Leeds United Half Season Report: Make The Loan Signings Permanent And We Can Still Make The Playoffs
What's going right?
The takeover has finally gone through, which hopefully means we’ll finally have the resources to compete with other teams in the Championship. Neil Warnock’s summer signings have also shown potential, and we have a far stronger defence and better squad depth than we did this time last year. The arrival on the scene of youth academy product Sam Byram, who looks like our best prospect for a while, has also been nice.
Pretty much everything else. Our league form has been mid-table despite a small resurgence of late, attendances still haven’t recovered from the apathy generated by the Bates era, and there’s been an uncharacteristically quiet, flat atmosphere at Elland Road at some matches this season. We’ve also had to put up with vitriol from fans of other clubs and the press after some idiot decided it would be funny to smack Chris Kirkland in the face, ruining what might otherwise have been our goal of the season from Michael Tonge. We also seem to be going through a never ending injury crisis, although this problem has subsided of late with the return of Ross McCormack and inspired signings in the form of Alan Tate and Jerome Thomas.
Got the right manager?
To be fair to Warnock he’s made good signings on a shoestring budget, but neither the results nor the style of play have been much to shout about. Functional is probably the nicest thing you can say about Leeds United this year. We’ve barely passed the ball, and our goals have seemingly come from lucky breaks rather than any kind of attacking plan. I still hold out hope that Colin may obtain a much needed creative player in January, but is he the manager to take us forward, particularly if we get promoted? On performances this year I’m not sold. Our 6-1 defeat to the mighty Watford highlighted some serious tactical shortcomings on Colin’s part, and the league form hasn’t exactly been great. I’d like to see Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at Leeds, but failing that, a more attack minded, tactically astute manager in the mould of Roberto Martinez or Di Matteo would be great.
A few have stood out: Jamaican hard man Rudolph Austin, Paddy Kenny, all three of our loan players, Diouf, and the aforementioned Byram. In terms of importance to the team, though, Luciano Becchio has scored an exceptional 14 goals this year: more than double the tally of anyone else in the squad. Unusually for an Argentine, the 28 year old isn’t blessed with silky skills, but is great at holding up the ball, works harder than anyone else on the pitch, and is having probably his best ever season in a white shirt. After McCormack was injured in October the pressure has been on him to carry the team, so it’s all the more impressive that he’s done so.
Who would you like to sell in January?
No-one. Frankly we have a small but solid squad, and there are no expensive flops eating away at our wage bill. Having said that, I doubt many fans would be sad to see the back of Luke Varney, who’s been terrible in almost every game he’s played. Other journeyman players like Andy Gray and Michael Brown would also not be missed. To be honest, though, after the pain of losing our homegrown captain last season, it’d be nice to just have an empty outgoings box this time around.
Who do you want to sign?
Max Gradel would be great, but he’s happy at Saint-Etienne and I can’t personally see it happening. Otherwise, first priority is tying down our loan signings - Alan Tate, Michael Tonge and Jerome Thomas - to permanent deals. All 3 have come in and played very well for us, a marked contrast to some of our other loan signings in recent years. Another priority should be a decent attacking midfielder who can pass the ball. George Boyd has been suggested, and I suspect he would do the job well. Another option would be looking into loaning a young star like Tom Carroll who’s on the fringes of a Premier League team but would do very well at this level. For the sake of squad depth, another winger and another striker certainly wouldn’t go amiss either, and would give us more flexibility in terms of the formations we can play. The key here is that while we want to spend money, we shouldn’t be spending too much money while we’re 14th in the table.
Best chant so far?
Not a chant as such, but the way our 18,000 home fans kept singing when we were 6-1 down against Watford was pretty incredible. You wouldn’t get it at the Emirates anyway.
Best opposition player/team you've seen this season?
In terms of the league title it’s difficult to see past Cardiff. I always thought Malky Mackay was a great manager, and although I’m not exactly mad on the club, especially post-Malaysian rebranding, they have been playing the best football in the league and deserve to be top. Whittingham and Bellamy have both been instrumental in their success, but Tom Ince really stood out when Blackpool beat us 2-1 at the start of the season, so my best opposition player would probably be him.
Biggest **** of the season
That idiot from the Sheffield Wednesday game; let’s hope the ban sticks…
End of season prediction
Too late for automatic promotion, but with a signing or two the playoffs are perfectly achievable.