Sensible Leeds United transfer decisions and a summer window situation that could yet get crazy
What Tyler Adams represents for Leeds United is a sensible summer, so far.
The American flew into Yorkshire on Tuesday, completed his medical on Wednesday and put pen to paper on a deal that, all being well, will keep him at Elland Road until the age of 28. Either he or someone in his entourage latched on to some Yorkshire speak with an ‘eh up’ caption on an Instagram video. Endearing yourself to a new audience makes sense.
He is very much a Jesse Marsch player, having worked with the Leeds head coach twice previously, and on the face of it ticks a lot of boxes. As a defensive midfielder for Leipzig, he liked to run with the ball and get heavily involved in link-up play, while showing a decent appetite for winning it back. As a central midfielder, after Marsch departed RB Leipzig, he was far more of a pressing irritant and ball winner but continued to link up just as much.
And, when his profile is paired with fellow summer signing Marc Roca, particularly using the Spaniard’s 2019/20 LaLiga breakout season data, all of the things Kalvin Phillips did for Leeds appear to be covered. The defensive work, the passing forward, even the shooting that Phillips did, is within the tool box Marsch now has at his disposal with his new midfielders.
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For a manager who wants to recover the ball with intense, targeted pressing, then move it quickly and directly towards the opponents’ goal, Adams and Roca make plenty of sense as additions. The same can be said of Rasmus Kristensen, a confident young man who lists physical strength among his attributes and possesses the athleticism necessary to handle the extensive demands placed on a full-back in Marsch’s system.Brenden Aaronson, too, is evidently every inch a Marsch player who knows the drill with this head coach, while Luis Sinisterra, the Feyenoord winger Leeds hope to bring in this week, has the profile of an all-rounder who can defend, dribble, shoot and, once again, link up.
Victor Orta once cited Rafa Benítez’ Valencia complaint that he had asked for a table and been handed a chair when discussing recruitment, something he was at pains to avoid during Marcelo Bielsa’s time at Leeds. The same will be true now. And, while Leeds have and will face accusations of putting together a Red Bull side at Elland Road - half of their expected senior signings have come from clubs in that group - the criticism they would face for signing players who weren’t right for Marsch would be vicious.
When you consider that many of these signings are players Orta identified long before it became clear that Marsch would succeed Bielsa, there’s a sense that they are not just merely Marsch signings, they are not wedded so closely to his system that his departure would render the team obsolete.
The ideal, for any club, is to bring in players who are a good fit for the current manager’s style of play and players good enough to adapt to other styles and systems.
That’s where all the international experience brought to Elland Road this summer should offer some reassurance to Whites. Aaronson and Adams are regulars for the United States Men’s National Team and Kristensen is growing in importance for Denmark.
But, in any case, if Leeds have long been utterly convinced that Marsch was the right man to take the club forward - and last season did nothing to dissuade that belief - their duty is to put their money where their mouths are and back him to the hilt.
It makes total sense, if his style is the one they believe is right for Leeds, to bring in players who are right for the style. If that is the Red Bull way of playing, then Red Bull players should fit right in. There can be no guarantees that these signings will turn out to be world beaters in the Premier League - they’ve all proven themselves to varying degrees elsewhere - yet there has been nothing from the left field and no red flags, to date.
They’re at good ages so there’s real potential for their value to increase, if they take to the English top flight.
Even names that have cropped up but not progressed beyond conversations, like Arnaud Kalimuendo and Mohamed Camara, required no real mental gymnastics to envisage them as sensible signings. Charles De Ketelaere, who reportedly prefers AC Milan but is yet to be snapped up by the Serie A champions, has all the hallmarks of a very good player and exactly the right kind of signing for the final and arguably most important vacancy.
Last season’s struggles arose from myriad problems but Patrick Bamford’s absence through various injuries was costly in the extreme and highlighted an area of perilous weakness at Leeds. So important work remains to be done to bring this round of senior recruitment to a complete and satisfactory end.
Leeds, who have acted with an urgency that nods to both a high level of pre-window preparation as well as harmony between the manager and the director of football, are not quite there yet. There are outgoing bits of business still to finalise, like the sale of Raphinha and a loan move for Jamie Shackleton. The latter getting out to play is one of a number of decisions away from the glamorous part of Orta’s wheeling and dealing that also feels sensible. Shackleton, Charlie Cresswell and Tyler Roberts need to play. So too does Lewis Bate and he may yet head out on loan.
New contracts for Joe Gelhardt and, in all likelihood, Crysencio Summerville and one or two others, will be equally understandable and welcome items on the agenda.
There are areas in the squad that still appear in need of some bolstering. A young left-sided counterpart for Cody Drameh and an experienced keeper would not go amiss.
And there will, of course, be question marks over all of the incoming transfer business for a good while yet. That’s football. Nothing is won on paper, no one is proven until they’ve done it on the pitch and the new boys, like the head coach, have a fanbase to win over with performances and results. The Leeds board want to be judged not on their willingness to sell Kalvin Phillips or Raphinha but the shape of the team and the club when the dust settles and the squad has been strengthened.
The Raphinha saga is so difficult to predict that it may be the one situation that brings a little of that trademark Elland Road craziness into proceedings. So much of it – Raphinha’s willingness to go to Chelsea or even to travel to Australia, Barcelona’s ability to finally put up the money – is out of Leeds’ control, though. Although Leeds have not picked up the scent of any trouble from Raphinha, no one seems to know which way it will go and how it will end for both player and club. The ideal scenario is that move to Camp Nou, for a fee every bit as eye-watering as the one Chelsea put on the table, and that’s still a difficult ending to imagine. If the extent of Leeds’ spend on the final piece of the puzzle depends on the cash flooding in from Raphinha’s exit, there may yet be trouble ahead.
What can be said, though is that no matter what he costs, as long as the striker Orta brings in to complete his plan fits with Marsch’s style and can play with or instead of Bamford, that last senior addition will fit with the theme of this window and finish off what feels very much like a summer that makes sense at Elland Road.