Put a pin in the Hugill thought for a moment, I’ll come to that in a moment… Meanwhile my fingers are trembling with annoyance that I’m going to avoid writing about the Ipswich game too much. Annoyance that I’ll gloss over the beautiful irony of Eunan O’Kane being the squad’s voice for expressing their disappointment in Samu Saiz’s dismissal against Newport, only to get a straight red card himself against Ipswich for head-butting. And yes, it was a legitimate straight red card if you see it from the reverse of the angle the ref had. It’s blatant and while the victim did indeed go down like he’d been hit with a shotgun to the nose, EOK deserves to be thoroughly ashamed of himself because Leeds were in the ascendancy and starting to edge a tight game when such stupidity took hold.
But we’re not talking about that incident today. We’re barely even going to reference the Ipswich game directly, instead using it as the backdrop to a conversation about investment and why it’s such a laboured (but relevant) one to keep having.
Leeds United have dipped in form, such is how we always enter the new calendar year. It’s tradition, perhaps, but it’s disheartening all the same. While antics on the pitch are frustrating and (to the fans) casting an obvious light on areas that need improvement, it’s the wider activity off-pitch that’s starting to upset people.
With Luke Ayling injured for the remainder of the season after a relatively innocuous challenge from Liam Bridcutt in the Forest game, it placed further pressure on Leeds to acquire a more dedicated left-back, to allow Gaetano Berardi to cover for Ayling’s absence in his favoured position. Leeds went and signed Laurens De Bock from Club Bruge, who looks to be a decent player, but failed to have him ready for the game.
With Vieira unable to be selected due to injury, Leeds still allowed new signing and World Cup qualifying hero Yosuke Ideguchi to go out on loan. Ideguchi is a holding midfielder, by the way. Someone who loves a physical challenge and to keep things tidy in the middle of the pitch. Specifically the kind of player we’d often said we missed in games where Vieira wasn’t present or Phillips was having an “off” day. Yet the club still sanctioned his departure to the Spanish second division despite being awarded a work permit. Which seems like an unusual decision, given how thin the squad looks in quality and freshness.
But the lack of goals up-front is a larger and larger elephant that the club is trying to resist people mentioning. Where peers have forwards of enviable quality, Leeds are needing to “make do” with players who simply haven’t specialised in that position, played at this level or simply might not be good enough to drive the club upwards. It’s a challenge to lose a 30-goal striker and not look toothless up-front, and the party-line from the club throughout has been that Thomas Christiansen is happy with his attacking options, but it’s perhaps telling that he has changed his tune. When questioned around the game about signings he has hinted at the need to bolster the club’s attacking options.
Which makes sense, because Roofe and Lasogga are the only viable first-team strikers and that’s simply not good enough if we have aspirations of being higher than this.
Then come the inevitable rumours and targets. The title-man for this article is someone who I personally am fully behind in terms of a target and also think demonstrates the point I want to make perfectly. Leeds are not going to sign Jordan Hugill. Leeds are also not going to sign Jack Marriott. The reason? They’re too expensive.
Why the Kewell are they too expensive?
I’m using Judas’ name as a curse word to keep things civil, but a reality we need to come to accept (if not endorse) is that Leeds are not the kind of club to spend big money on a big player. Our transfer policy leverages lesser known talent on the continent and a drizzle of Academy product. While Marriott or Hugill would be wonderful marque signings (or at least, the biggest we could discuss without entering realms of ridiculous fiction because we don’t spend like our peers) they’re simply not players that fit into our transfer policy.
It’s hard to forget that Luke Murphy was a £1m halo signing for us not long ago, and that now our ceiling is for players like Jansson and Saiz (£3.5m ish).
Marriott is going to cost someone £5-6m at this rate, with bids for £4m being rejected already. Hugill, despite having submitted a transfer request in the Summer won’t be allowed to leave for less than an eye-watering £8-9m, as I understand it.
But Leeds actually do have this money??
We do, supposedly. The Charlie Taylor and Chris Wood money constitutes around £20m of transfer revenue for the club which has not been reinvested into the playing squad. It’s perhaps fair to ask questions of the club as to why, with the funds available, they aren’t willing to spend the money on players that would be hugely important. Instead there’s a conservative policy being broadcast, the need to build a promotion winning team slowly and in light of this, our transfers are primarily for the future.
But this doesn’t wash with most fans. While Andrea Radrizzani is in his first or second season of his five season plan, fans who have been waiting for even the faintest sniff of promotion for 15 years are getting restless. We know that this league is only becoming more difficult season after season, as the Premiership money trickles down via parachute payments to those lucky enough to bath in such hot sun, if only for a short while. With Leeds within touching distance of a real chance of getting out of this league it’s hard for fans to accept the call for patience because we arrogantly believe we know that £8m spent on Hugill now would be £12m+ spent on an equivalent next season, as money in the game increases and competition gets more intense.
So on we go, chewing the inside of our mouthes in frustration and trying to accept the judgement of an owner who has, otherwise, done incredible things for the football club. We know that this squad needs a few quality additions that will improve the squad today, but we’re needing to find acceptance for signings that will perhaps improve the squad in the future. De Bock aside.
It looks likely that Leeds will roll into February with essentially the same squad it does now, obvious weaknesses unsolved, and we’ll probably repeat the antics of last season. Where we run out of quality, slip down the table and wonder “what might have been”.
Jordan Hugill is the poster-child for what Leeds need but won’t get, and that’s going to be a continued source of frustration. If we strengthen, it’ll likely be from the continent and it’ll be a gamble.