Upon Leeds United return to the Premier League this season, they continued to plan for their future by investing in youth players to be part of their under 23 and under 18 set ups. One of those players was Sam Greenwood, who signed from Arsenal for a reported £1.5 million with future add ons potentially taking the fee to £3 million. The chance of playing for a club that has a clear pathway to first team football was too good of an opportunity for Greenwood to turn down. Arsenal have a number of talented strikers on their books at youth level including Folarin Balogun who has recently made his first team debut, so the likelihood of him getting a chance to impress at Arsenal was slim. For Leeds, they saw a player that at every level has been prolific in front of goal, especially for his country, scoring in total 15 goals for England’s under 17’s and 18’s. He’s started life at Leeds in fine form, building a strong partnership with fellow England youth international Joe Gelhardt. He won September Premier League 2 player of the month after netting 4 goals in 3 appearances and has since gone on to score 2 more despite playing in a deeper midfield position of late. With a total of 6 goals in 8 appearances, Greenwood will be looking to continue his form going into the second half of the season.
Style of play
Standing at around 5ft 11.5, Greenwood isn’t overly strong or blessed with lightening pace, however uses his lower body strength well and uses his movement of the shoulders of defenders to get in behind defences. He has enough pace to attack spaces and not be caught once he is free of the opposition. His aggression plays a major part in him being able to shield the ball and win possession back in both attacking and defensive duels. At times he can play slightly on the edge and give away rash fouls but for the most part controls his aggression well. Greenwood has a solid first touch and good spatial awareness which allows him to turn away from pressure. His passing range is relatively good, capable of playing short to medium passes with accuracy and power. He is particularly useful when dropping deeper, turning and firing passes out wide to teammates before continuing his run into the box. Having played as a number 8 in recent under 23’s games, this has allowed him to show that he is capable of doing his defensive work and stay disciplined in Leeds’s man marking system.
His outstanding strength is his ability to use both feet, despite being right footed, when watching him you can’t tell. Whether it is receiving possession, passing to a team mate or taking a shot, the outcome is normally the same on either foot. This allows Greenwood to be extremely dangerous in and around the box as the opposition can’t show him onto his weaker foot. It’s a defender’s and goal keeper’s nightmare when a player can take powerful and accurate shots from any angle, making Sam very unpredictable in front of goal from an opposition point of view. In the 6 goals he scored so far this season for Leeds under 23’s, he has displayed a number of different finishes, from carefully placed to delicate chips. He has at times struggled against the more physical defenders when playing as a loan striker which has lead to him being frustrated so making sure he keeps his mental strength will be important. He is still new to under 23 level so as he gains more experience, he will look to deal with situations better. His partnership with Joe Gelhardt has been particularly fruitful so far this season, with the pair working well together. Whether Greenwood plays as a forward or slightly deeper, he arrives in space well which allows him to get into dangerous shooting positions and unbalance the opposition. He isn’t a high volume dribbler like teammate Gelhardt but is comfortable and confident when required to negate his way past defenders using his close control and quick feet. When in the final third, he does have a tenancy to shoot when team mates are in better positions but this is something you expect from young players and certainly from players that are as capable as Greenwood in front of goal. This final third decision making will improve the more he plays and the more he trains with seasoned professionals.
Having only just joined Leeds United and still yet to complete a full season at under 23 level, his first goal will be to continue his brilliant form and look to help Leeds under 23’s earn promotion in their league. Marcelo Bielsa is a big fan of his and like with many of the youth players, has included Greenwood in first team training. With reports of clubs queuing up to acquire his services on loan, staying at Leeds in the short term and learning Bielsa methods would be the sensible thing for him and the club to do. Over the next 12-18 months, I would expect to see him break into the first team set up at Leeds or elsewhere depending on how he develops and how the club do at first team level. If he was to go out on loan next season, picking the right club is vital for his development.