The role of the striker has changed and evolved over time but the main responsibility still remains; putting the ball into the back of the net. At an elite level this takes high levels of skill, composure and confidence but how players get these chances to shoot and score varies. Some strikers use their strength, for example, Romulu Lukaku. Often, he pins the defender before turning and getting shots away. Some others use their speed to knock the ball past defenders before racing through on goal and some use their dribbling skills to weave in and out of players before scoring. Those that aren’t blessed with outstanding strength or speed rely on movement to find space inside opposition boxes or between players to gain a few yards of space. One of the best in the Premier League at doing this is Patrick Bamford.
I’m sure Bamford would be the first to admit that he’s not blessed with blistering pace but has enough that if he does have a few yards of separation he can run away from them. In order to gain these few yards, his movement is vital. What he does so well is finding space away from defenders, both in the box and to run in behind. I’ve complied a number of examples from his time at Leeds, both in the Championship and in the Premier League. The first example is an out to in movement, this allows him to create a gap between him and the defender before running in behind. As you can the defender is shaping up for Bamford to receive it in a wide area and then is left off balanced when having to turn.
Bamford thrives in the space between both centre back or in between the centre back and full back. Despite in most cases centre backs having the numerical advantage, being able to watch both the striker and the ball is a difficult task. The timing of these runs is crucial, go too early and risk being caught offside but go too late and the space that was once there is no longer. This example against Reading in the 2018/19 season shows him making a blindside run of one of the centre backs who is watching the player in possession. The player behind him has been dragged out by the initial movement by Bamford away from goal and therefore there is a massive gap for Bamford to attack.
These sort of runs off the blindside of defenders are what Bamford does constantly, especially in the box. Whether that is that he darts to the front post or he swivels in behind them. The goal he scored against Sheffield United is a good example of the latter. He initially starts in front of the defender as Jack Harrison receives the ball before drifting in behind. One minute he’s where the defender wants him and the next time he looks the ball is already in the back of the net.
This time we have an example of a chance against Spurs that he unfortunately didn’t connect to fully. Eric Dier is looking at the player in possession, once again Jack Harrison and is unaware of the position of Bamford. As the cross comes in, Bamford darts to the near post and leaves Dier flat footed.
In all these cases Bamford doesn’t have to use any sort of strength, blistering pace or dribbling to get chances to shoot or score. This season he was tasked by Marcelo Bielsa to watch videos of Haaland and the way he explodes into space and it is starting to pay off. Leeds are a side that through rotations and overloads will always create chances but the movement of Bamford is crucial in ensuring that Leeds can break down a number of different styles. If teams play a high line, he’ll make smart movements in behind which stretches the pitch, normally from an initially offside position. The example below against Nottingham Forest last season shows this.
Likewise if teams sit deep and defend their box, the previous examples show that through movement, Bamford is able to find space to score goals. There are also a lot of times in games that his movement even when the ball isn’t played to him opens up space for others. All in all, there aren’t many better players in Europe with the movement that Bamford has.