Leeds United have two questions to answer before January transfer window arrives – Beren Cross


The curtain has finally fallen on Leeds United’s transfer window and with a final flourish in the final act nonetheless.

The £25m capture of Manchester United’s Daniel James proved to be the eighth incoming deal of the summer, with a mix of first-team and under-23 additions.

Amari Miller, Jack Harrison, Junior Firpo, Sean McGurk, Lewis Bate, Kristoffer Klaesson, Leo Hjelde and James are the octet Victor Orta has chosen to bolster the ranks.

Here’s how the array of ins and outs has left Marcelo Bielsa’s squad looking and what they may already have on their agenda for the January window.

Goalkeepers


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A department the club has arguably nailed down for the next 15 years with the new contract for Illan Meslier and the signature of new stopper Klaesson from Valerenga.

Eighteen-year-old Dani van den Heuvel steps up to third choice with the departures of both Kiko Casilla and Elia Caprile, but something would need to go drastically wrong for the youngster to face a first-team match.

Right-backs

Possibly the only role in the Leeds United squad which avoided any mention of ins or outs all summer in the gossip columns.

Luke Ayling is the experienced, undisputed first-choice option, while Jamie Shackleton and Stuart Dallas are more than able understudies.

Cody Drameh is rapidly emerging as the club’s long-term right-back with his under-23 performances and as such, there has been little speculation around the need for any other new faces here.

Centre-backs

Perhaps the position with the best strength in depth across the entire squad. Three senior internationals and a 22-year-old being courted by Netherlands and Belgium are running the show here.

Luke Ayling and Kalvin Phillips are able deputies when called upon too, while Charlie Cresswell’s new deal puts him firmly in the picture as a long-term option with plenty of faith behind him.

Left-backs

The position which needed the most urgent attention this summer and got it with Orta’s second major signature of the window.

Junior Firpo is the main option here, but beyond him there looks to be a dearth of natural options backing him up.

As we saw on Sunday, Dallas would be the next man in line, but if he is needed elsewhere or out at the same time as Firpo, there is an issue.

Liam McCarron would be the raw option out of the under-23s, but Pascal Struijk or Liam Cooper may be the safer, and less attacking options, Bielsa could turn to.

Left-back does still look like an area worth attention for Orta.

Defensive midfielders

Kalvin Phillips, of course, reigns supreme here and we all hope we never have to see him miss another United game.


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However, we know Phillips is partial to a booking and we know injuries are possible with his combative style of play.

It’s felt like the problem never solved by Orta under Bielsa, but there was growing trust, at least before the season started, in Robin Koch here as an understudy.

Diego Llorente and Struijk are two more centre-backs we know Bielsa would consider playing here where necessary, though the former is an unknown quantity and the latter struggled in the league last term.

Adam Forshaw, as with central midfield, is the fresh face back on the scene and historically the man Bielsa turned to in his first season when Phillips was missing.

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Phillips is at such a high level it’s almost always going to feel impossible replacing him, but none of us can say Bielsa does not believe he has options there behind the number 23.

Central midfielders

This is where the main questions remain and so much between now and January will depend on Forshaw’s recovery.

There has been enough through pre-season and the start of this campaign to build some cautious optimism around his chances of making an impact in 21/22, but, of course, we cannot predict the future.

Andrea Radrizzani may have seemed a little hasty in naming Forshaw when a fan asked him on Twitter who the club’s new midfielder would be, but it’s not far from the truth.



Adsm Forshaw is making strides

Interest in Michael Cuisance, Conor Gallagher and Lewis O’Brien underlines an awareness this sector is a little light, but while nobody on Orta’s shortlist was proving value for money, Forshaw is the returning face they can hope will prop the middle of the park up.

Dallas, Phillips (if needed for some unlikely reason), Mateusz Klich and Jamie Shackleton are the number eight options, ahead of Forshaw.

Tyler Roberts, Rodrigo and Klich are the established options in the more advanced of the two positions, though the Spaniard and the Welshman have not been without their critics across the past 12 months.

Orta and Bielsa will have undoubtedly spoken about these positions over and over. They have made their decisions, the window is shut and they go with what they have in confident manner.

Time will tell, but January may end up dominated by the same chatter as the summer.

Wingers

The quality in wide areas looks outstanding for the Whites with the addition of James. The loss of Ian Poveda and Helder Costa means there is no net gain in manpower, but certainly in match-changing ability.

If Bielsa sticks to his previous observations about Raphinha as a central attacking force, then United are looking at three options into two openings.

Last November, Bielsa said: “He (Raphinha) fundamentally plays on either wing. He’s a player who is naturally very attacking with dribbling skills and he likes to get in behind the defence.

“He likes to attack and these skills are applicable out wide as well as in the centre. I won’t say I won’t use him in any other position, but I fundamentally see him as a player for either wing.

“He has played in the centre as a striker and an attacking midfielder, but he arrived in our team to be an alternative on the wings.”

Of course, the make-up of his squad now compared to then is very different, which may force his hand, but right now he has a quality problem in wide areas.



Crysencio Summerville is turning heads

That’s before we get to the flavour of the month, Crysencio Summerville. An electric few weeks with the under-23s has really put him into the picture for a breakthrough chance in 21/22.

Strikers

For all of the doubts about Rodrigo in a deeper role, there has to be a lot more confidence about the Spain international in attack.

Patrick Bamford may be the first choice, but should he miss out, Rodrigo has shown, when match sharp, he can be deadly in the Premier League.

Tyler Roberts is another Bielsa is happy to depend on in attack, while Jack Harrison is another, though down the list, the head coach can play as a nine.

Joe Gelhardt and Sam Greenwood are at the mouth of the bottleneck looking in at that one position and hoping their chance might come in the next 18 months.

With Bamford’s new deal in place and plenty of capital invested in Rodrigo and Roberts, strikers are unlikely to be on the shopping list any time soon.





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