ON THE back of Leeds United’s first game of 2016, Lee Sobot looks at five issues highlighted by Saturday’s 1-1 draw with MK Dons.
Chris Wood is massively missed when absent
Wood has received his fair share of criticism this term - essentially for the number of chances he’s missed. But Saturday’s draw seemed to confirm that the six-foot-three forward is United’s only striker capable of being effective as part of the 4-5-1 system with Souleymane Doukara failing to shine in the New Zealand international’s absence through a hamstring injury. The introduction of both Mirco Antenucci and then Lee Erwin also failed to propel United into overdrive and despite the presence of four strikers including Wood, the Whites’ lack of a cutting edge as a whole is worrying. Only an 87th-minute own goal got them out of jail.
United could do with a new centre-back
Captain Sol Bamba had been kept out of the side by the recent good form of Giuseppe Bellusci but Bellusci’s old bad habits returned in the 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest giving Bamba a passage back into the team. But Leeds United’s captain seems to be struggling to find top form and again looked shaky alongside Liam Cooper on Saturday. There is no denying that a decent centre-back would be a welcome addition in the January transfer window.
Liam Bridcutt is top of Steve Evans’ January wish-list
Whites head coach Steve Evans seems to have plenty of irons in the fire regarding the January transfer window and has said it’s possible that Leeds could sign two strikers this month. But the Glaswegian left no doubt as to who his number one target was when revealing: “the first one I want in the door is Liam Bridcutt.”
Bridcutt remains on loan from Sunderland with Brighton also thought to be interested in gaining his signature but Evans intimated on Saturday that Sunderland will allow Bridcutt to remain at Leeds on loan.
There’s definite legs in the Kyle Lafferty links
When Evans talks about possibly signing two strikers in January, it seems that Norwich City’s Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty might be one of them. United’s head coach admitted that he had made an enquiry about Lafferty during the emergency loan window and Evans was told that the Northern Ireland international was present at Elland Road on Saturday to witness the 1-1 draw. Lafferty has not played for Norwich since coming on as a 77th-minute substitute in the 2-1 loss at home to Leicester City and it seems certain that his future is away from Carrow Road. It could well be at Elland Road.
Sam Byram will likely play until sold
Steve Evans clearly stated in December that he would not field players whose long term future was not at Elland Road which naturally raised doubts that Byram would not start the first game of 2016, despite him being United’s best player of late. But Evans had no qualms in starting the 22-year-old, despite revealing that two Premier League head coaches/managers had been in touch with him about Byram in the past 48 hours. Liverpool are favourites to sign the right back but there has been no bid yet and while Byram seems certain to be on his way out, expect him to keep featuring until he is sold.