When Daniel James finally became a Leeds United player at the end of the summer transfer window, it was a signing several years in the making. James had almost signed for the club once before. However, Marcelo Bielsa never abandoned hope of signing the Welshman, even after he completed a move to Manchester United the following summer. This Premier League season, he finally became a Leeds player and has been quickly integrated into Bielsa’s first eleven.
He’s certainly become a key player in terms of playing a lot of minutes in a short time, but has he had a big impact on the pitch yet? Let’s take a look at what the stats have to say:
Dan James has been starting on the left flank for Leeds United and has spent most of this time in the final third of the pitch. It can also be seen that at times James has switched wings to move to the right flank. James has also been highly involved in tracking back to follow the opposition attackers and contributing towards getting the ball back from the opposition.
James has slotted into Bielsa’s pressing system with ease. He was already an excellent presser before arriving at the club, which was likely a big part of what Bielsa liked about him when looking to recruit the Welshman. In fact, this was the exact reason why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer picked James to start in each of the three games Manchester United have played Leeds in the Premier League. Solskjaer knew that winning individual battles was vital in beating Leeds and he could trust James to do all of his defensive work in terms of both pressing forwards and tracking back.
Dan James is yet to register a goal contribution for Leeds but the attacking actions he has performed so far have been better than the median league value. The Welshman had attempted 1.43 shots per 90 minutes and only had 11% of these shots on target. Dan James is frighteningly quick and can use his pace to get past defenders with ease. He averages 5.41 dribbles per 90, putting him in the 88th percentile for dribbles attempted. He has completed 76.47% of the dribbles he has attempted.
Dan James has only attempted six shots in the six matches he has played so far for Leeds in the Premier League. Most of these shots are from the left flank as he is playing as a left-winger but none of these shots have been on target. James has been known to make the wrong move at times when he is in front of the goal and also lack the finesse required to keep the shot on target. He is yet to prove himself as a threat with the ball in the final third of the pitch.
Dan James has been involved in the build up play for Leeds as he drops back into his own half to receive the ball and push forward later. James used to play on the right-wing for United so it was easier for him to cross the ball into the penalty area. Playing on the left-wing makes it easier for him to be more direct while attacking the goal as he can cut in and take an attempt on the opposition goal. Despite this, he has played in passes in the final third which have a high expected threat.
In James’ case, this is second nature to him and it feels like he will grow as an attacking threat as he begins to pick up the attacking patterns Leeds play when they’re at their best. Leeds have had a number of injury issues and have not been able to line-up their best squad which in turn has limited the potential of James as the players around him are not performing to their best.
The individual side of James’ game does need to improve though, for him to be a real attacking threat. Considering the price tag, his lack of chance creation is a problem. Leeds will want to see a lot more from him in that regard as he has shown that he can be incredibly direct and dangerous in the past for his previous team.