Leeds United have never quite mastered the art of the winter transfer window. Flawed though FIFA’s system is, the pre-requisite of each and every January is to finish the month in better shape than when it began.
Two years ago, Leeds and their manager, Simon Grayson, were caught sitting on their hands at a time when the Championship table was begging them to twist.
January of this year was worse again – a shifting of the deckchairs which predictably ended with Grayson thrown overboard on the first day of February.
Players came and went without any semblance of strategy or planning: Danny Pugh signed for £500,000 and club captain Jonathan Howson sold for around £2million, replaced by loanee Fabian Delph.
Andros Townsend arrived from Spurs but wasted no time devising an exit strategy, and the last-minute signing of 20-year-old Adam Smith made a mockery of Grayson’s complaint about an inexperienced defence on the night of the defeat which led to his sacking.
It was that bizarre month which brought Neil Warnock to the coalface.
Warnock has a fairly clear view of how next month should work.
If soon-to-be Leeds owner GFH Capital can tie down the five Leeds players on short-term deals, he would readily settle for a new striker and ask for little more.
It is a vote of confidence in a squad who have lost as many league games as they have won this season and currently lie 14th in the Championship.
Others will look for more telling investment when the window opens and invite Leeds to make more of the season than they have already.
Here, Inside Elland Road gives its view on what the club should look for when January comes...
A necessity in August and a necessity now, not least because goals are coming predominantly from Luciano Becchio.
The strike rate of United’s forwards is slightly skewed by the long absence of Ross McCormack but Becchio’s return of 14 goals is far in excess of any other player in Warnock’s squad.
El-Hadji Diouf, who yesterday signed a new 18-month deal with the club, has five goals but seems more comfortable pulling the strings than hovering around the six-yard box and when Warnock says he wants competition for Becchio, in reality he needs another forward on top of McCormack, who can compensate for the days when the Argentinian’s well runs dry.
Jermaine Beckford, Cameron Jerome, DJ Campbell – worthwhile investments if the cash is there. In no way would Leeds look top-heavy with an additional striker on board.
Those who control the purse strings at Elland Road might take the view that Warnock has enough midfielders already.
Between Rodolph Austin, David Norris, Paul Green, Michael Brown and potentially Michael Tonge, there is no shortage of bodies to fill the centre of midfield.
But while the attacking tendencies of Norris and Green offset the marauding protection offered by Austin, the absence of a player who can consistently put his foot on the ball and control a game – as a random example, Graham Kavanagh, circa 2005 – has been apparent all season.
What price Alejandro Faurlin, a man Warnock once described as “the best midfield player I’ve ever worked with” and who contributed to Queens Park Rangers’ promotion in 2010?
Faurlin was under-used by Mark Hughes at QPR and cannot even make Harry Redknapp’s squads. He’ll cost money, naturally, but GFH Capital have money, right?
United’s defensive record is fairly indefensible – three clean sheets and 35 goals conceded in 21 league games. Criticisms on a postcard please.
The irony of that failing is that it is not down to an acute lack of adequate resources, from goalkeeper Paddy Kenny forwards.
Sam Byram, Tom Lees, Jason Pearce and Alan Tate are well suited to the Championship and Lee Peltier is hardly out of his depth at this level, but his extended run at left-back looks increasingly like a makeshift solution.
At a cost of around £800,000, Peltier would be an expensive substitute but Byram has given him a run for his money on the right side of defence and left-back is a point of weakness for Leeds.
When Adam Drury arrived from Norwich City in June, you assumed that he would make 30 to 40 appearances this season but he is still to reach 10 and is struggling to hold down a seat on the bench.
A third way might well be needed.