I agree with the growing sentiment that Victor Orta hasn’t done a superb job as Director of Football since joining Leeds. I don’t think it’s fair to place the blame solely at his feet, but when we spent much of last season in the playoff places it was clear that only small augmentations to the squad would add the quality required to push us forward. Sadly, a transfer policy more akin to Cellino’s scatter-gun approach was used, albeit one with supposedly greater scouting behind it.
I do think that the players are hugely culpable for our miserable performances, because this squad was capable of much better performances earlier in the season, but they lacked the tenacity and rigour to keep riding high when times get hard. There’s been an obvious lack of leadership, an obvious shortfall of ability in key positions and this has created a very fragile entity. This entity did well in the sunshine, but crumbled into disarray when the cold Winter nights rolled in.
So, have we hit Wilko’s ratio of 60% success rate on signings? Howard Wilkinson had previously said that if you sign 10 players and 6 turn out to be good, you’ve done incredibly well indeed. So 60% is a ratio that is favourable to succeeding in the market. This is obviously easier if you make fewer purchases but buy well researched, well-known players. For example, you know what you’re getting if you sign Dwight Gayle or Tom Cairney. You don’t know what you’re getting when you sign Granddi Ngoyi.
So let’s look at our transfers and see what we’ve got… I’m only going to look at senior squad players (or players purchased for the senior squad) rather than critiquing development squad players who have clearly been purchased to bolster a thin U23’s squad.
- Pontus Jansson – brilliant under Monk but has faded alongside everyone else. But he’s a success, even if this season has been poor he’s still a superb asset. Success.
- Mateusz Klich – an obvious failure. For whatever reason, Klich never made the grade at Leeds and has been sold again. Failure.
- Hadi Sacko – harsh, but a failure too. He hasn’t added anything to the squad and many were suprised that the club elected to sign him permanently. Has shown glimpses of promise but the lack of a final ball and no real progress in his footballing mean his first team chances are rare. Failure.
- Felix Wiedwald – probably the most agreed upon failure at Leeds at present. Lacks most of the qualities needed to be a quality goalkeeper and many of our defensive problems have arguably stemmed from his inability to command his area (or the subsequent distrust his back-line have in him, which creates uncertainty and mistakes at the back). Failure.
- Vurnon Anita – albeit a free transfer, but I’m entirely unsure what Vurn has brought to Leeds. A regular in Newcastle’s promotion winning side and perhaps a victim of never being played in his favourite position, but in stints on either side at the back he has looked far short of the quality required to play at this level. His wages won’t be small either. Failure.
- Caleb Ekuban – a gamble in the truest sense, plying his trade in the Albanian 2nd division prior to joining Leeds. Has struggled for fitness and yet to score, but does look a bright talent. In a more ‘complete’ side, Caleb could be a real asset. Success (eventually).
- Samuel Sáiz – one of the only bright sparks this season. Not without his flaws, be it his propensity for losing his temper or his often selfish use of the ball, Samu is at least a player worth more than we paid. He’s a good player and one of the only people we have that can drive the team forward in games we can’t get a foothold on. Success.
- Ezgjan Alioski – a mixed bag. His early form (with Saiz) is probably one of the big contributing factors as to why Leeds aren’t in a relegation battle. But it’s easy to compare him to Sacko due to a lack of product and ease of being pushed over. But he tries hard and has been very valuable to us this season. Success (a bit).
- Jay-Roy Grot – with Leeds desperately needing strength up front, the solution was to bring in a brick out-house of a player in Jay-Roy. He has played only a handful of minutes for the senior team before (rightly) being put in the development squad. He’s looked vastly out of his depth in the senior squad but it’s too soon to label him a failure. So let’s wait until next season.
- Andy Lonergan – he wasn’t good enough in his first stint at Leeds and he’s not good enough in his second. Without proper pressure on Wiedwald, it has meant that for much of the season we’ve had to suffer Felix’s mistakes. Failure.
- Paweł Cibicki – An expensive fringe player who has looked excellent in some games and utterly anonymous in others. He might have a bigger future ahead (being only 24 years old) but for now we have to consider him a failed signing because he’s not been intended as an investment, he was intended to be added to the senior squad and he’s not been good enough yet. Failure.
- Yosuke Ideguchi – a World Cup midfielder for Japan, mystifyingly loaned to the Spanish 2nd division where he simply hasn’t played. The player may be good, but his transfer has been an abject failure because he’s not helping us, he’s not helping Cultural Leonesa, it’s just ridiculous. I can’t call HIM a failure yet though.
- Laurens De Bock – a difficult player to rate, who looked good in his first few games but then totally crumbled. At the time of writing I have to be critical and the fact that he has been ejected from the squad in favour of playing other players out of position. Failure (but too early to write him off)
- Adam Forshaw – brilliant, composed head in a complete shambles. He’s a success. He looks a class above those around him. Success.
- Tyler Roberts – hasn’t yet played for Leeds. Supposed to be a good player but his transfer has been a failure (due to him not yet playing a single minute for us). But we can’t write the player off this early!
15 players are listed above. You could only call 5 of them successes (and that’s being generous). Which gives us the absolute best-case of 33.33% in terms of success ratio. If we remove Ekuban from the list (because he’s not worked yet, but I believe he will) it means our ratio is only 26%.
That’s very poor indeed.
We’ll see as time goes by if the players signed ‘come good’ and turn into tremendous assets, but this campaign has been littered with gambles that haven’t paid off (or have backfired entirely) and a few shining lights that simply weren’t bright enough to address the dingy performances.
Simply not good enough. Radrizzani has suggested that he’ll intend to buy more “established” league players for next season, and whether you believe that is up to you, but what we can agree on is that this season’s transfer policy has been a miserable failure.