It’s an easy mistake. When you leave an abusive relationship anything different looks better; your expectations are so low that even someone being slightly curt with you feels like genuine kindness. It’s for this reason that we must resist getting overwhelmed by the excitement of Massimo Cellino’s impending departure and instead judge Andrea Radrizzani on his actions, not on his merit of “not being Cellino”.
That’s a really important distinction to make. As it stands there’s enormous uncertainty surrounding the club and understandably, our new owner isn’t really able to say much to dispel it. He has made progress on the Garry Monk situation, with the pair agreeing to meet after the Wigan game to discuss his future (which most fans are interpreting as the intent to secure him long-term, which I hope is true, but it’s not as simple as that).
Let’s look at the areas of concern and uncertainty:
The obvious starting point is the head coach (and his staff, by proxy). Kyle Bartley intimated that without Monk we would have a much harder job of retaining players (such as himself), let alone the fact that we want to build on a successful season with one of the best coaches available. I’ve long maintained that a well-resourced, Cellino-less Leeds United with Garry Monk at the helm would be a very appealing prospect for a lot of players.
But there’s the rub: Monk needs to be retained and to do that he’ll be looking for certain commitments from the club and we’re not yet able to gauge how realistic that is. Rumours are circulating suggesting that Radrizzani has Qatari money floating behind him and may be able to give Leeds some funding, but I’ve always maintained that he’ll be trying to adopt the Brighton approach rather than the Wednesday one.
Much like the 2011 season, we’ve got the basis for something good here it simply needs securing down and building on. At the moment we’ve got faith in Radrizzani to do that but little else to go on – fans should be cautious as such. We’ve been infatuated by bold promises of investment and security before and we all remember where those empty words took us.
Kyle Bartley, Pontus Jansson and other retention tasks
Once you’ve got Monk tied down it will make retention a lot easier, but it’s still not straightforward. Kyle Bartley is in demand and Burnley’s top target to replace Michael Keane. Equally he may get other opportunities to play in the Premier League, so it’s perhaps a tall order to permanently sign him at this lower level – but with Monk secured it could be doable.
Jansson’s future is a nebulous topic. The man himself says he’s enjoying Leeds, he’s committed to Leeds and will be here moving forwards – it was just his agent making such noises. But those close to the legalities of football have urged caution here too, as he could theoretically sign for someone else. Equally, if we do sign him and demand is high, it’s hard to imagine Leeds not selling him for an immediate £6-7m profit. But then we don’t have a view of how a Radrizzani-owned Leeds would operate in the transfer market, we’re used to Cellino and Bates.
This is where Leeds need to be smart, ambitious and quick. We know there are weaknesses in the squad and both a lack of depth and a lack of depth in quality. These all need to be addressed if we are serious about finishing higher than 7th next season. We need options in centre-back, we need valid options to rest Wood when we need to, we need stronger options in midfield (and on the wings especially).
You look at what talismanic midfielders did for some of the sides around us and realise it’s something we’re lacking. Tom Cairney, Aaron Mooy, Jonjo Shelvey, Izzy Brown, etc. These figures hugely elevated the sides they played in and it’s something we simply won’t get from Liam Bridcutt. Ronaldo Vieira could be a huge player for us next season and as much as I love Phillips and rate O’Kane, I do think there’s another character needed in there. Rumours have existed for Howson and I certainly wouldn’t resist that at all.
The point I’m making is that we should be cautious until unknowns become known. Radrizzani meeting with Monk doesn’t necessarily mean that Monk will be retained, though we hope it does. Radrizzani saying he wants to invest in Leeds to achieve promotion doesn’t mean anything until we see the recruitment in action (because Cellino made the same noises and his transfer activity was absurd). We’ve been burned a number of times by false dawns, broken promises and bare-faced lies.
I’m dying to believe that Radrizzani will make good on his intentions, put a deal on the table for Monk to stay and put sufficient resources in place to commit to moving us forwards. But I’ll be waiting for the actions before I start believing the words.