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Leeds United

Can Marcelo Bielsa turn Luke Ayling into a central defender?

The Leeds United full-back might have another job to do next season.

Mathew Nash

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Leeds United are about to embark on a new adventure under the management of their new boss Marcelo Bielsa.

The Argentine is a bold and ambitious appointment by the club and it should bring with it plenty of changes.

The formation that Bielsa chooses to use at Elland Road has now been a constant topic of discussion. The Argentine likes to employ a three at the back system.

If he was to do that then some big changes would be needed at Leeds this summer. The West Yorkshire side are not exactly blessed with central defending options.

But do they have a player who could fulfil the role perfectly?

Ever since his arrival from Bristol City the right-back Luke Ayling has been one of Leeds’ most consistent performers.

Whilst a full-back by trade, he has filled in at the heart of defence before.

If Bielsa is going to implement a three-man backline then Leeds are going to need to dig deep to bring in new signings. Unless they use what they already have.

Ayling could be a great option in a defensive trio, where Bielsa will expect his players to be far more comfortable on the ball.

Leeds need to bring in at least one new central defender this summer, with rumours linking them to Ayling’s old Arsenal pal Kyle Bartley.

A back three of Bartley, Pontus Jansson and Ayling might just be perfect in a new Bielsa system.

Sports journalist based in Bristol. Previously spent five years writing for HITC Sport. Everton fan for my sins.

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Leeds United

Jay-Roy Grot right to choose VVV Venlo over Fenerbahce this summer

The Dutchman was reportedly wanted by the Turkish giants.

Mathew Nash

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It was no surprise earlier this month that Leeds United loaned out Dutch forward Jay-Roy Grot. He headed back to the Netherlands, joining VVV Venlo, after failing to make a significant impact at Elland Road.

What might come as a surprise is the other team who apparently wanted him?

According to Fotospor in Turkey, the 20-year-old also had the chance to join Fenerbahce this summer. The Dutchman was reportedly a target for his countryman and newly appointed Fener boss Phillip Cocu.

It would certainly have been a shock to see the bullish front-man make the move to one of Turkish football’s biggest clubs, considering his season at Leeds.

(Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images)

Grot did not impress fans with his performances at Elland Road. In a total of 22 matches for Leeds, he managed one goal and one assist.

Despite possessing clear raw talent, it seemed first-team football in the Championship was a little beyond him at the time.


“We believe that Jay-Roy has a strong future ahead of him and we feel that regularly playing games is going to be a key part of his development.”

– Leeds United director of football Victor Orta after Grot’s loan deal went through


What he needs now is regular playing time somewhere he feels comfortable, like Venlo. Moving to Fenerbahce would have been a big mistake, despite the lure of the Istanbul giants. The Leeds man decided his future was best off benefitting from a spell back in Holland and he is absolutely right to do so.

Hopefully, he can prove himself a talent worthy of a future at Leeds.

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Leeds United

Leeds’ loan signing of Jamal Blackman adds much-needed goalkeeping depth

Max Cohen

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Jamal Blackman
Photo: Getty Images

On Monday, Leeds United announced the loan signing of goalkeeper Jamal Blackman from Chelsea.

The 24-year-old Englishman represents an astute signing on Marcelo Bielsa’s part, adding much-needed depth and Championship experience to the squad.

This summer, the Yorkshire club have seen nine players depart Elland Road, including goalkeepers Felix Wiedwald and Andy Lonergan.

As a result of this large turnover, the Whites have been left extremely short-staffed between the sticks, with only 21-year-old Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the mix with meaningful first-team experience.

Blackman is a smart addition to the squad as it is clear more goalkeeping options are needed, and it would be naive to allow Peacock-Farrell to occupy the undisputed number one spot when he only has 12 Championship appearances to his name.

Although the youngster’s performances during the final months of last season showed his impressive potential, Peacock-Farrell nevertheless conceded 18 goals and kept just a solitary clean sheet in 11 matches.

(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

In future seasons, the 21-year-old will be trusted with the starting spot but, for now, Jamal Blackman is a more effective option and can teach Peacock-Farrell about goalkeeping in the Championship.

Blackman made 31 appearances for Sheffield United last season, steering the Blades to an impressive tenth-placed finish, nine points above Leeds. The goalkeeper kept nine clean sheets and only conceded 34 goals, a laudable feat.

In addition, Chelsea experts think highly of the goalkeeper, as the club has continued to hold to his services permanently after numerous loan spells – perhaps indicating they hold out hope he can perform for the Blues at a top level one day.

Speaking to Leeds Live, football.london Chelsea writer Oliver Harbord praised Blackman’s saving abilities.

“He comes with the reputation of being a top shotstopper with some excellent reactions.”

In all, the season-long loan signing of Jamal Blackman is a smart piece of business from Leeds, bolstering their threadbare goalkeeping options with a highly-rated young shot-stopper.

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Leeds United

Did Marcelo Bielsa not want Kyle Bartley at Leeds United?

The former Leeds loanee has joined West Brom.

Mathew Nash

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Some Leeds United fans were left disappointed today when it became clear that Kyle Bartley will not be heading back to Elland Road. The defender is instead on his way to West Brom, joining in a deal eventually worth up to £6 million.

It is something of a strange transfer miss from Leeds, considering they looked so likely to sign the player earlier this summer.

It was April when Leeds were first linked with his signature. That transfer link remained throughout several differing problems. Swansea were relegated, but Leeds remained keen. Carlos Carvalhal left Swansea, but a deal still looked likely. Leeds sacked Paul Heckingbottom but Bartley still appeared to be a Leeds target.

(Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)

The rumours only dried up after Marcelo Bielsa was appointed.

So it would be reasonable to hypothesize that Bielsa might be the man who decided Bartley was no longer right for Leeds.

A star for the club in 2016-17 he had an injury-troubled spell last term. But it could simply be that Bielsa is not a fan. He and Victor Orta may already have their eyes on someone else.

Leeds fans are rightly a cautious bunch, considering the turmoil their owners have put them through in the past. But this summer some patience and trust might be needed if Bielsa is to bring any success to Elland Road.

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