Leeds United have made easily their brightest start to the season since the arrival of Massimo Cellino as owner, and spent Christmas Day sat inside the play-off places in the Championship. But how has their campaign actually gone? And what do they seemingly need to do in the remaining months to realise their ambitions? Here is HITC Sport’s look…
Start to the season
As mentioned, the Whites have made a brilliant start to the season. The idea of going into the Christmas and New Year period with promotion not only on the table of possibilities, but as a genuine target would have seemed incredible to long-suffering Leeds fans.
While Garry Monk proved during his time at Swansea City that he was a manager of Premier League ability, the faith in him was beginning to disappear ever so slightly going into the clash with Blackburn in September. Leeds would have fallen to the bottom of the table had they lost. Since then however, Monk has proved that his acquisition was surely the best piece of business the club did all summer.
Team performance of the season so far
In terms of victories that established Leeds as genuine play-off contenders, no win had quite as much of an impact as the victory away at Norwich back in November. After falling behind, goals from Pontus Jansson and Chris Wood handed Leeds a 2-1 lead with minutes to go. And while Kyle Lafferty’s equaliser in the 88th minute suggested that the Whites could spend stoppage-time holding on, a Ronaldo Vieira stunner in added-time saw Leeds claim a dramatic victory.
For once, there are a number of players who have staked a claim to be labelled Leeds’ star player this term. Pontus Jansson is well on his way to securing cult-hero status if he has not done so already, but Chris Wood has taken his form to another level this term. The New Zealander has scored 11 times in 23 league games to lead the goalscoring charts by a long way. Though he has had more opportunities up front, it is difficult to imagine that any of the other forwards would have been quite as prolific over the previous few months.
Where to strengthen in January
While a new striker may be on the club’s radar, Souleymane Doukara and Kemar Roofe showed against Preston in particular just how good they can be in Wood’s absence. With Charlie Taylor’s future still uncertain, a new left-back – who could potentially be a long-term answer – is surely a must given the lack of depth in that position.
Likelihood of strengthening in January
It seems to be a no-brainer for the Leeds board to get their chequebook out during the window. The Whites are in the best position they have been in for years and would be foolish not to try and capitalise. However, the ongoing takeover speculation could always threaten to derail Monk’s January plans.
While Leeds’ strongest side is arguably better than many in the Championship, there are still some questions to be answered if they lose several key players to injury at the same time. And while they have spent several weeks in the top six, the table remains tight so a drop in their performance levels over a handful of weeks could see them fall fairly dramatically.
Predicted end of season position: 6th
After years of falling at the earlier hurdles, it is still difficult to imagine Leeds’ bubble not bursting at some stage. However, Monk’s men continue to surprise those who doubt them, so if they can get lucky with injuries and perhaps enjoy a good January, then surely they will stay in the play-off picture. Their poor record in the play-offs will give them another opportunity to prove people wrong.