Daily Archives: 24/10/2020

The Summer Transfer Window at Elland Road in Review – by Rob Atkinson

Nobody can accuse Leeds United of not going full tilt on their return to the Premier League after a 16-year absence, both on the pitch and in the transfer market. The board have backed maverick manager Marcelo Bielsa with an eclectic mix of new signings.

Besides bringing last season’s loanees Helder Costa and Illan Meslier in on permanent deals and extending Manchester City-owned Jack Harrison’s stay at Elland Road, some future prospects for the developmental squad have also joined. There are fresh faces for the first team too.

Former Bolton Wanderers loan capture Rodrigo only managed one goal during his first taste of English football a decade ago. Having since established himself at Valencia, the Brazil-born Spain forward has at least matched his tally for the Trotters at Leeds already.

Reinforcing defence was also a priority of Bielsa’s, although the expansive and open style of his team does not exactly lend itself automatically to clean sheets. Nonetheless, two full international centre backs in Robin Koch and Diego Llorente have arrived from Germany and Spain respectively.

The latter was part of an overachieving Real Sociedad side that finished sixth in La Liga last term and reached the Copa del Rey final. Koch, meanwhile, helped Freiburg progress from battling Bundesliga relegation to just missing out on European football for this season during his three years with them.

These are defenders on the up, then, and – provided they continue to improve in the crucible of the Premier League – they should serve Bielsa well. It appears as though Leeds have learned from Championship heartache and struggles to get back up into the big time.

Bielsa also has new wide options to support Rodrigo or Patrick Bamford who has the central striking berth for now. The wonderfully named Crysencio Summerville has been prolific for the Netherlands Under-19s, and the winger of Surinamese descent rejected a new deal at Feyenoord in favour of moving to Elland Road.

Brazilian wide prospect Raphinha arrived on transfer deadline day from French Ligue 1 outfit Rennes too. The 23-year-old has already played for Sporting Lisbon, one of the biggest clubs in Portugal, earlier in his career. If these options on the flanks can provide service, then they add value to the side.

Maintaining the high-intensity style demanded by Bielsa in what is a shortened season means the depth of the squad is key. Leeds have eight points from their first four games. Keep that average up, and there is nothing to worry about.

One or two transfers fell by the wayside, however. Bayern Munich’s midfielder Mickael Cuisance returned to his native France on loan at Marseille after a move to Elland Road broke down. Bielsa also missed out on creative compatriot midfielder Rodrigo De Paul from Udinese.

Despite that, the feeling is that Leeds may have done some smart business. Fans are firmly behind Bielsa after he did what managers with infinitely more experience of English football coming into the Elland Road hot seat failed to do. The adventure continues.

Marching On Together

Villa 0, Leeds 3 as Gobby Deactivates Twitter to Join Foreign Legion – by Rob Atkinson

Gobby – a very public humiliation

The delight of witnessing Leeds United’s 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa was reserved mainly for those willing to fork out an extra fifteen quid over and above normal subscriptions, as well as a few discerning types who found other, less official methods. Doubtless those who did cough up will consider their money well spent – the chance to see the Villans, who recently demolished Liverpool seven goals to two, themselves getting royally stuffed by our own heroes was one not to miss.

Happily, many who might otherwise have paid the price were so disgusted by the cynical exploitation of fans’ desire to see their team, that they chose to miss out, preferring instead to donate the £15 to a local food bank in the wake of our disgraceful government’s refusal to help feed poor kids who risk a hungry holiday without public support. I was proud to donate myself, and would urge others to do so. Last time I looked, the total raised was over £83,000.

So in the end, it may well be that Villa’s slaughter at the eager hands of “myth club” Leeds was even less visible than you might have thought, given its PPV status. But, over on Sky Sports News, the humiliation of Villa Rentamouth Gobby Agbonlahor, who had provided so much unintentional motivation for the United lads in the run-up to the game, was all too cruelly public.

Gobby, who had described Bielsa’s Leeds as a “myth”, and who had then made various other unwisely provocative statements, can be seen in the image above, clearly wilting and finally appalled as his beloved Villa were dismantled in a one-way second half at Villa Park. Realising, perhaps, that he’d effectively delivered Bielsa’s pre-match motivational talk for him, Gobby had admitted on his Twitter account that he needed a Villa win last night, or he’d have to deactivate his account in craven embarrassment. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything understands that the former Villa striker now plans to add a personal disappearance to his virtual one, joining the French Foreign Legion “to forget”.

Whatever the feelings of the crushed and humiliated Agbonlahor, we must not forget that Gobby’s not the only one who’ll be ordering several portions of humble pie – though it’s the crestfallen TalkSport pundit who’s taking the brunt of Villa fans’ frustration and disapproval on Twitter. But the likes of Dean Smith and John Terry have had this experience coming to them, ever since the match at Elland Road when Villa histrionics in the wake of a perfectly legal goal led Bielsa, realising that the media would be all over the incident, to order his team to allow the Villans of the piece a walk-in equaliser. Terry in particular was still mouthing off at Bielsa after this gesture (later recognised with a FIFA Fair Play Award), and it gives me immense pleasure to contemplate the current misery of that deeply unpleasant man. Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold, so United’s victory, and especially the manner of it, was sweeter and more delectable than the finest iced dessert.

It’s been a fabulous start to another sporting weekend, seeing Leeds United outrun, outplay, outthink and thoroughly outclass opponents who had prevailed in every previous match this season. I’d thought perhaps we might match if not exceed Liverpool’s feat of scoring twice at Villa Park, but – with skipper Cooper and midfield fulcrum Phillips both missing – I never suspected we’d concede seven fewer than the Champions.

Of course, we’re Champions too, albeit in a slightly less grand manner, and last night we produced a performance worthy of that title. Villa fans on Twitter were acknowledging at half time that Leeds had been the better side – with the scoreline blank, they hoped for and seemingly expected better things after the interval. But once Leeds had survived a mazy run and shot from Grealish, they were utterly irresistible and thoroughly deserved a victory that could easily have been a lot more emphatic, as even Dean Smith was heard to admit. It was a fabulous win and an unmistakeable message to the football world that United are back.

On a final note of exultation, we can now consider one particular debt repaid in full. Patrick Bamford’s last hat-trick was against Leeds a few years back, for Middlesbrough. Now, he’s repeated the feat, but in our colours and at a higher level. Patrick’s hat trick has raised his seasonal tally to six, and this likeable and increasingly lethal lad appears at last to be finding his confidence and enjoying himself in exalted company. All of which pleases me immensely as a long-time supporter of our No. 9.

As for Gobby – better luck next time, son. And maybe you’ll engage brain before opening mouth before we meet again. Though, given your astounding lack of judgement and discretion this time, I won’t be holding my breath…

Last word goes to Kalvin

Marching On Together