Six players have gone, six players have come in and there’s only six weeks left to the end of the window, but Phil Hay reckons there’ll be more business if Leeds United’s opponents are to be ‘hit for six’.
At this stage of the transfer window, six weeks away from the August deadline, Leeds United’s business is verging on an overhaul: six players in, six players out and more expected to move in both directions before the window shuts.
It suited Garry Monk to have much of that work finalised in the early days of pre-season and in time for Leeds’ first friendlies, but his squads against Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers last week amplified the fact that his resources are shallow. “It’s a very long season, a lot of games, and I don’t feel we’re quite at full strength,” Monk said as he and his players prepared to leave Ireland at the end of their two-week training camp.
Monk’s players were due to train again at Thorp Arch this morning with less than three weeks to go until the start of the season and back-to-back friendlies scheduled at Guiseley and Peterborough United this weekend. Monk is likely to send different line-ups to both games as he begins the process of deciding his preferred line-up for Leeds’ first league game at Queens Park Rangers on August 7.
Here, the YEP assesses the areas of Monk’s squad which are most in need of strengthening
Arguably the pressing priority for Monk, particularly with Liam Cooper absent. Leeds have assessed Cooper’s injury and don’t believe it to be serious but he was sidelined at the very start of their training camp in Dublin and United were forced to fill round holes with square pegs in both of their friendlies. Toumani Diagouraga played at centre-back against Shelbourne and Shamrock Rovers and Luke Murphy filled in for 15 minutes at Tolka Park.
Development squad player Paul McKay, a 19-year-old who had never played for the first team, was also used twice. Monk’s current available options start and end with Kyle Bartley and Sol Bamba – two big, experienced defenders but not enough on their own to see Leeds through a 46-game Championship term.
Even with Cooper fit, the fact that Leeds had a look at Joel Ekstrand recently, only to bypass him on account of his injury record, was proof enough that Monk wants more choice in that position.
Links to Derby County’s Alex Pearce appear to be wide of the mark and Pearce has been training with Derby in Portugal, but it is highly unlikely that Leeds will head into the new season without the addition of another central defender.
United do have numbers in this position and Ronaldo Vieira, the wonderfully-named teenager who turned professional at Elland Road in May, is already looking like breakthrough material.
Monk has taken a shine to him and Vieira created the opening goal at Shamrock Rovers with a driving run from the halfway line. But Leeds are youthful in midfield and alongside a group of Vieira, Matt Grimes, Alex Mowatt and Kalvin Phillips, Luke Murphy and Diagouraga stand out as the oldest heads.
Leeds want Liam Bridcutt, who tightened up a struggling side last season, but are reluctant to pay Sunderland’s asking price at the same time as attempting to accommodate Bridcutt’s £26,000-a-week wage.
That situation has made no progress in the past fortnight and Aston Villa were being linked with the 27-year-old yesterday.
Both of Leeds’ friendlies in Ireland, and particularly their 2-1 win at Shelbourne, made Bridcutt seem like a player who would fit nicely into Monk’s plans – particularly after the loss of Lewis Cook.
The same could be said of Leon Britton and Leon Osman, both of whom have been linked with United this summer. Of the pair, only Osman is available.
Much here depends on how Monk intends to set his team up. If Kemar Roofe is to play as a striker, United’s head coach has Roofe, Chris Wood, Marcus Antonsson and Souleymane Doukara to work with up front, but it begs the question of whether Stuart Dallas, Hadi Sacko and Jordan Botaka give him all that he needs out wide.
Roofe can play as a winger and was highly effective on the left against Shamrock Rovers – albeit against a weak side – but with the 23-year-old in in that role, Monk’s choice of centre-forwards is diminished. Leeds are by no means devoid of attacking talent, but a proven Championship forward would tick a box. Chris Wood said it last week: “Everyone knows that goals are important in this league.”
At face value it might seem strange that Leeds are looking at Fleetwood Town’s Conor McLaughlin, but behind Gaetano Berardi and Charlie Taylor, their alternatives at full-back are young and inexperienced.
Berardi, too, is seen as the most suitable stand-in for Taylor at left-back and United might be wary of asking too much too soon of either Lewie Coyle or Tyler Denton – two academy products who have been well thought of for a while.
Leeds enquired about McLaughlin – a Northern Ireland international – last week and would probably land him with a bid in the region of £300,000.