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Three transfer options at striker for Leeds United

Who should Leeds sign this upcoming transfer window?

Japan v Ukraine - International Friendly Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Leeds United are in desperate need for a top level striker to transfer in during the upcoming summer break. With January signee Tyler Roberts injured before he could make an appearance, Caleb Ekuban and Pierre-Michel Lasogga have simply not been able to fill the gaping hole that Chris Wood left up top. Leeds’ problem is highlighted by the fact that they are ranked 13th in the league in goals scored, but are second in the league in percent of shots taken inside the 6 yard box, with 10%. Their close range finishing must be fixed.

Another statistical problem that can be linked to the strikers: place of possession. Leeds only controls possession in their opponents’ third of the field for 26% of the game, good for 20th in the league. All these stats really come down to is what we already know, that Leeds need a new striker, and they need one fast.

Jerry Mbakogu

Leeds was going to shell out around £4 million for Mbakogu this winter, but Carpi decided to wait until the summer, wanting him for a run at promotion. However, it now looks like the move will likely get done this offseason. Mbakogu was loaned to Russian side KS Samara from Carpi in August of 2016 for a loan fee of £1 million, but did not score through 7 appearances. After returning to Carpi, Mbakogu has played in 21 Serie B games, and has scored only 6 goals, a stat which does not bode well if he is looking to make a difference in the Championship

Mbakogu had one standout season in 2014/15, when he scored 15 goals in 30 games for Carpi as they earned promotion to Serie A, but he has not replicated this success since. There’s not a lot of recent highlights for Mbakogu online, but he appears to be a pretty quick striker who has a decent finishing touch (obviously a must have), but otherwise, he is not going to set the world on fire. A concerning aspect about his game is that other than a few set up passes, he did not seem to be able to create dangerous chances, instead mostly running on to balls played behind the backline. Positively though, he draws a lot of penalties, including at least four during his 2014/15 season with Carpi.

This would be an interesting move for Leeds, but it seems like a striker who cannot score more than 6 goals in Serie B would not be an adequate starting level striker in the Championship. He is young though and could be a solid backup option, and surely he would perform better than Caleb Ekuban.

Kenyu Sugimoto

Sugimoto is a 25 year old Japanese international who currently plays for Cerezo Osaka in the Japanese first division. In 2016, he led Cerezo in scoring, helping them to reach and win the promotion playoffs. During the 2017 season, Sugimoto improved even more, netting 22 goals in 34 starts. He helped lead Cerezo Osaka to third place in the league, the year after being promoted. Sugimoto plays mainly as a target forward with decent foot skills, but lacks a high-end finishing ability. He easily finds gaps between defenders and has enough speed to blow by them once he has received the ball. He is also very adept at heading the ball, and consistently is able finish on crosses and free kicks, a skill that would be very useful to a Leeds team that only has 11 set piece goals on the year.

Here is a great example of Sugimoto’s ability to find and exploit gaps in the backline. He races by the CDM that is tracking back with him and finds the hole between the two center backs. He has an excellent first touch away from the oncoming defender, and gets a well-placed shot off, but puts it just too wide, as it strikes the inside of the post and bounces out.

Sugimoto is valued at £1.80 million, which would be a great get, considering that Leeds paid £1.6 million for Hadi Sacko. However, as he is an international player and Japan’s FIFA rating is outside the Top 50 (55th), getting a work permit may present a problem for Sugimoto. Surrounded by the passing talents of Samuel Sáiz, Pablo Hernández and Ezgjan Alioski in Leeds’ midfield, Sugimoto would thrive at Elland Road.

Jack Marriott

Jack Marriott is a player who has already been on Leeds’ radar this earlier this year in the winter transfer window, and was linked once again on April 10, with the asking price being around £5 million. Marriott is the League One scoring leader by a five goal margin, and looks to be a lock to win the golden boot. The Beverly native should once again be subject to an abundance of transfer rumors this coming summer, though Peterborough are still in the hunt for promotion, which could complicate a potential transfer to a Championship team. Being only 23 years of age also helps his future value, and if he were to develop even more at Leeds, he could be sold in the future at a good price.

Marriott is relatively similar to Sugimoto, but is bigger, faster and has a better finishing touch, albeit all these things were on display in League One and League Two rather than the Championship. A very noticeable quality he possesses is his ability to find the ball. No matter where play is taking place, Marriott is in its vicinity, looking to make runs and to create space.

Marriott started his career at Ipswich Town and Luton Town before signing with Peterborough at the start of the 2017/18 season. £5 million is a very large asking price for a player who has only played two games in the Championship, all the way back in 2013, but if Leeds is willing to spend the money, then Marriott could very well be the next big striker at Elland Road.