Tag Archives: transfer window

Lasogga and Ekuban Would Give Leeds New Attacking Dimension – by Rob Atkinson

Ekuban Lasogga

Caleb Ekuban – ideal strike partner for Pierre-Michel Lasogga?

If I can be a little upbeat, without offending the Leonard Cohen drones and clones that infest the LUFC Twitter hashtag, I have to say I saw more positives in one slightly unlucky defeat at Sheffield United than I have in perhaps half a dozen victories we’ve eked out this turbulent season. There just seemed to be that little bit extra about some of the players, a bit of desire and composure, especially in the second half, that has been lacking since the earliest part of this Championship campaign. It wasn’t enough, after a disastrous start at Bramall Lane, to get any tangible reward from the clash of the two Uniteds – but, in the final analysis, Leeds were maybe a couple of highly debatable decisions away from getting Paul Heckingbottom‘s tenure as Head Coach off to the best possible start.

Still, that’s history now, and we’re left seeking to take what encouragement we can from an improved display, albeit in defeat, from Leeds United. One noticeable element fairly late on was the introduction of Caleb Ekuban, who was lively and threatening up front as he worked away, making his runs and contesting every ball. One thing this blogger would love to see over the rest of the season is a good run of games where Leeds play with a front two. It would take a better tactician than me to suggest the ideal formation behind a twin strike-force, but I do feel that Pierre-Michel Lasogga, despite his fairly impressive goal-scoring record, has not been used to the team’s best advantage when asked to fulfil a lone striker role. It doesn’t seem to me that this solitary workhorse thing  is his forte, and yet, on the occasions when he’s had some support in attack – usually in a crisis, such as 0-2 down to Millwall at Elland Road – Lasogga has suddenly looked full of menace. Ekuban, such a willing worker, appears to be the ideal foil for the big German, probably more so than the misfiring Kemar Roofe – and it’s surely only a matter of time before he, too, chips in with the goals. It would be well deserved; Ekuban’s current drought is not for the want of effort in his rare appearances between injuries so far.

Any input from the team shape experts out there would be genuinely welcome. 3-5-2? A diamond in midfield with Samu Saiz (when available) at the front of it, operating just behind Pierre and Caleb? It was a very wise man who once said that attack is the best form of defence, and I’m sure I’m not alone in my desire to see United go fully onto the offensive, making opponents too busy trying to stem our attacking tide, even to consider mounting a threat of their own. Yep, that would be nice.

So, what do others think? Do we have the personnel to play two up front? What’s the best balance for the team in that situation? Let’s have a heated debate. The play-offs pressure is largely off, now – unless the team suddenly gets its act together and moves up towards the top six. And, I’d venture to suggest, if that were to happen, it’d most likely be as a result of just such an attacking change of policy as I’ve suggested here.

Am I simply deluded? Do let me know.

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Max Gradel Signals Desire for Leeds United Return – by Rob Atkinson

Max-Gradel-cropped

Mad Max Gradel wants to come home

Rule One of Social Media is that high profile sports stars say or do nothing without a reason – they don’t need to seek attention in their goldfish bowl existence; quite the contrary, if anything. So when, in the aftermath of the recent change of Head Coach at Leeds, former United attacking sensation Maxi Gradel comes out with a loved-up tweet about the Yorkshire giants, including the obligatory MOT hashtag, you can be tolerably sure that he’s not just passing the time of day. Max can see that Leeds United are about to buckle down and get serious about restoring elite status and, this blog believes, he wants to be a part of it.

Maxi Tweets

Max – still loves Leeds

Whether and when that might happen is a matter of conjecture, but it would be highly surprising if Gradel were not to be linked to an Elland Road return again in the summer. Given the current league position of the club, with a new coach feeling his way into the job and a brutal run of fixtures ahead, almost all of which are under the spotlight of live TV coverage, it seems more than likely that United will still be a Championship outfit next season. Should that be the case, then they will be looking for proven performers to displace some of their misfiring fringe players, and wide attack is one area that could stand some enhancement.

I believe that Leeds will be the likely destination for Ivory Coast international Gradel’s next career move; he has plenty left to offer, and still enjoys cult hero status among United fans. Moreover, it seems clear that he would relish a return to Elland Road – otherwise, why the pointed social media comments?

All in all, it seems that the prospect of Max back in the white yellow and blue of Leeds United next season could well morph into reality before too long, and most United fans will extend a warm welcome home to the talented forward. I’d give this one a good 8.5 out of 10 on the likeliness scale and, while some will say it’s merely wishful thinking, there are sound reasons on all sides to believe that a Gradel return to Leeds is going to happen.

If Max – currently on loan at Toulouse from Premier League AFC Bournemouthdoes come back, it’d be a massive step towards helping us hit the ground running for a promotion campaign next time around. He’d be that much of a shot in the arm for a club that has underachieved for too long now. Fingers crossed that Gradel’s social media output next season will reflect his contribution towards United’s return to the top.

Leeds United Announce Signing of Left Back Laurens De Bock – Rob Atkinson

Not everyone can bank 100k from sports betting. In fact, most bettors never even come remotely close. That said, if you choose your spots wisely, it’s still entirely possible for the average sports bettor to make a pretty penny every now and again.

If you’re betting on the Championship, you’ll know that Leeds United’s chances at finishing the season on top are slim-to-none. LUFC is currently 6th in the league on 43 points, though they’re still 18 points back of league leaders Wolves. Nobody is catching Wolves, but Leeds remains very much alive in the promotion playoff battle.

Leeds got a boost on Wednesday when the club announced the signing of 25-year-old Belgian left back Laurens De Bock. De Bock inked a four-and-a-half year deal with the English side after completing the £3M move from Club Brugge.

United’s new defender made more than 170 appearances for Club Brugge after joining the side from KSC Lokeren in the summer of 2013. He has additionally earned 11 caps with Belgium’s under-21 side, though he has still yet to debut for the country’s high-powered senior national team.

De Bock has made the vast majority of his professional appearances as a left back, though he does have a bit of experience in central defence, as well. The player has been an integral cog with his club over the last several years, though this season Club Brugge switched their formation to one that deploys three centre halves at the back. That move has essentially cost De Bock his spot as a regular first-team starter.

De Bock has moonlighted playing on the left side of the midfield at times this season, but he was reportedly more interested in first-team work at his traditional spot at left back.

Laurens won a league title with Club Brugge, and he’s also played in Champions League and Europa League in the past. That kind of big-game experience should suit the player well with his new side, which is fighting for promotion into the Premier League.

He’ll fill the gaping hole at left back left by Charlie Taylor, who departed Leeds for Burnley last summer. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson was signed on loan from Manchester United to replace Taylor, but the youngster has failed to leave his mark in his brief time with his new club. Vurnon Anita, Gaetano Berardi and Stuart Dallas have also tried to hold down the fort at the position, though none of them have succeeded.

“Completely Lacking Spirit and Passion”: Leeds Owner Radrizzani Issues Stern Rebuke – by Rob Atkinson

In a complete departure from his usual urbanely diplomatic stance, Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has taken to Twitter and bemoaned the “lowest moment for me since I joined” in what are, for him, harshly critical terms.

Normally, Radrizzani confines himself to what amounts to a supportive and broadly positive stance, preferring to exhort the fans to greater heights of support rather than issue any direct criticism. This tweet, though, utterly abandons any such diplomacy, and instead hits hard – striking right to the heart of any football professional‘s self-image. In accusing the players of lacking spirit and passion, he is levelling about the most serious charge imaginable. Let nobody doubt the anger and frustration behind such frank and revealing words.

It may be that Andrea has been rattled by the spitting storm that threatens to engulf the club, depriving Leeds of their best attacking player Samu Saíz for maybe up to six games – if the charge is proven. That would be enough to unsettle the most sanguine of club owners but, even so, Radrizzani’s words are pointed in the extreme. Tweeted to the entire Leeds United Universe, the criticism is scathing, devastating. Anybody on the Leeds United payroll will disregard this at their extreme peril.

It looks as though the owner is a long way short of happy. To an extent, the remedy is in Radrizzani’s own hands, with most of the January transfer window remaining available to him. It’s fair to surmise that, as the owner has seen fit to be so very publicly critical, and about areas of the game that form the basis of professional pride too, then much harsher words will be spoken in private behind the scenes at Elland Road. And what might come of that – well, it’s anyone’s guess. But the gloves are off now, the owner has broken cover and the game’s afoot.

There has, as yet, been no dreaded “vote of confidence”, for which small mercy Thomas Christiansen, our likeable Head Coach, may perhaps breathe a small sigh of relief. But a warning shot has definitely been fired across the bows of the Leeds staff, both playing and coaching. Once the top man identifies a deficiency in the Spirit and Passion Department, then something most definitely has to be done. The only one of the Holy Trinity of pro qualities not identified was “commitment” and, based on the Cup showing at Newport, that was most probably an oversight on Andrea’s part.

One way or another, the mood around the club has just been amply clarified in resoundingly emphatic terms; following momentous words like that, some sort of decisive action can usually be anticipated. It should be an interesting next few weeks down LS11 way.

Cardiff Revisited for Leeds as Whites Crash Out of Cup at Newport – by Rob Atkinson

South Wales

South Wales: Leeds United’s 21st Century FA Cup graveyard

An early lead in the FA Cup Third Round for Leeds United in an away tie in South Wales, live on TV. A sending off for our talismanic blond striker, then a late winner for opponents many places below us in the league ladder. A classic Cup shock, to the delight of the media and the nation as a whole. Yes – that was the fate of Leeds United 16 years and one day ago at Cardiff City. And today at Newport County, the same grisly circumstances played themselves out all over again as history eerily repeated itself to leave United stunned and “free to concentrate on the League”. For Alan Smith, read Samu Saíz. For Ninian Park, read Rodney Parade. The joyous celebrations in the media and around the nation remain identical.

On that previous occasion, United’s League position could not have been better – top of the Premier League pile with the Title in their sights. Today, the situation is of comparative poverty, with Leeds in and around the Championship play-off places after an inconsistent first half of the League campaign. Exiting the FA Cup is no tragedy, it’s happened once a year for the past 46 seasons. What we must hope is that the League slump, which followed United’s virtually identical Cup defeat 16 years ago, is not now replicated by Thomas Christiansen‘s troops. In that regard, it will clearly be seen that the sending-off of late and needless sub Saíz is far more potentially damaging to Leeds than an almost predictable Cup cock-up.

The really worrying thing was that, yet again, so many of the fringe players were found wanting when asked to step up and take their chances. We all know there’s a certain pressure that goes with the territory of playing for a club like Leeds, where expectations are always higher than attainments and the weight of history can be a heavy burden on young shoulders. But this fact has to inform player recruitment; it has to be a factor when targets are identified. Quality is essential, and will become ever more so as and when Leeds move upwards. But character and guts, with the ability to handle the goldfish-bowl environment and the glare of publicity – these are vital too, and it would seem that, in too many current squad members, those characteristics – epitomised today by lone warrior and scorer Gaetano Berardi – are sadly lacking.

Despite the uncanny similarity of the two South Wales FA Cup exits, 16 years apart, there’s no hiding the fact that the squad defeated at Cardiff was light years ahead of the current bunch in skill, character, attitude, desire – all the components of a successful football unit. That’s the gulf we have somehow to bridge over the next few years, if we’re to usher in our second century in a state befitting the history and global fame of this great club. On the evidence of the entire campaign so far – and in particular, based on the unpalatable offering we had to digest against Newport on Sunday lunchtime – there are light years still to travel, and this at a time when the clubs at the top of the game are streaking further away from the also-rans at an increasing speed.

By common consent, this squad – as a whole – is simply not good enough, and it will take more than boardroom platitudes to deal with that fact. The defeat at Cardiff was the start of a long and slippery slope for United. The best we can wish here and now is that the defeat at Newport might yet be part of the process whereby, slowly and painfully though it may be, Leeds United somehow contrive a return to something like their previous illustrious heights.

Grayson Haunted by Ghost of Wasted Leeds Transfer Windows Past – by Rob Atkinson

Grayson

Simon says: get the chequebook out if you want more promotion fizz

Simon Grayson is a man and a manager who knows a thing or two about getting clubs promoted from difficult leagues. As a lifelong Leeds fan and ex-United boss, he knows quite a bit about the Whites, too. One of the promotions on his CV came during his tenure as Leeds manager, and he was well-placed to achieve a second successive elevation after guiding his United team to second in the Championship halfway through that first season back up to that level. His verdict on that season is that investment needed to maintain a promotion challenge was not forthcoming, and thus Leeds fell away.

Looking back, few would argue with that assessment. So, when Sky Sports pundit Grayson stated, immediately after Leeds United‘s disappointing goalless draw with Nottingham Forest, that United are “a few players short” of kicking on, you really have to listen to such hard-won wisdom. It would seem he’s worried that history will repeat itself, that the failure to strengthen which eventually cost him the Leeds job may yet imperil current boss Thomas Christiansen.

Christiansen himself, when asked in the aftermath of defeat at Birmingham about team strengthening in the window just opened, merely stated “That is not a question for me”. It wasn’t the most ringing endorsement of January window boardroom caution (or complacency), and you suspect that, given his own way, Thomas would happily go shopping. His refusal to commit even to an opinion raises suspicions that the Elland Road chequebook may not see much of the light of day in the month to come.

Grayson, though, is under no obligation to keep his thoughts to himself, and he speaks from a position of expertise when he identifies deficiencies in the Leeds squad, up front most especially. To make up for that lack of cutting edge would cost serious money, but the old saw about speculating to accumulate rings as true at Leeds as it does anywhere else. The other side of that coin is that a failure to invest represents false economy, if the outcome is to miss out – yet again – on the crock of gold at the end of the promotion rainbow. That, in a nutshell, is the lesson of 2011.

Leeds are solvent enough to have their chances of the play-offs at least in their own hands. The money is there, beyond reasonable doubt, from the sales of Wood and Taylor to Burnley. Ironically, it’s a reliable striker and a specialist left-back we’re particularly short of right now, so there might even be a moral obligation, as well as a fiscal case, for investment to invigorate the squad for the rest of the season.

In my opinion, Christiansen’s refusal to comment on incoming transfers, beyond remarking that he will be talking to the board, speaks volumes. And what it might be saying is: give me the tools, and I’ll finish the job. His performance so far this season, given those two high-profile departures to Turf Moor, has been respectable to say the least – and he has unearthed a couple of diamonds in his summertime recruitment, aided, no doubt, by Victor Orta. Now, the opportunity is there to build on that fairly successful summer , as well as to make up for unavoidable losses in the outgoings market.

Watch this space. Leeds fans will be watching too, with a very close eye on what the club will or won’t do this month, and a characteristic readiness to draw conclusions about just how ambitious and hungry for promotion Leeds United really are.

Leeds Fans Flocking Back as New Owner Prepares to Acquire Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

Andrea

Radrizzani – master of all he surveys

Suddenly, there’s a feelgood factor about Leeds United, one that I’ve long predicted would come about when – and only when – the club became free of Massimo Cellino. Only when the maverick Italian was gone would we be able to look ahead with optimism. Only then could we start Marching On Together again, instead of being hopelessly disunited. And now it’s finally happened – Cellino has departed from Elland Road, a harmful and divisive influence whose supporters could see only good in him, and whose detractors could see only bad.

Whoever was right – and the truth, as ever, was probably somewhere in the middle – it was this dramatic polarisation of opinion in the support base that was so bad for Leeds. A support divided against itself could not be wholeheartedly behind the club. Now, the issue dividing us is gone, and it must be every United fan’s fervent hope that we can all start singing once again from the same hymn sheet.

New sole owner Andrea Radrizzani has certainly got off on the right foot, and we will expect him to maintain his positive outlook. For the first few days of his tenure, taking up the option on Garry Monk‘s extra year, with a longer-term deal to be discussed, would have been fine on its own. Add to that tying down one of the most exciting midfield prospects in the country to a four year deal, and we appear to be cooking with gas – because Ronaldo Vieira is every bit as hot a prospect as his famous names would suggest. And then, the cherry on the icing on the cake for this momentous first week of Radrizzani – it would seem that the club will once again own its spiritual home of Elland Road “by the end of the summer”.

That stadium purchase timescale lacks the immediate impact of Cellino’s “off down the ATM to get the money to buy the ground on Day One” promise. But the difference is, of course, that Radrizzani will probably deliver on his less sensational claim, whereas Cellino’s soundbite was just the first of many he failed to bring to fruition. Any Leeds fan will tell you it’s always felt better when our home was our own – it’s a reassuring prospect to look forward to and, at last, we can look forward with confidence.

And the summer as a whole is looking a lot brighter than previous summers have turned out to be, irrespective of the amount of sunshine we get. Radrizzani has stated that he is “here to make history, not money”. That’s a very sensible and realistic plan for any owner; making good on it is something else, but the intentions are spot on. It’s rightly said that the only way to make a small fortune out of football is by starting off with a large one – but the owner who has his eye on making history will inevitably find that financial rewards accrue also. Just getting into the Premier League would yield a bountiful harvest, as either Huddersfield or Reading are about to find out. The difference is that, when it’s Leeds United’s turn, there will be a new force in the top league capable of building on the financial bounty to make a mark in the game.

These are exciting times, as witness the flood of season ticket purchases for the next campaign. United have hit 15,000 already, before the old season is actually finished. That’s an impressive performance compared to other recent years, and a sign of the new feeling around the club. What divided us has gone, what has always united us is still alive and kicking; that big club buzz of an awakening giant.

Good luck, Andrea, and all your new backroom staff. As for the future – bring it on. The way things have started, it should be one to relish.

Jonny Howson Back to Leeds United, But NOT Jermaine Beckford – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United v Bristol Rovers

Jermaine and Jonny during THAT Bristol Rovers game

A headline this morning screams that Leeds United should bring Jonny Howson and Jermaine Beckford, the two League One promotion goal heroes, back to Elland Road. As pre-transfer window speculative press advice goes, it’s nearer the mark than 90% of the rubbish out there – but it’s still only half right at best.

Judged on their merits, the two cases are miles apart. Howson is still the real deal, coming up to his 29th birthday, a mature goal-scoring midfielder who has performed creditably in the Premier League. He thrived at Leeds before the environment around LS11 turned toxic, at which time his best move was out. If he’s now available to bring back into the fold, it would be a very good option for a United midfield sorely in need of top-level experience and the kind of commitment that comes with a player who is also a fan.

Beckford, on the other hand, shows all the signs of having put the best of his playing career far behind him. I still believe that he should have given himself a chance of securing a second successive promotion with Leeds United, after helping get the club out of League One in 2010. Obviously, there were compelling financial reasons for his move to Everton, and he did make a mark of sorts at Goodison Park. But thereafter, it’s been a case of each successive move leading to a diminution of his reputation, and the signals have always been there that he left his heart and soul behind at Elland Road – he’s perhaps the opposition player best known for his ongoing rapport with our crowd, complete with Leeds salute. I can’t help thinking that he has his regrets, but realistically he’s not a viable option for a United squad on the way up (we hope). The rule of thumb here is, since he’s been released by Preston, there’s not too much – sadly – that he can now offer to Leeds United.

Many more names will be bandied about over the coming weeks, some of them formerly of this parish, and many more who might be new and exciting additions to the club. But if I could have one choice for a player to return, I wouldn’t look much further (with the honourable exception of Rob Snodgrass) than Jonny Howson, who I feel really could add that winning spark to next years United squad.

 

Leeds’ Promotion Push Bolstered by £17m Worth of New Talent   –   by Rob Atkinson

Modou Barrow (left) and Alfonso Pedraza (right)

The Leeds United powers that be have thankfully shown a pleasing amount of last-minute transfer market acumen with the deadline day acquisition of two pacy, talented wide players whose effect will potentially be to enhance the attacking unit’s potency all the way across the forward line. 

With the “try before you buy” loan signings of Alfonso Pedraza from Villareal, with an option to buy in summer for £8.5m, and Modou Barrow (purchase option £9m rising to £11m) from manager Garry Monk‘s former club Swansea City, Leeds have not only added options out wide, they have made the whole offensive situation that much more fluid. Both new signings are able to play out wide or more centrally, but their addition to the squad frees up the likes of Roofe, Doukara and even Dallas, none of whom are natural touchline-huggers, to operate further infield in support of lone spearhead Chris Wood. The advantages of this increased flexibility could be considerable, both game-to-game and within games, to stir things up as may be necessary. And suddenly having two proper wingers could even reap a bonus in terms of increased effectiveness for the misfiring Marcus Antonsson, a good striker who has starved for lack of service on his rare appearances for the first team. 

The Leeds United Twitter timeline was a toxic place to be, though, up until the signing of Barrow, with much wailing, cursing, rending of clothes and gnashing of teeth. Even after the arrival of the Swansea man, there remained some truculence and discontent. But many more were quite happy in the end, with a window that had added two quality arrivals to a highly effective if hitherto slightly patchy squad. Among those satisfied, we can presumably count Monk himself, who had appeared somewhat tense and distrait as the transfer clock ticked down. He wanted two signings and that’s what he eventually got. We can surely assume that he has the plan to make best use of the squad now in place. 

So, attention now turns to Ewood Park on Wednesday, and the urgent necessity of dealing with Blackburn Rovers. The standard approach of concentrating on each three points up for grabs as they coma along will continue to serve Leeds well, and the club will be acutely conscious of the need to restore face after the embarrassment of Sutton United

Neither new signing is available for Wednesday’s encounter, but both will be up for consideration at Huddersfield on Sunday. Six points is a lot to ask from these two tricky fixtures, but the form of our play-off and promotion rivals makes it almost a necessity to secure a maximum return if at all possible. But, according to the Monk Mantra, it’s still one game at a time and steady as she goes. 

The rest of the season beckons, with no Cup distractions. The opportunity is there for Leeds United, suitably bolstered by increased pace and width, to write another glorious page of their illustrious history. A promotion charge is a clear and present possibility, one glance at the table confirms that. In the race for the top-flight, fortune will surely favour the brave. Bring it on. 

Leeds United Will Ignore Manager Monk’s Warning Tone At Their Peril   –   by Rob Atkinson

Garry-Monk

Monk: time for the club to support him

As the January transfer window draws inexorably to a close, Leeds United‘s highly-rated young manager Garry Monk has delivered himself of a cleverly-loaded quote – one that his employers would do well not to ignore.

On the same day that academy graduate Alex Mowatt finally moved on to Barnsley (despite assurances that nobody in and around the first team would be sold) Monk has reacted thus: “I can only assume that the players the club have talked about will come through the door as soon as possible. I am excited. We need to strengthen.”

It’s a statement loaded with subtextual significance. Reading between the lines, the manager’s “excitement” sounds more like the onset of frustration. When he says “I can only assume” in reaction to Mowatt’s departure, it sounds very much as though the sale was not entirely desirable from his point of view – unless there are incoming reinforcements due. The unsaid addendum to “I can only assume” is “because otherwise, the club is messing me about and not supporting me as promised”.

Time is running out, fast. There is 4th Round FA Cup business to attend to this weekend, a potential banana skin of a game at Sutton Utd in which, ironically, Mowatt might have been expected to play a prominent role. But, beyond that, there will then be mere hours to provide the couple of players that Monk has continually said he needs. It would not do to frustrate and stymie a manager who has made this season so much more memorable, and for all the right reasons, than the past few have been. Garry Monk has done wonders for Leeds United, and the club is honour-bound to back up his efforts with quality recruits to give his squad the best chance of success.

Furthermore, if Leeds are once more to disappoint their fan base as well as their manager, with yet another window in which expectations have been merely managed and not met, then it really does make no sense to lose Mowatt now, with so many potentially vital games left to play. The mercurial midfielder with that wand of a left foot may not be the kind of player to build a team or a promotion challenge around but, on his day, he could be a game changer with his undoubted potential to grab a spectacular goal like a bolt from the blue. You need that kind of unexpected element in a squad. With Mowatt gone, and even Murphy and Diagouraga too, the first team pool is markedly weaker than it was at the start of January – when the aim surely had to have been to strengthen.

Make no mistake, Garry Monk is putting the pressure on his employers to deliver, and rightly so. He’s saying that, with Mowatt sold, it would make no sense for there not to be incomings over the next few days. It would be against all logic, it would be foolish and it would be a betrayal. It’s all there. That one quote says it all, quite subtly, but nevertheless unmistakably. Garry Monk expects and requires action, not just words. If the club lets him down, they will potentially risk losing the best thing to happen to them in a long, long while.

Leeds United must listen to their manager, and they must heed his between the lines warning. It’s high time for the club to put its money where its mouth is.