Sunderland-born Sam Greenwood spent over a decade with his hometown club, before leaving the Stadium of Light to Arsenal, a big move for the teenager after leaving his family and moving to St Albans, where he lives with a host family and fellow academy player Alfie Matthews. The 18-year-old joined the Gunners from Sunderland in 2018 and was a regular for the club’s Under 18 side before making the step up to the Under 23 side. Greenwood joined Leeds from Arsenal in a £1.5million move in 2020. The forward has been a standout at academy level at Elland Road, the striker has scored over 20 goals in Premier League 2 over the past couple of seasons. One of the most talented players to step foot at Thorp Arch, let’s take a closer look at Sam Greenwood and if he may become the next big thing at Elland Road…
As mentioned before, Greenwood lived a large part of his life in his home town in Sunderland. The forward was a serious talent from his younger days, and has passed through almost all levels of youth football at international level. Greenwood was a shining star at youth level for England, the youngster scored 12 goals in 14 appearances for England’s Under 17s and was part of the squad that competed at the European Championship in 2019. This was all before he broke out at Arsenal, then choosing Leeds as his next destination and a path to first team football in the Premier League.
Greenwood caught the eye for his set pieces at youth level, former Leeds player Noel Whelan had this to say about the player: “Another player (Greenwood) who possesses an immense amount of ability. To have a weapon like that in your side is great. You can see the ability he has but the free-kicks are about the hard work he puts in on the training ground and for that he deserves to be praised.”
Greenwood is one of the most deadly set piece takers at youth level, his technical ability is insane. He strikes the ball with power and precision, he is also good at taking penalties which will come in handy later in his career. The 20-year old is two-footed, which makes him unpredictable in attack, opponents do not know where he will go or what he would to with the ball. Greenwood has the two-footed threat of Son-Heung-min, Santi Cazorla and Pedro Rodriguez.
There is much more to Greenwood than set pieces and freekicks, he’s more well rounded than people understand. The forward possesses an array of skills and movements to unbalance opponents, stepovers and body feints combined with his short bursts of speed leaving his marker in the dust. He is a strong dribbler and has impressive speed and agility, he has the confidence to take on players too, creating enough separation to hit his precise shots between defenders. According to fbref, Greenwood has attempted 34 progressive carries this season, a sign that he is always looking to move the ball up the field into dangerous areas.
Greenwood is an athlete, he does not shy away from defensive duties. During his games he loves to close down opponents and press from the front, he often gets stuck in, this kind of passion for the game is rare at that level. This is also why both Bielsa and Jesse Marsch took a liking to him at Elland Road.
His centre-forward play and two-footedness have drawn comparisons to former Arsenal man Robin Van Persie. You can see the similarities when he is on the pitch, he moves well and is not afraid to shoot.
Marcelo Bielsa said in December: “His main position is as a centre-forward. Normally he plays in conjunction with [Joe] Gelhardt in the team. Gelhardt is a player that when he is close to the box is very dangerous and Greenwood is a player who has a lot of capacity to arrive into the free spaces. They can play either with Gelhardt in front and Greenwood behind or the other way round.”
The 20-year old has that ability to link up with players wherever he plays, having played in central midfield as well as up top and sometimes as the number 10, it is important that you are in sync with your teammates. For a player who scores a lot, Greenwood generates most of his chances from being a team player; one-twos in tight spaces with teammates before he creates enough space to get a shot off. He is also good at creating for others, his ability to pass and cross to teammates with both feet when he finds himself in wide areas is admirable.
Jesse Marsch and the technical team have been impressed by the youngster too, after Marcelo Bielsa highlighted the player during his time in charge. With the season being up in the air and injuries and changes all over the club, it has been disappointing not to see Greenwood feature more this season, but with a coach like Jesse Marsch at the helm for the next year, he can work the same magic he did at the Red Bull program.
The 20-year-old has made three Premier League appearances this season, contributing two assists. He also started the FA Cup third-round tie against West Ham in January.
Football Insider‘s Ewan Kingsbury had this to say about the player’s time at Leeds, “He has improved year-on-year, and also game-by-game during this season. He can adapt and play anywhere across that front three. I think that’s how you have to coach strikers these days. It’s not just about being a one-dimensional striker. Greenwood and Gelhardt are being coached in a way that makes them useful all the way across that front three.
“But for Greenwood, he likes to drift into that number 10 role. I think that’s probably where he will get the most joy. He’s got the intelligence to get in between the lines and find a killer pass, he’s got a good turn of pace, and he’s got a real eye for goal as well. It’s no surprise that Jesse Marsch is giving him high praise. He’s full of enthusiasm and he’s out to impress.”
All signs point to the 20-year-old leading the line for the Yorkshire club in the near future. And with other exciting talents like Joe Gelhardt and Crysencio Summerville coming up alongside him, the future is very bright for Leeds United.