Leeds’ Summer So Far and Their Left Back Conundrum
Leeds United kicked off their summer transfer business by recruiting RB Salzburg duo Brenden Aaronson and Rasmus Kristensen, with the creative American midfielder and marauding Danish full-back linking up again with former boss Jesse Marsch.
Final day survival, and the riches that retaining their Premier League status follow, has seen the club already look to rectify the mistakes of last season and build a more rounded, Premier League quality squad.
Having not signed a midfielder since Adam Forshaw in January 2018, the Whites snapped up long-term target Aaronson who, at the very least, adds to the numbers in an area where Leeds are so desperately short, alarmingly so during Kalvin Phillips’ lengthy spells on the touchline last term.
“Me and my girlfriend were in Vienna, down in a cafe and I remember watching the [decisive] game. I was sweating and I was pacing, it was really tough for me!” the Medford-born player explained after signing.
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Luke Ayling, a standout performer in the side’s first season back in the top-flight, struggled for form last term and is likely to miss the start of the new campaign following knee surgery. A femoral fracture is likely to keep the versatile Stuart Dallas out of action until the new year.
Leaving 20-year-old Cody Drameh as the club’s only fit recognised right-back. The former Fulham defender spent the second half of last season on loan at Championship side Cardiff, where he picked up both the Young Player of the Year and Player of the Year accolades, despite having made only 22 league appearances for the Bluebirds.
Salzburg’s fax machine buzzed once more, and a fee in the region of £10m was agreed with Leeds beating Borussia Dortmund and Brentford to the signature of Kristensen.
Rasmus Kristensen ranked vs. Austrian Bundesliga defenders in 2021/22:
Goals: 7 (🥇)
Acc. final third passes: 421 (🥇)
Shots: 42 (🥇)
Succ. take-ons: 39 (🥇)
Chances created: 34 (4th)
On-target: 17 (🥇)
Blocked shots: 8 (J-🥇)
Assists: 3 (J-🥉)
Errors leading to goals: 0 (J-🥇) pic.twitter.com/ftO6xISEMi
— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) June 2, 2022
“I see myself as a physical, emotional power player, I like to go forward, run up and down the flank and I have a big engine for that. I’m a guy who puts 100% effort in every time I’m on the pitch and I’ll die with my boots on,” said the ex-Ajax man.
Reinforcements look set to continue at Elland Road, with The Athletic reporting that the club are pursuing Bayern Munich midfielder Marc Roca. The Spaniard has struggled to establish himself in Bavaria but was regarded as one of La Liga’s brightest talents during his time at RCD Espanyol. Moves for a striker and back up goalkeeper are also understood to be priorities.
The left side of defence is another area where investment would be welcome. The club parted with around £13.5m when they signed Junior Firpo last summer from Barcelona.
A difficult first season in England has fans questioning whether the full back was an improvement on the departed Ezgjan Alioski, himself a winger who routinely struggled positionally.
Firpo, often referred to as a walking yellow card, was cautioned a remarkable 11 times in just 24 league appearances last term. When the club’s official Twitter account congratulated the former Betis man for recently getting married, fans asked if he’d been booked yet.
Whilst it is worth mentioning that Firpo never started more than six games in a row thanks to numerous injuries hampering his season, the left back’s positioning and decision-making often saw opposition teams target that flank. The 25-year-old was impressive going forward, however, with arguably his best spell in a white shirt coming in the final few games.
It can take a lot of players a season to get up to speed at a new club in a different country. For Firpo, disrupted by injury, playing in a side shipping a startling number of goals and a managerial change thrown in for good measure, fans may start to see signs next season why the player was on the books at Barcelona.
The season before last, the West Yorkshire outfit used Stuart Dallas and Ezgjan Alioski, both out of position, in that role. With the long-term injury to Dallas, Firpo’s only competition for the shirt is Norwegian youngster Leo Hjelde, with the 18-year-old having played predominantly as a centre half for the club’s academy side.
Whilst Firpo’s fortunes at Elland Road may turn next term, another recognised left-back to provide both competition and depth would be very welcome. USA international Sergiño Dest, capable of playing on both sides of the defence, is a name that has been touted as possible incoming for some time.
The club’s summer incomings are likely to depend on outgoings. Whilst the club are rumoured to be in the market for another three to four players to bolster the squad, England midfielder Kalvin Phillips and Brazilian star Raphinha’s possible exits would add eye-watering funds to Jesse Marsch’s budget.
Leeds last term were the perfect case study to future sides of what not to do in your second Premier League season. If it weren’t for the brilliance of a certain few, the rush to leave in this summer’s window would have seen the Elland Road car park resemble a scene from a disaster movie. As it stands, Leeds now have the ideal opportunity to ensure things can be different next time around.
By: Jack Douglas / @JDouglasSport
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Clive Brunskill – AFP