With the season all but over for Leeds United barring its last whimpers, the thoughts of many Leeds United are now turning towards the summer transfer window and building for next season.
This season hasn’t been an unmitigated disaster, it was a season that started well, dipped a little, picked up, dipped a lot and is now looking at the run-in with fans hoping for better fortunes. The saying goes that hope springs eternal, but the spring of hope at Elland Road is running a little dry.
The issue of transfers has been broached by journalists in both pre- and post-match pressers with Leeds United head coach Paul Heckingbottom, with an oft stonewall response. What Heckingbottom has said indicates that targets should be incoming, that work will be done but it will be work where players will have to leave in order for players to come in.
With much business to be done, with much rebuilding at hand and with much fan frustration in the offing, here are five guiding principles the Whites should adopt in their hunt for new players.
Five principles that should guide Leeds United’s summer transfer business
1. Better understanding of what is needed: Leeds United’s backroom staff, such as Victor Orta, must speak with the frontline staff such as Paul Heckingbottom and his coaches to iron out exactly what is needed. It isn’t enough to simply say ‘we need a striker’, the club must decide on the philosophy and style they want to adopt and purchase players accordingly. It sounds simple, but it is often a thing overlooked that a player performs best in a system that suits him.
2. Be open and flexible and scout around this: Whilst having a set idea of how to play that guides player identification and selection, Leeds United also need to be flexible enough to look at opportunities where something different might add to the side. That kind of counters point 1, but it does add a different strand to a side’s recruitment thinking. Too tight a definition of what is required will lead to mono-lineal thinking and a very one-direction focused approach to playing – i.e. no Plan B. Scouting with a nod to looser preconceptions and without prejudice to player traits, will allow Leeds United to see a bigger picture – possibly opening up better avenues when next season rolls around.
3. Sun, rain, cold – all hail the elements: Can he do it on a cold November Tuesday in Preston should be something of a thought-forming ethos rather than a clichéd saying. Players often perform better in conditions they are used to, have grown accustomed to – that much is natural. Potential targets need to be seen in a variety of games, a variety of environments and at a variety of times. This would cut out knee-jerk buying and would allow the targets to be seen in night games, inclement weather, against a variety of opposition etc. This should lead to a more informed purchase that isn’t driven by headline, output figures suck as ‘X goals’ or ‘Y assists’.
4. Personality and reaction: As well as players needing to fit into and complement a system, Leeds United also need players where their personality and resilience are key traits. The Whites pride themselves on the motto ‘Side Before Self’ and this is something that you’d hope to see in an incoming player. Will a targeted winger have it in himself to attempt to go past a full-back if clattered first time or will he choose to pass? When clattered will he pick himself up, dust himself down and accept the challenge making this a personal target for a game? Will players go in hard but fair in 50/50 tackles? If they do, and come out worse, does this cloud their judgement at the next opportunity? These are things that Leeds United’s scouting and player acquisition staff need to factor in to decisions.
5. Level of player and level of competition: Leeds United need to be wary of both level of player and level of competition he’s appearing in. Edgar Çani might have looked a world beater in a competition equivalent to League Two standard but he couldn’t beat an egg, let alone a defender, during his loan spell at Elland Road. Players do stand out from those around them, a good player can make a lower level competition level look too easy. Take Samu Saiz, he has converted easily from La Liga 2 to the Sky Bet Championship. That said, his football grounding was at both Madrid sides, so that pedigree accounts for a lot. That said, if a player stands out like a sore thumb at the level they are featuring at doesn’t mean that they will saunter in and dominate at Championship level.