Leeds United is in search of a striker to replace Chris Wood after the Kiwi was sold to Burnley last week. And so because the summer transfer market is coming to a close in a couple days, the rumor mill has hit overdrive with a number of names being linked to Leeds United. Players such as Danny Ings of Liverpool, Jordan Hugill of Preston North End, and even Jordan Rhodes of Sheffield Wednesday have all been linked in the press and on social media, with little or no sources for those links.
One of the more recent alleged targets is Newcastle striker Dwight Gayle. Gayle is somewhat of a known quantity in the Championship after several uninspiring years in the Premier League with Crystal Palace. He scored 23 goals last season for the Championship winners, but Newcastle are rumored to be looking at letting him go for a steep price, with numbers such as £18 million being bandied about.
Paying that much for Dwight Gayle would be a huge mistake, as Leeds already have a similar player, only younger, in Kemar Roofe. Roofe was finally given a chance to player as the lone striker in the Leeds 4-2-3-1 formation the past two matches, and it appears that the answer to the striker crisis at the club has been staring us all in the face the whole time.
Roofe may have played on the wing for Garry Monk at Leeds, but at Oxford he was used as a winger, a classic centre forward, and as a secondary striker. He started as a CF 11 times for Oxford in the 2015-16 season across all competitions, and scored nine of his 25 goals playing as a striker.
So what, that’s League Two, that’s miles apart from the Championship, right? Well, in two games for Leeds as the lone striker, Roofe has scored four goals. And yes, three of the goals was against Newport County, but hey, he took his chance and very few people are complaining about Samu Saiz’s hat-trick only coming against Port Vale.
As for perspective, before being transferred to Peterborough United in their 2012-13 Championship campaign, Dwight Gayle scored seven goals in 18 appearances for Dagenham & Redbridge in League Two, hardly tearing up the league. Gayle went on to have three fairly mediocre seasons in the Premier League with Crystal Palace, scoring seven, five, and three Premier League goals in the three seasons he was at the South London club.
While Gayle was reborn at Newcastle, once again finding his level in the Championship and rewarding the faith of the Tynesiders with 23 goals last campaign, rather than spending all of the Wood war chest on a 26 year old with two good seasons, perhaps it would be a wiser move to allow Roofe to prove he can play as a striker at this level, something that Monk appeared unwilling to allow him to do. Roofe is a similar player to Gayle, both relying on their quickness on the ball to score, rather than operating as a classic English number 9. They are both the same height (5’10”) and neither possess incredible speed, but both can grab goals in the box, and can shoot the ball, something that a target man like Wood was often unable to do.
Roofe told Phil Hay of the Yorkshire Evening Post of where he felt most comfortable playing, after bagging a hat-trick against Newport County, saying “It’s my preferred position, down the middle and up front.” He wants to play as a striker, he’s got the goal scoring record to prove he can play up front, and so why not give him a try?
Leeds have brought in an exciting youngster, Jay-Roy Grot, from the Netherlands and a player in need of a career reboot from the Bundesliga, Pierre-Michel Lasogga, so far in the transfer window after letting Wood go to Burnley. And while it might be the sexy, headline-making move to grab a name such as Rhodes or Gayle or even Hugill, perhaps the best option the club has going forward is to reward the player already on the roster who might just have the skills to score those 20 goals that Leeds will need if the team is going to compete for a promotion spot. After all, Leeds already won away twice without Wood, at Sunderland and Nottingham Forest, so it’s not as if the team has fallen apart without the big Kiwi.
Kemar Roofe was tipped by some to have a big season this year, and while not many saw him replacing Chris Wood up top, this just might be the break he needs for his light to shine at Elland Road. And even if he’s not as good as Gayle, at least the team will have saved a whole ton of money to buy an almost identical player.