After an awkward start to life at Leeds United, Daniel James is starting to bear fruit at the perfect time


Having had a quiet start to life at Elland Road, Leeds United’s big-money summer signing Daniel James is starting to show signs of being the player the Whites went back in for after missing out in 2019.

The last-minute collapse in talks between Swansea City and Leeds over a move for James three years ago have been well documented, particularly in the Amazon Prime documentary ‘Take us Home’ that documented the ongoings on and off the pitch at the Yorkshire club.

However, when the opportunity to sign the Welshman from Manchester United arose last summer, it was a no brainer.

It’s believed that the Whites paid £25m for the 24-year-old’s services, their second most expensive signing ever, according to Transfermarkt. Therefore, expectations were certainly high.

It undoubtedly took time for the Welshman to settle in a side that endured a tricky start to the campaign, winning just two of their opening 13 league games with the winger opening his goalscoring account for United in his 11th appearance in all competitions, a 2-1 defeat at Tottenham in November.

James’ struggles have correlated with Leeds’ tough first half of the campaign but, on the contrary, the forward’s form is starting to spike as his side’s fortunes improve.

Prior to Wednesday night’s trip to Aston Villa, the Whites had taken six points from their previous three league games, winning back-to-back games against Burnley and West Ham before a home defeat to Newcastle United.

The 24-year-old scored the decisive goal against the Clarets, played the full 90 minutes against the Hammers and, well, Newcastle was an anomaly.

But it was at Villa Park where James showed exactly what he’s capable of in a Leeds shirt, being the livewire of an excellent offensive display from Bielsa’s side.

Granted, the defending will not be something those in question will want to watch back but, as expected from a Bielsa team, the forward play was, at times sensational, and James spearheaded the attack.

Usually a winger, the 24-year-old operated as a striker in the West Midlands as he has done on occasion this season, with the absence of Patrick Bamford proving a major predicament, and it paid dividends.

After a bright start from the hosts, it was the visitors who took the lead as good link-up play between Rodrigo and Mateusz Klich led to the former finding James in space after an intelligent run into the box, who turned his defender and found the far bottom corner expertly.

Just moments before Villa’s comeback ignited, he could have had a second after a burst into space that allowed him to unleash a fierce effort from 25-yards, smacking the crossbar with opposition goalkeeper Emi Martinez well beaten.

The unfortunate miss proved significantly costly as Steven Gerrard’s side, led by January signing Philippe Coutinho who was magical on the night, scored three goals before half-time. One by Coutinho who then assisted Jacob Ramsey for the following two.

Despite being 3-1 down, you sensed that the game was not out of sight for Leeds, with the likes of James, Rodrigo and Klich proving to be particular nuisances.

And it was those three involved once again as Klich found Rodrigo, whose cross was deflected horribly from a Villa perspective and headed over the line by James, doubling his account for the season within 38 minutes.

There was more to come from Bielsa’s side in the second half as defender Diego Llorente converted from close range for his second league goal of the season to equalise before Villa defender Ezri Konsa was shown a second yellow card late on, capping off a breathtaking spectacle.

The draw has not changed anything in terms of Leeds’ league position of 15th, however, the Yorkshire outfit do have the opportunity to put a healthy distance between themselves and the bottom three over the coming weeks, particularly with two games in hand on 14th placed Brentford, whom the Whites are level on points with.

Moreover, their six-point advantage over 18th placed Norwich could be extended with Bielsa’s men also having a game in hand on the Canaries.

It is in their hands and one thing is for certain, Leeds’ successes for the remainder of the campaign will correlate alongside the form of Daniel James.

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