Five key issues for Leeds to address before 2017/18 Championship campaign
By Tom Mordey
Last Updated: 09/05/17 1:44pm
Leeds fell out of play-off contention in the Championship this season. Here are five issues they must rectify for next campaign...
As Reading, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Fulham get ready for the play-offs, Leeds' squad will be heading for an earlier-than-hoped summer holiday.
Garry Monk's side looked assured of a play-off spot until a horrible run of one win in eight matches after the international break in March ended their chances.
It's still been an impressive first season in charge for Monk, beating expectations by finishing seventh, but there's plenty of questions to be answered if the club are to make their long-awaited return to the Premier League next season.
Here are five key issues at Elland Road...
The main question marks hang over the man who has orchestrated Leeds' revival - Garry Monk. He is due for talks over his future in the coming weeks as his one-year deal comes to an end. Leeds have an option to extend that into the 2017/18 season, but nothing has been agreed yet, but there's no doubting what the Leeds fans want. Their sold-out away end on the final day at Wigan chanted non-stop for Monk to stay, as did Elland Road the week before against Norwich. Monk has clearly earned the chance to continue in the role.
Monk is Leeds' seventh head coach in two seasons, but is the first since Brian McDermott in 2013/14 to see out a full campaign, and led Leeds to their best finish since the seventh-place in 2010/11 under Simon Grayson. Budget and contract length could be a sticking point for agreeing a deal with Monk, but after the season's poor start, having the head coach in place for a full pre-season is a necessity. If Leeds are to win promotion to the Premier League, sorting Monk's future out immediately seems crucial.
Leeds' recent years have been blighted with more off-field issues than on-field success. But could that all be about to change? Andrea Radrizzani bought half of the club back in January and the Italian has the option to complete a full buyout of Massimo Cellino's ownership. Garry Monk admitted in his post-Wigan news conference that the deal was 'imminent' and Leeds need that to happen as soon as possible.
Cellino's time at Elland Road has been shrouded in controversy; from FA bans, to appointing a boss who was previously managing in non-league football in Dave Hockaday. Since buying the club in 2014, Cellino has reduced the wage bill significantly, but failed to deliver on promises to supporters to buy back Elland Road and the club's training ground. Radrizzani's plans for the club aren't yet clear, but Leeds could certainly do with some stable times behind the scenes as they look to push on to the top flight.
Leeds have recently earned a reputation as a selling club and with Charlie Taylor opting not to play at Wigan and ultimately not sign a new contract, he is set to be the latest on a long list of talented homegrown players to depart Elland Road. The left-back now looks certain to leave this summer, but if Leeds are to progress, they need to hang on to several other stars.
Chris Wood is the most obvious name on that list. He became just the sixth Leeds player to hit 30 goals in a season, the sort of form that won't go unnoticed by Premier League clubs, and Leeds need to stand firm if any bids come in. Pontus Jansson will sign a permanent deal having spent the season on-loan from Torino, but Southampton have already been linked with a big money move after the defender's superb form. Teenage midfielder Ronaldo Vieira could also attract interest given his excellent breakthrough season and he's certainly a player the club could build around going forward.
There's no doubt Leeds need to add to their squad. Kyle Bartley is only on loan from Swansea, and should Monk get a new contract, it seems likely he will chase the centre-back's permanent signature this summer.
But where else do Leeds need to look? Recruitment has been mixed in recent times. Monk added well generally last summer, but there was still nearly £2m spent on striker Marcus Antonsson who scored one league goal all season and hasn't featured since January. And the business done in the winter transfer window wasn't good enough. Monk only landed wingers Modou Barrow and Alfonso Pedraza, who scored the sum total of one goal and provided no assists between them.
The likes of Pablo Hernandez, Bartley, Jansson, Rob Green and Luke Ayling all proved excellent signings on a limited budget, but if Monk is retained, he'll want to operate on something more than the shoestring he was given in the last campaign.
Again, this question revolves around Leeds retaining Monk, but will the head coach consider a change in formation next season? He's favoured a 4-2-3-1 system for the majority of the campaign, but as Leeds faded late on, there seemed to be limited options for the team to play any other way. The system worked well at home, but it contributed to their poor away form, winning just twice since Boxing Day.
Leeds had the fewest shots on target in the Championship and the weight of pressure fell particularly on the shoulders of Pablo Hernandez to create chances. Monk struggled to settle on a central midfield partnership and there were several examples of his side getting overrun in the middle of the pitch in games, in particular away at Reading and Brentford as their season started to fall apart.
His wide players also proved inconsistent, as again, Monk found it difficult to decide on his first choice wingers. We've already covered the two January signings Pedraza and Barrow, but Hadi Sacko faded badly after a promising start, Stuart Dallas never hit the heights set in his first season, while Kemar Roofe and Souleymane Doukara showed only glimpses. Monk might need more of a plan B if Leeds are to challenge at the top next season.