Oxford United currently sit in a comfortable 9th place in the Sky Bet League One table on eight points after five games.
After two wins to open the season (2-0 over Oldham and 3-0 over Portsmouth), a subsequent loss (1-0 to Scunthorpe) has then turned into two successive 1-1 drawn games against first Shrewsbury and today Milton Keynes Dons.
It’s too late for hindsight and wishing that more/different business had been done over the last two months and the summer transfer window; that opportunity has now gone. It is also too early to start running around frantically searching for the presence of a panic button, just in case it needs to be pushed. Yet there is something Pep Clotet might play over in his mind, even if he has to wait four months to play it out.
Clotet should return to Leeds United in January and sound out some favours from current Leeds United boss, and fellow Spaniard, Thomas Christiansen.
In fairness to Clotet in his first ever season as a bona fide manager of an English club, he has brought some gems to the Kassam.
Ricardinho, formerly of Brazilian side Coritiba and Swedish top-tier side Malmö signed on at the start of August. Clotet reached back to former club Swansea for former two-cap Holland international Dwight Tiendalli, a player who came into football at Ajax and has 187 top-tier appearances to his name in the Eredivisie (160) and Premier League (27). He’s even gone back to his native Spain and managed to bring in Xemi, a creative midfielder, from Barcelona’s B side.
But what he should do, to really maximise the chances that Oxford have of hitting the top six and staying there, is head back to Elland Road in January with a wish list of players. He’s already used this insider knowledge of Elland Road to pick up Alex Mowatt on loan from Barnsley, but he should do it again with players still at Elland Road.
Come the turn of 2018, Leeds United will be pretty much set and ready for whatever they see as the five months of the season in front of them. Last season the Whites turned the year in 5th place in the Sky Bet Championship table and firmly in a promotion play-off place. Unfortunately, for Leeds, it didn’t last.
Leeds United under Thomas Christiansen are a different version than the one under Garry Monk – they have a different ethos, style of play and overall attitude. So, wherever in the table that they turn 2018, Pep Clotet might want to observe from now with an intention of stepping up in January and asking about certain players.
For example, Chris Wood needed replacing as the figurehead in attack and Leeds have brought in three replacements: Jay-Roy Grot, Pawel Cibicki and Pierre-Michel Lasogga. The money and pedigree that Lasogga comes ‘burdened with’ would mark him out as the first choice to fill the #9 role at Elland Road. Next you could argue that Pawel Cibicki, a £2 million permanent signing from Malmö would be next in line. Why not chance his arm for towering Dutch youngster Grot on a half-season loan, or maybe Caleb Ekuban on a similar deal.
If that’s an avenue that might prove fruitless, what about enquiring about the availability of Hadi Sacko, should he not receive sufficient game time between now and January. Failing that, he could do worse than take a look at the revamped Leeds United Under-23 Development squad.
Leeds United have brought in a contingent of Spanish-based players from the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid and Sevilla. There’s some class youngsters there like Oriel Rey and Alex Machuka who Clotet might be able to convince the Leeds United management to loan out to enable them to gain ‘first-team experience.”