There’s genuinely quite a bit to be positive about for Leeds United, going into the new season. We have one of the most highly rated young managers in the country, a plethora of attacking talent in the squad and a decent preseason under our belt. We are still lacking in key areas but, as it stands, I can see us having a much more positive season than our last outing.
Things weren’t looking too good as Leeds entered June with no manager, no signings, and no preseason plans. The situation was very grim, like a glory hole in a Bradford centre Wetherspoons. Fortunately, things kicked into life on June 2nd when the club announced the appointment of ex-Swansea boss, Garry Monk. After numerous candidates had already turned down the job, it was a massive coup to land Monk.
Monk’s appointment was a huge boost for the club and its long-suffering fan base. Throughout June, Monk quickly(ish) reassembled his Swansea backroom staff, with Pep Clotet, and James Beattie joining the club. These were important additions and showed that ‘controversial owner,’ Massimo Cellino was going to give Monk a real chance to try and replicate some of what he achieved in South Wales. The positivity didn’t end there either, a burst of activity in early July saw the acquisition of 6 new players and the exit of many.
The additions of Marcus Antonsson, Hadi Sacko, Kemar Roofe and latterly Pablo Hernández have given Leeds an impressive arsenal by Championship standards. If Monk can find the right combination, goals should not be in short supply this season. Monk also agreed loan deals with his former club for Kyle Bartley and Matt Grimes. Bartley was an important signing, as our defensive game has been shambolic for years now. If he can recapture some of the form we saw at Swansea, he could be in the running for Player of the Year.
Rob Green was also brought in to help sure up the defence, which I thought was a strange move. While I agree that his box management is better than Silvestri’s, he is still prone to utter howlers, is easily bullied at set-pieces and isn’t a fan of pressure. If we were set on bringing in another keeper, I’d have made a really push for Alex McCarthy from Palace (who has since joined Southampton). Funds obviously played a part but with a limited budget, I think was an unnecessary addition to the squad.
Along with new arrivals, Leeds made the decision to move on a number of players who have become surplus to requirements. Mirco Antenucci, Tommaso Bianchi, and Casper Sloth were all allowed to leave the club. All were brought in during Cellino’s first summer at the club and while all had a certain amount of talent, none were really suited to The Championship. The loan of Giuseppe Bellusci to Empoli however, was probably the best bit of transfer business by Leeds United this summer. Bellusci, bar a few moments of quality, has been one of the worst signings in Leeds history. Petulant, antagonistic, selfish, useless and all round an unpleasant human being. His removal will do more for dressing room morale than a team building weekend at the playboy mansion. This has been one of the best transfer windows at Elland Road for a long time.
This is Leeds United though and we can’t have a totally positive summer, the sporting gods just won’t allow it. Like clockwork, just days after the signing of Kemar Roofe for £3m, someone came along and booted us in our collective balls. The Football League Young Player of the Year, Lewis Cook, was sold to Bournemouth for £6m(rising to 10). The situation has worsened still in the last few days with Club Player of the Year, Charlie Taylor, handing in a transfer request. These are two huge blows to the club, for many reasons, not least of which being that Garry Monk had planned to build his team around our academy stars.
The reasons for the loss/potential loss of two of our prized assets on the cheap are too numerous to really go into here. However, I will say that these events weren’t a surprise and follow a decade-long trend at Leeds United of unbelievable short-sightedness, lack of ambition and all out fuckwittery. It has undermined Monk’s plans and sapped a lot of the positivity out of the fans and the club should have tried much harder to prevent this.
Having said that, I can still see us having a fun season, similar to what Wolves did in 2014/15. Our attacking options should give us the pace and enough chances at goal to overcome at least half of the division. Our lack of quality at the back, however, will see us come up short against the better teams in the Championship. I can see us smashing in a fair few of goals and being part of some classic second tier 6-8 goal ‘thrillers,’ that thrill no one who actually has to sit through full 90 minutes. I do think we can challenge for top six but the lack of depth will see us ultimately fall short. There is a caveat to this prediction, though, Massimo Cellino must let things play out and I’m really not sure he can do that.
We were in a decent place under Rosler last season, not great, not really in the promotion race but it was at least the start of a process. Unfortunately, Massimo Cellino is an owner utterly incapable of taking a back seat. He treats football clubs the same way a boy treats his nob, immediately after discovering masturbation. He’s so desperate to recapture the initial buzz that he’ll continue to play and faff, despite all warnings until there’s nothing left but a tattered mess that nobody wants to touch. Last season Cellino invested a huge sum of the club’s money into his two-year plan for promotion but lost patience with it after only four months. Worryingly, I’ve seen nothing this summer to suggest he’ll act any differently this time around.
Cellino believes the entire season is established within a few weeks and acts accordingly. If you’re near the relegation zone after ten games then you’ll probably be in it after forty, so here’s your P45. To avoid wasting another season and suffering the same fate of his predecessors, Monk will have to get off the mark quickly. There’s also the added pressure of the 25% money back season ticket offer to consider as well. Monk has to convince Cellino that he can deliver a top six finish, so it’s imperative he gets Leeds off to a decent start. If he doesn’t, he’ll have to deal with El Presidente and those encounters rarely ends well.
This could be a positive season for Leeds United, unlikely to push for promotion but entertaining and fun. However, if Cellino loses his nerve again we could be sitting through yet more of Steve Evans’ nonsense filled press conferences by November. As with every season under Cellino, it’s almost impossible to predict the outcome, so let’s just toss a coin. I’m calling heads…
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