After coming off the bench and scoring twice against Hull City at the weekend, is Roberts a viable option leading the line? Roberts who has mainly featured for Leeds as a number 10 has always looked sharp when playing as a striker. Bamford is struggling to find the net but still doing brilliantly at the rest of his game and leads the line so well, Does Roberts have the attributes to get himself into the starting 11?
Link up/Hold up play
In Bielsa’s 4-1-4-1 or 3-1-3-3 the demands placed on the striker are high. The press often starts from the striker and they are also expected to look after the ball and link up play. In the 11 games that Roberts has played in that position, he has a pass accuracy of 76.06%. On average makes 13 passes a game compared to Bamford who is currently averaging 10.1 with a pass accuracy off 75%.Their passing is very similar in terms of stats but Bamford has a bigger sample size compared to Roberts, having played a lot more games. In terms of chances created for his teammates, Roberts has created 7 chances and has 1 assist to his name.
Roberts isn’t as physical as Bamford or as aggressive in the way he leads the line, having only won 7 attacking aerial in 11 games, with 4 coming in one game against Preston North End at home last season. In terms of like for like in the squad, I don’t think there is anyone the same as Bamford in terms of what he brings to the team. However, Roberts as a striker has plenty to offer and as you can see from his passing stats, his link up play is very good. In the lead up to his first goal against Hull City on Saturday, he drops deep picking up the ball in his own half, before driving into space and laying the pass out wide. He then sprinted towards the box before eventually putting the ball into the net arriving unmarked. This shows that he has the ability to link up play but also be in the right area to score.
After going back and watching the games that Tyler has played as a striker for Leeds, his movement has been impressive. In his most recent game against Hull City, you can see that he likes to mix his game up. Previously you saw an example of him dropping deep to link up play but here you can see him pointing where he wants the ball, making a run in behind Hull City’s defence.
The ball came to him but was slightly behind him which meant that he had to pass the ball and start the attack. If the pass had more power and was in front of Tyler, he would have been through on goal but it shows that he’s happy running in behind defences that play a high line. Making runs of the back of defenders is also something else that is noticeable when you watch him play. Against Preston last season where he scored two goals, he made some great runs. Here he makes a run between Preston’s centre back who is focusing on stopping Saiz taking the shot which allows Roberts a free run. Unfortunately Saiz decided against playing Roberts in on goal and took a shot instead.
In the same game, Roberts makes a run that opens up a massive gap in Preston’s defence which leads for a great chance for Harrison after being played through by Saiz. This particular run highlights Tyler’s awareness of what is around him and how his movement doesn’t have to result in the ball being played directly to him. We see these sort of runs with Patrick Bamford where he often runs away from goal in order to drag players out of position which opens up gaps for others to exploit.
The three previous examples came from a situation when Leeds won the ball back and looked to hit the opposition on the counter attack, which naturally means there is more space to play into, but how is his movement against teams that defend deep?
As you can see from the example above against Millwall last season, they have a solid bank of four with a holding midfielder protecting them. They are sat deep on the edge of their area so any pass in behind them would have to be perfect. This is also the case for the run, go to early and he would have been offside, go to late and pass would have ran through to the keeper. Tyler times his run perfectly of the blind side of one defender and is played through by Alioski. However, he saw his effort go wide with the shot lacking any conviction, which takes me onto his shooting and his ability in front of goal.
In front of goal
All the previous examples and stats show that Roberts can function in a Bielsa system as a striker but so can Bamford. The difference? Goals. Bamford in front of goal is lacking confidence and the goals have dried up. So how has Roberts performed in front of goal? In total he has scored 5 goals in 11 games, 2 against Preston North End (H) last season, 1 against Hull City (A) last season and 2 against Hull City (A) this season. These 5 goals have come from a total of 16 shots, with 9 being on target and 7 off target. Despite playing 11 games, he’s only played 679 minutes meaning that he is scoring a goal every 135.8 minutes. Compare this to Patrick Bamford who is currently scoring every 228 minutes. Roberts would rank 4th in the league with his minutes per goal record as a forward. As you can see from his shot map below, out of his 16 shots, only two have come outside the 18 yard box, which makes for good viewing.
Leeds channel a lot of their attacks down the wing and look to play crosses and cut backs into the box. At times this season Bamford has been to slow to get himself into goal scoring positions. The stats overall make for good reading but bare in mind that this is only a small sample size having only played 11 games and 679 minutes in total. It is also worth noting that a number of different sources was used in order to narrow down the games he played striker so stats may vary depending on what source you use. The major concern for Roberts is his injury record, despite joining in January 2018, he’s only managed to play 41 times for Leeds United. He’s struggled to put a run together in the team lasting anymore than 10 games. I do feel that if he can keep himself fit and firing, he’s going to be a real asset for us. Whether that be in a number 10 position or as a striker, his attributes are there to be seen. Having asked the question at the start of this article about whether or not Roberts has the attribute to start ahead of Bamford, I believe he does.
Written by Thomas Wilson.