AFTER seeing Leeds United finish their pre-season with Saturday’s 2-0 win against Oxford United at Elland Road, the YEP’s Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points ahead of the club’s bid to better last season’s Championship finish of seventh.
How many more signings before the start of the new campaign?
Leeds have already brought in seven new faces this summer and nine new signings when including the permanent deals for last season’s loanees Pontus Jansson and Hadi Sacko. The options available to head coach Thomas Christiansen were illustrated by the presence of 16 substitutes against Oxford but the Whites are definitely in the hunt for further recruits. The question is how many? Leeds were known to be keen on three particular targets and there is no denying that the club could do with at least one more centre back and definitely a left back too. Right back Luke Ayling can always shift over to play at centre-back but Leeds essentially have just three centre-backs at present in Pontus Jansson, Matthew Pennington and Liam Cooper with under-23s player Connor Shaughnessy even used in that position in Austria. Jansson is also suspended for United’s first two games.
Tyler Denton is the first team squad’s only recognised left back, for all that right back Gaetano Berardi is making light of playing on the opposite site. And United are also still in the market for another striker and at present Caleb Ekuban appears the main back-up to Chris Wood with Marcus Antonsson and Souleymane Doukara seemingly the only other real option, aside from playing Kemar Roofe upfront. The identity of United’s remaining targets is still not known but the positions are obvious - as is the need to get them in soon.
Who will start in midfield?
One position Leeds are not light in is midfield and it’s probably fair to say that ten or 11 players are battling it out for the five spaces behind lone striker Chris Wood. Eunan O’Kane started alongside Kalvin Phillips against Oxford in centre-midfield and was most people’s idea of man of the match. O’Kane now looks almost certain to start come Sunday’s trip to Bolton Wanderers but Phillips has had better games than the one he did against Oxford and has both Mateusz Klich and Ronaldo Vieira to worry about in keeping his place. Vieira - who was not injured - surprisingly played no part against Oxford but it would be no surprise if he started against Bolton. Plus there is Vurnon Anita to add into the mix too, assuming Luke Ayling keeps his place at right back.
Out wide, Kemar Roofe and Ezgjan Alioski were handed starting roles against Oxford and both played well, in particular Roofe who bagged the opening goal. But fellow wingers Hadi Sacko and Stuart Dallas are evidently also high up in Christiansen’s thoughts and both were given their chance to shine in the latter stages of the second half. Dallas grabbed his opportunity with both hands by netting a superb second goal and it might be that he and Roofe start against Bolton though the temptation to opt for the exciting potential of Alioski might be hard to resist. It’s a similar situation for the no 10 role. Stick with what Leeds know in Pablo Hernandez or opt for something new in another new recruit in Samuel Saiz who definitely looked promising in the latter stages against Oxford.
Can Rob Green be a no 2 keeper?
It seems fairly obvious that new German recruit Felix Wiedwald is set to be Christiansen’s first choice keeper this term given that he played the full 90 minutes of the club’s final pre-season friendly. But where does that leave Green - a ‘keeper who was in the form on his life last season when making 47 appearances and helping Leeds to plenty of points in the process. Green might now be 37 but there is little doubt he is still capable of playing regular first team football and excelling at Championship level at least. Arsenal have even reportedly been looking at the veteran this summer as back up to Peter Cech. But will Green be prepared to be seen as back up to Wiedwald if indeed Wiedwald is set to be no 1.