Leeds United's next musts amid positional conundrum, untimely blow and Dan James question

Leeds United will be back training on English soil this week as the build-up continues to the club's third season back in the Premier League.
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Whites boss Jesse Marsch now has just 12 more days until the season opener at home to Wolves and there will be plenty on the American's agenda over the next week and a half.

Here, following the conclusion of the club's tour of Australia, we run through some of the main Whites talking points and issues to be addressed in the run up to the new campaign.Who will play at left back and what next in summer recruitment?

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The fact that Leeds are looking to sign another striker as competition and cover to Whites no 9 Patrick Bamford is well documented and United might end up landing another left back option too.

IMPRESSIVE: New Leeds United signing Brenden Aaronson, above, buzzed about in the no 10 role in the three games in Australia as part of a solid start to life with the Whites.
Photo by Daniel Carson/Getty Images.IMPRESSIVE: New Leeds United signing Brenden Aaronson, above, buzzed about in the no 10 role in the three games in Australia as part of a solid start to life with the Whites.
Photo by Daniel Carson/Getty Images.
IMPRESSIVE: New Leeds United signing Brenden Aaronson, above, buzzed about in the no 10 role in the three games in Australia as part of a solid start to life with the Whites. Photo by Daniel Carson/Getty Images.

Marsch and Leeds were assessing their options in that particular position even as it was, let alone before losing first choice Junior Firpo to injury at a time when Stuart Dallas is facing such a long time out.

Firpo is now facing around eight weeks on the sidelines and with the versatile Dallas on the comeback from a femoral fracture, bringing in a new addition as further competition and cover would seem a wise move.

Marsch, though, does still have various other options to fill the position and the Whites boss went through the full range of them during the three friendlies in Australia.

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Leif Davis would appear to be the most natural of those options and Marsch has admitted himself that the 22-year-old is more or less on trial for the role upon his return from last season's loan spell at Bournemouth and now Firpo's injury.

But very exciting 18-year-old Leo Hjelde is another strong option in the position, even if there is a suspicion that the Norwegian youth international is seen at his very best at centre back.

Thereafter, another natural centre-back in Pascal Struijk has always been regarded as the other main contender yet winger Jack Harrison filled the position in the first friendly against Brisbane Roar.

Harrison not surprisingly added a new dimension to the side offensively from that position but he is surely needed out wide given the departure of Raphinha, injury to Luis Sinisterra and suspension of Dan James.

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Newcastle United are reportedly keen to sign Harrison but he appears more important than ever to Leeds, four years after first joining the club from Manchester City, initially on loan.

There can also be little doubt that Struijk is best as a centre-back but that's not to say that Marsch won't play him at left back given his experience and what else he brings to the side.

If it's a case of natural horses for courses then Davis or Hjelde would appear the likely call but time will tell, both in terms of what Marsch opts for and if Leeds are able to land another recruit.

Immediately speaking, it will be fascinating and probably telling as to who lines up in the position come Sunday evening's final pre-season friendly at home to Cagliari Calcio.

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The same comment applies to who features as the centre-back axis following a tour in which captain Liam Cooper was unable to feature due to an Achilles issue.

In his absence, Robin Koch and Diego Llorente are looking like the most likely partnership at the back with Struijk the chief alternative at a time when Luke Ayling still remains out.

How is Luis Sinisterra and who replaces Dan James?

The question of who will start out wide in United's first game of the season clearly links into the left back conundrum due to Harrison evidently being considered for the position there.

But even if Harrison does line up on the left or even right flank against Wolves, there will still be a big decision to be made as to who is selected on the opposite side.

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James will be suspended for the visit of Wolves as he serves the final game of a three-match ban issued for his straight red card that he picked up in the defeat at home to Chelsea in May.

Even with Raphinha having departed the club for Barcelona, the hope would have been that the two spots out wide would have picked themselves, even with James suspended, given the arrival of Colombian international winger Luis Sinisterra from Feyenoord for around 25m euros.

Yet Sinisterra was forced off with a hamstring injury just 14 minutes into Sunday's final Oz friendly against Palace which is just what he and Leeds didn't need just two weeks before the start of the season.

Fellow new attacking recruit Brenden Aaronson has looked very lively in the no 10 role in pre-season and the preferred goal would surely be to keep him there but it must be remembered that the USA international can play anywhere across the offensive midfield sphere and thus on either flank.

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In that event, Rodrigo or possibly Joe Gelhardt could fill the no 10 or second striker position but exciting young natural winger Crysencio Summerville is another leading option to start out wide.

Rather like Gelhardt, the more minutes he gets this season the better.

Rather like the left back situation, who starts out wide might present a bit of a conundrum going into the new campaign but Marsch definitely has good options to choose from.

Offering more in the final third

Leeds always looked set to become harder to break down under Jesse Marsch given the compact nature of the way he lines his sides up.

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At the back end of last season, the American's first 12 games in charge featured something that became a very rare Whites feat of back to back clean sheets in the 3-0 win at Watford and goalless draw at Crystal Palace which ultimately helped keep Leeds up.

Given a pre-season to work with, three games in Australia including two against two solid Premier League sides in Palace and Villa featured the concession of just three goals and one of those came from the penalty spot.

The way that both Brisbane Roar and Palace exploited Leeds on the break to net their goals is an area that needs addressing but by and large the theme of Marsch's side being solid, compact and hard to break down is continuing and moreover progressing.

But on the flip side, Leeds only netted three times in Australia and Marsch admitted himself in his post-Palace press that attacking prowess remained a key area that needed attention.

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"We're still working on our effectiveness in the last third in our ability to turn some advantages into real concrete chances and goals," said the Whites boss.

“It's been a theme since I've been here, but the level the game is played at is so high goals come at a premium."

Eleven of United's 42 goals last season came via Raphinha but he has now been and gone and Leeds must find a way of netting with more regularity than they are at present.

The addition of another striker option would quite clearly help in droves on that front although the hope would be that Patrick Bamford naturally gets sharper and sharper with each game that he plays and it also remains abundantly clear that Joe Gelhardt has everything required to be let off the leash.

Big ticks for new signings

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Other than the frustration for Sinisterra, the tour of Oz must be seen as a resounding success for United's new signings, four of which have already settled seamlessly into the side.

No Leeds player featured more heavily than new Danish right back Rasmus Kristensen in Australia whilst Tyler Adams and Marc Roca are already starting to form a strong axis as the double pivot in midfield.

Aaronson also continually buzzed about in the no 10 role and the aforementioned quartet all look very likely to start the season opener against Wolves.

At just 18 years old, fellow new recruit Darko Gyabi is more a player for United's future but he also showed clear signs of what he was about in Australia as part of what has been a strong summer of recruitment from the Whites, even if moving on from class acts like Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips is a very hard task.

That, though, has put cash in the bank which needs spending on another strong striker option plus an additional left back recruit as two more pieces added to a fairly promising jigsaw.