Leeds United completed a satisfactory Irish section of their pre-season programme yesterday, with a comfortable 3-0 win at Shamrock Rovers to follow Wednesday evening’s 2-1 victory over Shelbourne. The 100% success rate is gratifying enough, but more significant is the fact that United seem to have added appreciably to their options going forward.
Last season, progress for Leeds was hindered by a lack of goals. The summer’s big signing, Chris Wood, struggled through injury and a lack of service, though he still went on to be top scorer. The lack of firepower alongside Wood, as well as poor service from out wide, conspired to limit both chances and goals for a United side that never really threatened to challenge towards the top.
There are early signs, though, that the coming season might be different. In the two victories this week, three new recruits have shown they might just have what it takes to increase the Leeds forward threat. Swedish striker Marcus Antonsson notched a brace in Saturday’s stroll at the Tallaght Stadium, his two goals sandwiching a Wood penalty. This alone seems to promise a productive partnership, but it was Antonsson’s hard work and movement that really caught the eye as he presented many a problem for the Shamrock defence. Add to this the pace and trickery of fellow big-money signing Kemar Roofe, along with loanee Hadi Sacko and the youthful promise of the exotically-named Ronaldo Vieira, and things might just be looking up for the Yorkshire giants as an attacking force.
Compared to the hard times of last season, it’s already looking like an embarrassment of riches up front for Leeds and, with the sure touch of new coach and former Swansea defender Garry Monk at the tiller, a significant improvement in the defensive third would be no real surprise. Further recruitment is expected, perhaps another winger coming in – NEC Nijmegen’s Anthony Limbombe is hotly-tipped to sign – and some strengthening in midfield where United have lost a potential star in young Lewis Cook, to Bournemouth. With another centre-back also on the agenda, it could well be a busy time at Elland Road as the countdown to the big kick-off proceeds.
Exciting times for Leeds perhaps – and yet nobody who knows the club will be getting too excited just yet. The wins in Ireland are encouraging, but the potential of the group Monk is putting together will face sterner tests before the season starts in earnest. A glamour friendly at Elland Road will see Serie A aristocrats Atalanta provide a real challenge on July 30th. By then, there may be new faces in the United team, with the recruits we’ve seen so far further bedded in. Garry Monk, though, will be focusing all his preparations on the Championship opener at Queens Park Rangers on August 7th, when live TV will give millions the chance to pass judgement on this new Leeds United.
For the time being, it’s looking promising for new coach Monk and his new team. Perhaps Leeds United might be about to launch a serious bid for promotion, something their long-suffering fans will confirm would be long overdue.