If Leeds United lose Eddie Nketiah, they will have to look beyond goals for his replacement

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Speculation about the future of Eddie Nketiah will not go away.

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Patrick Bamford's ability to drop off the front and bring Leeds United's attacking midfielders into play is the model Victor Orta must follow if he finds himself looking for a new centre-forward

Patrick Bamford's ability to drop off the front and bring Leeds United's attacking midfielders into play is the model Victor Orta must follow if he finds himself looking for a new centre-forward

The Arsenal centre-forward has been sent on loan to Leeds United to develop his game and the longer he is waiting for his first Championship start, the more the Gunners might question if they should recall him in January.

Had he not picked up an injury in training last month, Nketiah would have had his chance to lead the line, having finally persuaded coach Marcelo Bielsa he was worthy of a start. But that was when Patrick Bamford was struggling for goals.

Second-guessing the Gunners is even harder than normal because no one can say with much certainty who their manager will be in January. Unai Emery seems to be on shaky ground.

So Leeds's director of football Victor Orta would not be doing his job properly if he was not looking at possible alternatives in the January transfer window.

Bielsa likes to work with a small squad, but while Nketiah has been injured, there has been no viable alternative to Bamford at centre-forward. Leeds cannot and surely will not risk that for half a season.

If they do need a new striker, Orta will have to learn the lessons of the first half of the season.

This summer the Spaniard got Bielsa a finisher, when what his head coach most wanted was someone who could build the play. It took Nketiah months to convince Bielsa he could do that.

It does not matter what is best for the team, only what the head coach thinks is best, because no matter how good the player, if Bielsa does not rate him or see a role for him in his team, he will struggle to play much. Getting into that mindset is the challenge for every director of football.

Bamford's deputy or rival needs to be able to drop off the front, take the ball to feet, hold it up and bring others into play.

In some teams, not least possession-based ones like Leeds, the role of centre-forward – so often a job for the egotists on the school playground or the park – is quite a selfless one. With so many attacking midfielders, it is important the Whites's no9 is good at allowing them to join in the play.

If Leeds had three out-and-out centre-forwards, a pure scorer who could snaffle decisive goals from the bench as Nketiah has against Brentford, Barnsley and Preston North End would be ideal, but Bielsa's fondness for a tight group of players and the financial and regulatory realities make it a luxury they will probably have to do without this season.

The best situation for Leeds would be if Nketiah can finish the job of winning over Bielsa. Bedding new players into the idiosyncratic Argentinian's system is usually a slow process, and Orta has commented before how difficult it is to sign the right players in January.

But if the option is taken away, Leeds need to look beyond goals for their next striker.