Where Do Leeds Utd Need To Strengthen This Transfer Window?
According to the latest Premier League betting odds, Leeds are just as likely to finish in the top four as they are to be relegated come the end of the 2021-22 season.
Odds of 12/1 on a Champions League spot are widely available on football betting sites, but that 7.7% chance is equal to their 12/1 price on going down.
Truth be told, few punters expect either outcome, though with odds of 9/2 on a top six finish it’s reasonable to believe that Leeds are only one or two signings short of mounting a challenge for European qualification this season.
With West Ham finishing sixth last term and Leicester now regular qualifiers for the Europa League, Leeds have every reason to believe European nights could be coming back to Elland Road in the near future.
Yet while rivals around them have been strengthening – Aston Villa appear to have invested their Jack Grealish money wisely for example – Leeds have been fairly quiet in the summer transfer window.
The £13million arrival of Junior Firpo from Barcelona has promise, while winger Jack Harrison could prove an astute signing from Manchester City, but little can be expected of teenager Lewis Bate and 20-year-old goalkeeper Kristoffer Klaesson.
Norwegian Klaesson is expected to be an understudy for Illan Meslier, who himself is only 21, and former Leeds goalkeeper Paul Robinson believes manager Marcelo Bielsa needs to add a more experienced pair of hands to his squad.
“I’m surprised at the lack of activity so far,” Robinson told Gambling.com. “I think they’ll bolster in the goalkeeping area.
“I know they’ve brought a young goalkeeper in to support Meslier but I don’t think they’ve got the experienced and reliable number two as yet.
‘Big Season For Meslier’
“This could be a big season for Meslier. He’s passed a lot of tests and had an outstanding season last year but he’s got a lot more tests to come.
“He hasn’t yet made a really bad mistake that has led to a goal so we haven’t been able to see how he reacts to that.
“He hasn’t played in front of a big crowd yet in the Premier League and when things don’t go quite right in front of a packed stadium we see how mentally tough you are.
“If the manager finds himself needing to take his goalkeeper out of the firing line for two or three games this season, it doesn’t fill me with confidence looking at the bench because he’d be taking a chance with another youngster.
“So I think an experienced number two needs to come in that both young goalkeepers can work with and learn from on the training ground, but then the manager would also have the option of using him at some point.”
You can see the logic to the thinking of Robinson, who played over 100 games for Leeds before turning out for Tottenham, Blackburn and Burnley.
The former England international has also spotted holes in other areas of Bielsa’s squad, with the lack of cover for Euro 2020 star Kalvin Phillips a problem yet to be addressed.
“I think they have to get another midfielder in,” he said. “They really struggled last year when Kalvin Phillips was missing.
“I think they could do with a central midfielder but one who can also do Phillips’ role when he can’t play.
“I’d love to see them sign Harry Winks. I know he’s getting a lot of game time at Spurs in pre-season but he didn’t last year and I think a player of his ability can get to a different level if they’re playing every week.
“Rather than being a bit-part player at Tottenham I think he could really kick on if he was at somebody like Leeds. His offensive capabilities are overlooked a little bit because he quite often plays defensively.
“But that feeds in to the point I was making about the Kalvin Phillips role – Winks could play every week higher up in the midfield but fill in defensively when necessary. I think he’d add a lot of bite to that midfield.”
Bamford Back-Up Needed
Patrick Bamford was arguably the star of Leeds’ first season back in the top flight last season following their promotion from the Championship, but Robinson is concerned by the lack of cover for the 27-year-old striker.
He said: “We’ve seen Raphinha and Rodrigo come in as alternative options to Patrick Bamford but neither of them have worked out that way – Rodrigo’s spent time in midfield and Raphinha has played out wide and has been excellent to be fair.
“But I think they need another option up front other than Bamford. I don’t think Leeds are far away, but I would like to see them make two or three more signings before the end of the window.”
Indeed, the club are closing in on Celtic centre-back Leo Hjelde after reportedly agreeing a fee for the player, who could line up alongside new left-back Junior in a new-look Leeds defence.
Robinson is particularly excited by the arrival of Junior, who has signed a four-year deal and will wear the number three shirt.
“I rate him very highly,” said Robinson of the 24-year-old.
“He’s very young, but it’s an area that they did struggle in last year. [Ezgjan] Alioski was nowhere near good enough, it was an attacking midfielder playing at left-back.
“At times they got exploited in that area last year. Alioski has obviously moved on and they’ve brought Junior in, but they need another one as cover in that position.
“But I think Junior will be a really exciting player. The little bits I’ve seen of him, he seems to get forward and get balls in the box, but defensively he’s very capable as well.”
With Bielsa having confirmed his contract renewal for the new season, there’s plenty of cause for optimism at Leeds at the moment. Perhaps that 9/2 on a top six finish won’t be around for much longer.
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