“Doing a Leeds” has long-since meant rampant, unsustainable over-spending being met with sub-par performances and a league standing incapable of paying back the incurred debt. Such was Peter Ridsdale’s reckless ambition that he secured loans against projected (hopeful) future revenue that didn’t manifest, lumbering the club with problems even the Titanic would wince at. Though, we run the risk of allowing the world to re-define “doing a Leeds” to mean slipping away due to under-investment.
I get it. There’s a very real fear at Leeds of spending money. Football clubs outside of the Premiership simply don’t generate profit and with the theoretical (but rarely enforced) Sword of Damacles (FFP) hanging over us, the notion of spending more to secure success is one no one involved at Leeds seems comfortable with. Though that’s not taking anything away from the money that Andrea Radrizzani has spent on infrastructure and the enormous amount of community outreach work being done. We’ve also brought in some quality players, but forgive us for being gun-shy in this regard. We’ve had a long history of weak transfer windows and last year’s is still very fresh in the memory. Cellino’s refusal to commission any strengthening when Garry Monk called for it was shown to be a bad decision, as the form significantly dropped and the head coach didn’t have the players available to change anything.
We’re on the cusp of making the same mistake and it’s important we learn from it. This squad is pretty good at times, but it’s perilously thin in quality in certain positions and I think we’d be foolish to not attempt to address that. We’re entering the transfer window (albeit with a game against Forest today still to take place) in the playoffs (or there abouts). It’s a competitive league and few sides will rest on their laurels. We shouldn’t be afraid to shore up some of our weaker areas to make a more deliberate push for the playoffs.
Gaetano Berardi himself said that Leeds probably need a better left-back than him, and they’re right, because he’s a right-back and it would be nice to have him applying pressure to Luke Ayling, who is currently unchallenged (certainly with Lewie Coyle out on loan). Berardi would be a solid defensive option to have, and it’s fair to say that Ayling could probably do with a break as his performances have understandably suffered from playing basically every game.
I think there’s something to be said for getting in another option in midfield, too. It was clear in the shambolic performance against Birmingham that TC wanted a more physical presence in midfield to counter some specific threats, but it’s perhaps not fair to place such a burden on Conor Shaughnessy when our formation has such a reliance on the composure and creativity of two utility midfielders. Phillips and Vieira can run this show, but can be over-awed by teams that aren’t willing to let us play. O’Kane is an accomplished passer of the ball and has lovely vision, but, as ever, I think the club needs a midfield general of sorts. It’s too easy to say that Leeds need a David Batty, because every team in the world needs one of those, but I do think a standout central midfielder would be important. Look at Mooy at Huddersfield last season, or Jonjo Shelvey at Newcastle, these are players of incredible quality and they are transformative to how you play. Phillips and Vieira are superb players, but I don’t think it’s sensible to rely on them entirely. They’re only young and they both have fantastic careers ahead of them, but nurturing that would be easier with another figure.
I’d also be more comfortable with better backup for Felix Wiedwald (who has played well of late), because I don’t have confidence in Andy Lonergan to be able to apply pressure on that position. And if Felix needs a few games to rebuild his confidence, having a confident player in waiting would be a bonus.
I do, as ever, wish for a halo forward to come in, though that’s never going to happen. Roofe plays well there and there’s a solid argument for him being the best striker at the club. Lasogga is a unit and a good finisher, but there’s something about how we play when there’s a more mobile forward them him on the pitch. Ekuban allowed us to play well by being a tenacious, tireless machine, but his injury situation makes it hard to rely on him being a regular feature. Antonsson is playing well at Blackburn and should stay there for the duration of the season, he’s not what we need right now. I’d personally love for the club to spend real money on someone like Jordan Hugill from Preston – a player I admire hugely. He’s a proper handful every time I see him play and in a better side with better service, I think he’d be an absolute weapon.
But this isn’t about me talking about which signings I’d like to make, but more about hoping the club learn from experience and the lesser-discussed “cost of doing nothing”. In business people always look at the cost of making change, but seldom seek to understand what the cost of doing nothing is. In many cases, wishing to defer the expense only results in either greater expense later or less revenue. Leeds might wish to shy away from strengthening further, but the cost of doing nothing in this transfer window could be far greater than the cost of making the signings we need.
But that’s probably enough pondering for one morning, we’ve got Forest at home soon and I should probably get out of my PJ’s.