifically designed to control a football. Recent impressive cameos and contributions have seen calls for Joseph to start, but in the pressure cooker environment of a promotion chase, is this wise to burden such responsibility at the feet of a relative novice? Is this realistic? Is it fair? I fear we may be re-entering Joe Gelhardt territory.

No Piroe no party for Leeds United

Daniel Farke has plenty to ponder, does he stick, or does he twist? There’s not a lot of games left, but there’s an awful lot to play for. It might be a risk to put Piroe up top for these final five games, but Bamford’s purple patch which came to the fore at the turn of the year appears to be behind him now and there is little trust there that he can fire Leeds back to the Premier League. Piroe starting up front is not guaranteed success, but I think most would back him to find the back of the net quicker than Bamford. Only one thing can be guaranteed at this stage – come Saturday 4th of May, there won’t be a fingernail left in the house. Strap yourself in, the litmus test is upon us.

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