Leeds In A Relegation Scrap
Having finished ninth in 2020-21 – just three points off a Europa Conference League place, six points off a Europa League spot and eight points behind the Champions League positions – there was real excitement at the prospect of potentially securing European football this term.
But the reality is that Leeds are – for now, at least – in a relegation fight, sitting 16th in the table with just 19 points from their first 19 games.
The squad has been ravaged by injuries throughout the campaign, and a number of key players continue to struggle for fitness.
Injuries Across The Squad
In the centre of defence, club captain Liam Cooper is out until March, while Pascal Struijk has been hampered by a persistent foot issue and even youngster Charlie Cresswell is sidelined until February.
That leaves just Robin Koch –whose own injury issues this term have restricted him to just three Premier League starts – and Diego Llorente, who is facing a one-match suspension for yellow card accumulation.
Despite being well-stocked in this position, the circumstances mean a new centre-back is imperative.
The situation in the centre of the park is not much better. Star midfielder Kalvin Phillips, like Cooper, is out of action for another two months, while Jamie Shackleton is not expected to return for at least a few weeks.
A little further forward, Rodrigo is battling a heel issue, while Tyler Roberts is both suspended and recently picked up a calf injury – though the extent of the damage is not yet known.
Boubacar Kamara Cover For Phillips
Phillips remains the biggest loss in this department, particularly given there is no natural replacement for his unique blend of qualities within the squad. Signing an alternative to the England international is crucial, regardless of injuries.
The club’s top target in this position is thought to be Marseille’s Boubacar Kamara, who is reportedly available for as little as £10million as he enters the final six months of his contract.
The Frenchman, 22, would also provide emergency cover at centre-back, having established himself in the first-team in 2018-19 as a defender before moving into a holding midfield role.
Experience Needed Defensively
A full-back would not go amiss either – with just three established senior options in Stuart Dallas, Luke Ayling and Junior Firpo covering two positions at present.
The wide forward situation is the same, with Raphinha, Jack Harrison and Daniel James sharing minutes.
Cover comes in the form of right-back Cody Drameh and winger Crysencio Summerville, both 20, who have been given their first team debuts this term – making three and five league appearances, respectively.
More experienced options would increase the quality of the Whites’ depth, but that may be a luxury they cannot afford in this window.
James Maxwell And Todd Cantwell Links
There have been links to Rangers left-back James Maxwell and Norwich City winger Todd Cantwell, but the central areas will likely be prioritised.
Centre-forward has been another problem position this season, with first-choice striker Patrick Bamford making just one appearance – off the bench – since September.
However, the England international appears to be nearing a return, which could save Bielsa from having to dip into the market for another No9 – particularly following the impressive performances of teenager Joe Gelhardt, who has managed a goal and an assist in just 304 minutes of league action.