Let’s face it, back in April prior to kick-off at home to Wigan, we were rather hoping our season would not be starting this weekend. A nightmare showing in the final four games of last season consigned Leeds United to the Playoffs when automatic promotion looked likely. The horror show didn’t end there sadly. Despite leading 2-0 on aggregate, the pressure finally told and Bielsa’s men imploded in a frenetic final 50 minutes at Elland Road. Despite battering Derby County for three and a half games last season, they managed somehow to leave the back door ajar and the rest as they say is history.
Arguably the club’s most significant piece of business was concluded very early on, much to the relief of fans, players and the board alike. Marcelo Bielsa has committed to at least one more season in the pursuit of returning United to the Premier League in their centenary season. So what needs to be different this time around? Apart from the obvious recruitment in key areas, most notably at centre half, on the flanks and possibly up front? Bielsa and his coaching staff will have found enough encouragement in our style of play last season and will be looking for a better chance conversion ratio, a few less injuries as well as that little bit of luck that deserted them.
Jack Harrison was the first player through the door which was met with general enthusiasm following his form going into the last few games. His arrival was shortly followed by Ben White on loan from Brighton. A player highly rated by Bielsa as a young ball playing Centre Back. Jack Clarke, as expected left the building, all be it temporarily as he returns on loan from Spurs. The £9m + fee paved the way for the clubs marquee signing in the shape of Helder Costa on a season long loan with a deal agreed to make this permanent next year. It was clear from the outset that Costa was the man Bielsa identified as a key target so to complete the deal for the Portuguese Winger is a real coup for Leeds.
Most of the outgoings in fairness were expected. A number of fringe players have moved on, including Samuel Saiz to Girona on a permanent deal. What was quite unexpected was the sale of Pontus Jansson to Brentford. Jansson cut a forlorn figure on the side of the pitch, in an empty Elland Road, following defeat to Derby County. It’s not quite clear whether there was some fallout between Jansson and the club or if he was as suggested by Jansson himself a victim of the clubs FFP (Financial fair play) restrictions? Either way Pontus moves on for a surprisingly low fee and the club moves on. It’s hard to argue that the departure of Jansson improves United’s options in defence and surely weakens them? Of course this will depend largely on the success of White and if the club will look to move for another signing in this area, although there is nothing to suggest that they will. To date, Leeds have managed to rebuff the advances of Aston Villa who have been sniffing around Kalvin Phillips. Presumably Villa are simply requesting a meeting where Phillips empties his pockets and returns Jack Grealish before Villa begin life in the top flight?
The Future Is Bright
If the clubs business so far has underwhelmed many, then i can understand why. It would have been great to have seen Dwight Gayle and Gary Cahill arrive to bolster United’s charge. Clearly the funds required to pull off such signings aren’t available so Bielsa must once again try to work his magic on the current crop. In the midst of Playoff heartache and after many days/ weeks of soul searching, i found myself looking towards the emerging young talent that Bielsa may have at his disposal. Jamie Shackleton, Jack Clarke, Robbie Gotts, Ryan Edmondson and Jordan Stevens, having enjoyed a fantastic season for the U23’s will surely get their chance? If these players are to emerge and realise their undoubted potential at Leeds, then they must grasp the opportunity of another season at this level. Promotion would have significantly reduced their chances of breaking into the first team squad. The future of the club looks to be in good shape and as we have seen already, Bielsa will select players on ability irrespective of age.
Bristol City Away
An extra day to wait for our season to get underway courtesy of Sky Sports. Another season of fixture changes await for the giant of the EFL as the broadcasters clamour for the ratings boost that United’s loyal following generate. Last time Leeds travelled to Ashton Gate a 9th Minute Patrick Bamford goal was enough to separate the two sides. Earlier in the season, United dispatched Johnson’s City 2-0 at Elland Road. A cause for optimism, sure, however Johnson has spent big this summer on Thomas Kalas (£8m), Jay Dasilva (£2m) and Daniel Bentley (£2m) suggesting they could be serious contenders for promotion this season.
Here’s hoping that Bamford takes some confidence from this and finds his goal scoring from that eluded him in pre-season. A fully fit Bamford should be good for 15-20 goals this season, anything less than this will be seen as below par for the £7m striker. Ahead of the trip to Bristol, Bielsa has a few injury concerns to contend with, a familiar tale unfortunately. Kemar Roofe, Luke Ayling, Tyler Roberts and the suspended Gaetano Berardi will all miss out. Jamie Shackleton is also unlikely to feature and Leeds are also sweating on the fitness of Adam Forshaw following last weeks friendly against Cagliari. Here’s how United could line up: