MOT View: Tyler Roberts is the man Leeds need but has he got the consistency?
Leeds United attacker Tyler Roberts is only 20-years-old. It needs saying because he seems older and the expectations fans put on him are high.
Before he came to Leeds he’d only really played in League One, scoring 2 in 22 for Oxford, 5 in 19 for Walsall and 4 in 13 for Shrewsbury.
He only played one senior game for West Brom before moving to Leeds when he’d just turned 19. It’s easy to forget that he was a work in progress and still is, despite being a full Welsh international.
He made 28 appearances for Leeds in the Championship last season, scoring three goals and adding six assists, but was out injured for the final game of the season and the play-offs. That cost Leeds.
He returned from injury in the defeat to Charlton this season but in just his second game back against West Brom, Roberts suffered the humiliation of being subbed after coming on in the second half, and there was a real worry that would damage his confidence.
Marcelo Bielsa apologised after the game but that can’t have been easy for Roberts. He plugged on though and got his first start of the season in the recent game against QPR, where he rewarded Marcelo Bielsa with the opening goal.
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He put in a good shift against Blackburn too and that’s led to a feeling that Roberts is the man who can crack the Leeds problem in front of goal. These games have been the only two in the league at Elland Road this season where Leeds have scored more than one goal.
Without Roberts and Hernandez, Leeds are missing something, especially at home. It’s one thing having the ball, it’s another having the imagination to do something with it.
When you get in the Bielsa team and that team wins, you’re generally there until results turn against you.
However, it’s asking a lot of Roberts to step up and put in consistent performances at the level of the last two games. He was poor in his first few games back from injury, although that’s to be expected.
The big question is whether he can do what Bielsa wants and deliver on the undoubted promise he had when he signed from West Brom.
The last two games have been a big step in the right direction and Roberts himself sounds full of confidence.
Talking in the Yorkshire Evening Post he admitted that he was “sloppy” at times in the game against Blackburn, but that he’s on the right track.
“I think there is a lot more to come,” said Roberts, “and I can be more dangerous when I am picking up the ball.
“That will hopefully come with more games and getting into my flow a bit. From coming in the other week to now playing 90 minutes has been great and my fitness is progressing massively.
“In the last game I got a touch of cramp at 60 minutes and on Saturday it was at 90, so it’s definitely improving.
“Now I’m just hoping for more starts. Obviously I’d also like to score more goals and get assists and just get goal contributions”.
Bielsa has a conundrum in attack, with Hernandez – arguably Leeds’ best attacking player – not getting a start since his return from injury. Jack Harrison is flying and even Helder Costa was much improved in the last game.
That’s a good problem to have but we think Roberts must start again against Luton and that he will be central to a concerted push for promotion next year.
It’s worth keeping in mind that he’s only 20, though.