The changes to the squad at Leeds United this summer will be very interesting because a new manager, or a new head coach, usually means a clean slate for everyone.
Steve Evans was in charge for most of the season just gone and with those games behind him he must have known 100 per cent who he wanted and who he wanted to leave. Garry Monk is new to the job so he’ll probably be a bit more open-minded. The chances are he’ll at least take the time to look at every player before he starts wielding the axe.
The success of his time in charge depends totally on him having the freedom to sign who he likes and to get rid of who he doesn’t.
As we’ve said before with previous head coaches, he needs to succeed or fail in his own way without anyone above him trying to call the shots, but I don’t think he’ll have too many preconceived ideas about how he plans to approach next season.
What I mean by that is that I don’t expect him to be rigid. Uwe Rosler was fairly rigid, a 4-3-3 man who wanted his team to play in a certain way, but he never had the players to make that system work properly.
Sometimes you have to be flexible and willing to adapt. The best managers and coaches are always able to adapt, so I’m fascinated to see what sort of formation and tactics Monk eventually goes with.
Rosler was quite open in saying from the start that he’d go 4-3-3 no matter what. I wonder if Monk will keep his powder dry until the players come back from pre-season and he finds out exactly what he’s working with – not just names and positions, but what he’s got when players have the ball at their feet and are training in front of his eyes.
He’ll know about certain people in the squad and, given that he was out of work for a while, he’s probably seen a few of them in the flesh.
Managers without a job like to get out to as many games as they can. There will also be plenty he’s unfamiliar with or unsure about at Championship level.
To be fair, having watched the team right through last season there are several who I’m still unsure about.
But some players who struggled under a previous head coach will do better under a new one. Football’s always been like that.
When it comes to signings, the priority as far as I’m concerned is the spine of the team.
And, by the spine of the team, I really mean the strength of the link between centre-back and central midfield. We’re crying out for leaders in those two areas, genuine leaders who will give you at least 7/10 every week, who’ll get in the faces of their team-mates when they deserve it and who’ll give you very consistent and very impressive seasons.
I’ve been pretty open in saying that I don’t see enough aggression in our lads. I don’t see them pulling each other up for mistakes or telling it like it is.
That might sound like a criticism but it’s actually not.
You get plenty of players who aren’t really leadership material but are very good footballers in their own right.
What they need to get the best out of them are some big-hitters around them.
Players falling out with each other is never a problem if it’s a means to an end and a means to good results.
Also, I’m hoping to see Monk take an approach which plays people in their best positions – or doesn’t play them completely out of position.
I’ll use Alex Mowatt as an example.
The season just gone was a poor one for him, no doubt, but far too often in his career at Leeds he’s played on the left wing, even though he doesn’t have the pace or the trickery to go past a man.
That’s simply not his game.
We all get on at him and criticise his performances but if you’re sensible about it you end up asking ‘are we really playing to his strengths?’
Lewis Cook too. Quite simply, I never want to see him playing as a winger. It’s a waste of his talent and a waste of what he does best.
With Chris Wood on his own up front, you need people running on at pace, hitting the bylines and whipping the ball in, just as Stuart Dallas did at times.
Better still, I’d like to see another goalscorer up front with Wood.
Not someone who comes into the team every now and again but someone who gels with Wood week in, week out.
I like Wood and, for all the criticism I heard of him, I think he’ll come good.
I just get the feeling that he can do without the pressure of being the only player in the side with any prospect of scoring 20 goals a season.
He’s got that in his locker, definitely, but having another outlet in the team would take the pressure off him slightly. One look at the statistics will tell Monk that we don’t have enough goals in the team.
It’s guaranteed that a striker is on his list of targets.
Speaking about this makes me wish that pre-season was here already.
I’m missing the football and bored of the empty weeks, but at the same time I know that every day will be precious for Monk.
This is a vital period for him now, absolutely vital, and I reckon it will take a little bit of time before we properly see how he’s going to attack next season.
I’d expect him to keep his cards close to his chest and to keep his options open until he’s fully assessed the current squad.
If I was a player at Leeds, I’d be quite excited coming back to that.