Why Billy Sharp could be the man to fire Leeds United to promotion
Speculations over Nketiah’s future at Elland Road seemed to have evaporated but according to a report from the Yorkshire Evening Post (h/t Metro), Arsenal seem to have finally made up their mind that they will terminate the youngster’s loan spell in January.
As per the report, Leeds are keen to keep hold of Nketiah until the end of the season but Arsenal see little point in allowing him to warm the bench and play a bit-part role under Marcelo Bielsa week in, week out.
The 20-year-old scored thrice in 15 substitute appearances in the Championship before earning his first league start in a nine-goal thriller against Birmingham City that eventually ended 5-4 in favour of the Whites.
Hence, if the recent transfer development is anything to go by, then Leeds will need to cast their rods into the January transfer pond to bring in an alternative to Eddie Nketiah, and Billy Sharp has emerged as a potential option on the club’s shortlist.
The 33-year-old, who plundered 23 goals in the Championship last season to fire Sheffield United to automatic promotion, has found regular minutes hard to come by in the Premier League this term and Blades boss Chris Wilder has given him the green light to seek an exit in January. (h/t David Smith on Twitter)
With the likes of Callum Robinson, Oliver McBurnie and Lys Mousset all coming through the door at Bramall Lane as a part of Chris Wilder’s squad rebuild in the summer, Sharp has been limited to only a solitary start in the top-flight this term, playing nine cameos off the bench to clock up a total of just 260 minutes of Premier League football.
The Whites, who are well-stocked in all areas of the pitch, don’t really need to make wholesale changes to their squad in January but Nketiah’s exit would certainly render them short of quality cover for undisputed first-choice striker Patrick Bamford in front of goal.
Lack of a prolific goalscorer was one of the major reasons behind Leeds’ undoing in the automatic promotion race last term and Bielsa will surely be aware of the need to bring in a striker with proven Championship pedigree in January to avoid a similar slip-up this time around.
To put things into perspective, Leeds United need to find a striker with the necessary qualities to aid their surge for a much-awaited return to the Premier League and proven goalscorers in the Championship don’t come much better than Billy Sharp, a veteran of over 550 career appearances across the top-four divisions of English football.
The 33-year-old has understandably found regular minutes hard to come by in the Premier League but his prolific record in the Championship is still enough to evoke fear in the minds of even the best defenders in the English second-tier despite his advancing years.
Interestingly, Sharp had a short stint at Elland Road in the Championship during the 2014-15 season where he managed only 5 goals in 33 appearances for the Whites.
Things didn’t click for Sheffield-born striker back then, but if his tally of 23 goals in the Championship last season is anything to go by, Sharp still has the pedigree to plunder goals for fun at this level.
As per Whoscored, Sharp excels with his aerial prowess in front of goal and has the ability to hold the ball to bring others into play, thus complementing his obvious qualities as a bonafide poacher inside the box.
Hence, an old-school poacher like Sharp would certainly offer something different to Bamford, who primarily relies on his ability to run the channels in the final third.
To that end, it is easy to see how and why the 33-year-old could add a different dimension to Leeds’ attack.
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All in all, Billy Sharp has an excellent track record in the Championship and that should be enough to make him the final block in Bielsa’s jigsaw as the Whites prepare to end their long exile from the forefront of English football.