Leeds United's unexpected transfer anxiety and fluctuating factor for deadline day deals

Of all the positions that could be giving Leeds United anxiety right up to the January transfer deadline, right-back was once the least likely.

When Daniel Farke arrived in the summer he found Luke Ayling and Cody Drameh, a proven Championship pairing who could fight it out for a starting place in his new-look Whites team. Ayling was a squad leader, played extensively in the Premier League for Leeds and could still be considered a perfectly adequate option for a promotion-chasing team. No one has ever doubted that Drameh, though still raw, has bags of talent and a bright future.

At one stage, August 30 to be precise, Leeds had three Championship right-backs in the building and even though Drameh departed the next day, a tandem of Ayling and Spurs loanee Djed Spence looked far more than enough to see the Whites through to their goal. One boasted vast experience and a Championship title, the other vast potential and a Premier League play-off promotion. Ayling was expected to do just fine in the second tier until Spence was up to speed and then the best right-back in the 2021/22 second tier was tipped to take over to see it home.

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What no one, not even Farke, could possibly have predicted at the end of the summer window was that by January 10 both Spence and Ayling would have followed Drameh out the door, leaving Leeds with midfielders-turned-defenders Archie Gray and Jamie Shackleton as the remaining right-back options. Even on January 10, it was unthinkable that Leeds could potentially leave the mid-season transfer window without replacing at least one of Ayling or Spence, who now has to be regarded as a rare summer window mistake.

Yet as dawn breaks on deadline day, at the end of a month in which Farke has consistently vowed the club would stay awake and not fall asleep on recruitment possibilities, Leeds fans might well go to bed tonight without news of a signing. No matter the expectation level inside Elland Road in the last days of the window - and it has waxed and waned - there is a chance that Leeds don't get to do any of the business they set out to do.

But will it matter? Maybe not. Farke came to his Wednesday press conference armed to the teeth with arguments why no business was not necessarily bad business. Good arguments they were, too. The side's points total, the favourable comparison with how Marcelo Bielsa's men were doing at this stage of their title-winning season and a sense of unity and togetherness worth protecting in this squad are the reasons why he says he will not be worried if February 2 rolls around and there are no new faces.

It is worth remembering, though, that not so long ago Farke admitted the injury histories of his left-back pair Sam Byram and Junior Firpo was cause for concern and to his mind a left-back might be a good idea in the January window. Then there was a brief time in which a centre-back might be a good idea, because Pascal Struijk was injured, Liam Cooper had a niggle and Charlie Cresswell was axed from the matchday squad to mull over his future. At some point the club's thinking turned instead, principally, to a right-back. Cooper is fit again, Struijk has made tentative progress and Ethan Ampadu has been solid as a rock at centre-back. Perhaps the notion that Shackleton can also do a job at left-back means that Leeds are satisfied the remaining games can be covered by one of he, Byram and Firpo. After all, what chance is there that all three are unavailable at the same time? And to ride that positive thought train onto the next stop, Gray has been good at right-back, very good at times and good enough to keep more experienced, actual right-backs out of the team. His youthful exuberance might just carry his body and Leeds' promotion hopes from here to May, in one piece.

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It wouldn't be Leeds United without a worst case scenario lurking down the track, though, would it? Farke is a manager who demands that his centre-backs expect and prepare for the worst. He's a boss who demands that his forwards are brutally greedy. With automatic promotion still on the table, preparing for the worst and being greedy in the window sound like a recipe for success. Alas, thus far, Leeds have been frustrated in their recruitment attempts and, again, Farke met with the press knowing exactly what he wanted to say on that. Injuries to targets - Daiki Hashioka - the financial restrictions and ongoing cost of past recruitment errors, the January prices hiked by clubs in the knowledge the desperation levels of enquirers and, chiefly for Farke, the refusal to sign a player he does not deem to be a material improvement on what is already in the building. Principles and standards are worth having and establishing them from the outset can do wonders for a club in the long run. Just so long as, in the short term, they don't derail you.

One day remains now to get something done and the 'fantastic' background people Farke speaks about still will be hard at work. By this stage they have already identified which right-backs would suit the German's football, tick the box of affordability and pass the personality test. Availability is the fluctuating factor that will bring their scouting and analysis work to fruition, or kill it dead. Time is short but stranger things have happened to this club than a deadline day arrival. If they can get one, from what by now must be a list that would fit on a postage stamp, it will look like a smart move. If they cannot, the club will be accepting the risk of being made to look less than clever if the worst comes to pass in the full-back department. They haven't made their bed just yet, but they’ll soon have to lie in it.