When things haven’t been going great for Leeds United in the Premier League this season, they have been able to rely on Raphinha. The tricky winger has had to almost carry the attacking burden alone at Elland Road with striker Patrick Bamford being absent for over two months through injury.
The Brazilian scored his sixth league goal of the campaign when he converted a late match-winning penalty against Crystal Palace on Tuesday night. His impact on the team cannot be overstated because Leeds have only managed to score 13 times in the league which means that Raphinha has scored 46% of the Yorkshire outfit’s goals. They simply cannot afford for him to suffer an injury in the upcoming winter period in which they have seven games coming thick and fast. Marcelo Bielsa has had to try and adapt his philosophy to cope without Bamford and key defender Luke Ayling over the last couple of months and Raphinha, who is often the creator of goals in the side, has had to step into the spotlight in Bamford’s absence.
It has been clear for weeks that Leeds have looked short up top, something that is unforgiving in this challenging division, and while Raphinha has stepped up to the plate, he has to be supported by his fellow attacking players, especially in the next seven matches. On a positive note, Bamford recently featured for Leeds in an under-23s game in the next step of his return to match action and there is hope that he will be available to Bielsa sooner rather than later.
This will be a huge boost for Raphinha as it can allow him to return to his problematic role down the right, tormenting full-backs and creating golden opportunities for Leeds’ star striker to put away. The duo are a formidable force on their day and they are the two Leeds players who are the most synchronised with how they play and when Bamford comes back into the fold, we will start to see Raphinha creating a lot more as well as getting on the scoresheet, which will definitely see an upturn in converted chances at Elland Road.
The Brazilian is already a cult figure in Leeds, and the supporters could not be more grateful for his leadership at the front of the pitch this term. The Sportsman spoke to Leeds fans about the impact the 24-year-old has had this season. Martin Riley of All Leeds TV said: [Leeds would be] definitely lower in the table, he has scored so many important goals, he’s our top scorer and has a heavy burden on him with Patrick Bamford being out for so long.”
Speaking about what the return of Bamford will mean for the Brazilian, Thomas Bradley of I’d Radabe Leeds said: “Bamford's return will be good for Raphinha in relation to someone getting on the end of his creativity on a more frequent basis. Bamford's return is also good for the rest of the team and the fans. He's a fan favourite now and his presence has been missed.”
There is no doubting the gargantuan effect these two players combining on the pitch will have on Leeds’ goal tally as Bamford scored 17 last year and Raphinha grabbed nine assists, and their on-field partnership is sure to be fruitful once again when the pair are reunited.
The only worrying thing for Leeds fans is that the winger has excelled in a struggling team in recent months, and that will catch the eye of many teams looking to bolster their squads in the upcoming transfer windows. But for now, Raphinha seems happy where he is, playing excellent football and winning Leeds matches, and for them, that is all that matters.
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