Can Leeds still finish in the top six?

After a difficult end to the 2013-14 campaign, the new season is proving to be equally tough for a Leeds United side who have now picked up just three points from their opening four matches. A 1-0 victory over Middlesbrough provided the only welcome relief in a start that has also seen defeats to Brighton and Millwall, prior to an embarrassing 4-1 loss to Watford last time out.

Owner Massimo Cellino faces a difficult decision over head coach Dave Hockaday but can the club possibly recover and challenge the top six at the end of 2014-15?

Current battles

After that poor beginning, Leeds are way down among the outsiders with Betfair to gain a promotion place at the end of this season and the next three league fixtures against Bolton, Birmingham and Bournemouth are important not just for the club but for the immediate future of the man in charge of the first team.

Predictable concerns were raised when Hockaday was handed the job and critics will say that his lack of experience at this level has been exposed in his opening matches. If the former Forest Green Rovers manager does leave Elland Road, Cellino’s first task in attempting an assault on the top six is to appoint a more accomplished head coach.

Assuming there is a queue for the job, and bearing in mind that Neil Warnock has happily been ruled out of the running, many will feel that Leeds won’t progress under the fellow incumbent.

Striking issues

When Ross McCormack left for Fulham at the start of the season, he took away a relatively modest record of 53 goals from 137 league games but it’s one that Leeds’ remaining strikers are struggling to match. McCormack scored his first goal for the Cottagers in midweek but the question remains as to whether Hockaday and Cellino have adequately replaced him.

A team record of two goals in four league matches, one of which was an OG in the defeat to Watford, suggests that they haven’t but there are hopes that the new look front line can step up and take greater responsibility.

Souleymane Doukara looked strong in pre-season, particularly in the 2-0 win over Dundee United and two goals in the league cup against Accrington indicate that he can make a positive contribution when he eventually returns from his unfortunate injury. Elsewhere, Billy Sharp is the only scorer from open play in the league and is essentially McCormack’s replacement. At 28, Sharp is a much travelled striker who has now played for eight different clubs since making his debut for Sheffield United in the 2004-05 season.

His record is mixed but the centre forward enjoyed productive spells at Doncaster and Scunthorpe United and that winner against Middlesbrough might just be a sign of more to come.

Further reinforcements

There is, of course, a few days left in the transfer window for the club to acquire further new faces but after a relatively busy summer at Elland Road, it may be that Casper Sloth is the last signing of the current open period.

Rumours naturally persist and the Sampdoria midfielder Daniele Dessena is one name currently doing the rounds of the gossip columns but this is a crucial time for Cellino and any signings made before the deadline could make or break our current campaign.

After just four games of the new Championship season, the answer posed at the top of this article might seem to be a resounding ‘no’. It’s been a poor start with few positives but could the owner’s impending decision on the current manager’s position be the first step on the road to recovery and a place in the play offs?

  • Ray

    Idiotic statement…..really way off with this and up to now always enjoyed your posts.

  • markman

    After reading this,i may go and listen to Leonard Cohen and then slit
    my wrists.

    there are over 100 points to play for.i am sure we will finish in the top half of the table.

  • Jimmy

    Transfer window still open, first team still taking shape, international two week break to train in after Saturdays game and we are only five points adrift of the top 6 places!
    Agreed it has been a controversy filled start to the season, red cards and injuries haven’t helped, but come back when the first ten games have been played, then we will be in a realistic and better informed position to look at this question again.

    For now lets get behind the team for tonight and Saturday match and have a bit of belief it’s far to early for this kind of gloomy speculation.

    MC will fix the coach/manager situation if things don’t improve by mid September.

    Note this is a guest article.

  • henrymouni

    We can do it.
    Plenty of time.
    A few unknowns in the squad, but we will have the loan window too.
    Massimo wants to go up this season!!

    • markman

      sorry to be pedantic,but,he actually said give it 2 seasons.
      i would be happy if we see a vast improvement on the previous few seasons and knock the scum out of the cup,preferably at Elland Rd.

    • spellz

      We are not going up this season mate unless we suddenly inherit a Champions league side, I would put a wager on that myself we are poor our management at this early stage has been shambolic and after the disasters of Warnock, McD era G.F.H and Bates the whole dramas, to start a season where nothing could actually be worse, Hock and Cellino would not have to do much between them to win us over…….really would they? we still have this overwhelming drama of losing 3 out of 4 games in the league and astonishingly an 82 min lead in the league cup against league 1 Bradford and were out of that too. not to mention at this early stage 4 red cards I mean fucking dramatic this curse we have at our club or what?

      • henrymouni

        The remarkable thing about Smith’s goal is that it was the first shot on target in almost 3 hours of football!!
        How is that possible????

        • spellz

          we are just tactically inept, like I said on a post before what is the point of playing passing football and not attempting to score goals, it’s beyond me, you simply can’t win games and get no goals.

  • Tim

    Come on, I really can’t believe you are even suggesting this after four league games! If we had taken one or three points at Watford there would have been non of this nonsense this week. If we can win the next two it will all go away. After Saturday, we have a two week ‘pre-season’ with all the new players and some more to come I hope. Lets then see where we are after the Birmingham and Bournemouth games.

  • chareose

    The article is OK, hes merely asking if we can still make
    the playoffs…. The answer is maybe but
    people need to start scoring goals !

  • andy

    It is far too soon to tell which end of the league we will be at by the end of the season. Hockaday has to be given a chance with a complete first team squad. I think the end of October would be the time to judge him.
    However, one thing he has said that worries me is his comments regarding wingers. Width on the pitch stretches the opposition, we are playing with a very narrow midfield which exposes our fullbacks to the opposition wingers particularly when the opposition have attacking fullbacks overlapping. When we do get possession the opposition wingers move in field to stifle us.
    Looking at the number of midfield players we have signed it would appear our president has bought in to this style of play.

    • NottsWhite

      I agree that Hockaday has had a tough task trying to put together a team that has new additions on a weekly vadis however I am concerned that he does not know his best formation and who should play with it. There is also the insistance to rely on sub standard players i.e. murphy, austin, tonge and the impact abilities of Poleon. Admittedly he has not had much choice but given choice I suspect he will revert back to these average players.

  • Mrs Hockaday

    With the current squad and coaching staff – NO NO NO

  • nelson

    Please Am I the only one who is now getting just a bit weary of all this talk about play offs, promotion, Hockadays sacking. Come on guys its August, not January. We have played 4 games and I have read at least two comments the goal against Middlesboro was jammy, lucky ye gods.
    I wonder if the red scum forum is discussing Van Gaars sacking, or a drop into our demise, all the money in the world and they are crap
    I notice RMC scored last night so its striker out 1, striker in 1. Something’s going right eh. MOT

  • Helen LUFC

    I think it clearly says something about Hockaday that he has the backing of the players. Plenty of high profile managers end up having the players against them, Brian Clough at Leeds springs to mind! The players he is working with are very average, looking at how some of them have started off and how they are performing now. The fact cellino has gone Italian is odd, in my opinion. Why would you bring a load of Italian B players in to get promotion from a tough league like the Championship? They won’t cope. The team don’t sound fit, even though Hockaday promised to make them the fittest in the league. I think headlines like the one above are just silly, really, when if anyone has actually been to the games this season will be wondering if we will be in League One after this season.

  • spellz

    I do not think from the start of the season we would have hoped for playoffs most of us was cautious but with optimism of finally stabalising the club, I do not think anyone would have predicted the calamitous start we have had when such an air of confidence surrounded the club, Cellino has spent money aswell so even more so, really at this rate I have not said this since the Warnock era, and I only said it once as I am not someone that likes to spread negativity about us unless my hand is forced but even this early if things do not change I could see us in a relegation battle, things need to change now – Hock needs to go and Cellino needs a manager, not a coach otherwise were doomed I tell ya DOOOOOOMED!!! and the performance tonight against Bradford? I mean we cannot even keep a 82 min lead without fucking losing it and whilst I am on my rant get fucking Luke Murphy out even know we could never get the amount we payed for the lazy shit, that is all.

    M.OT AA.

  • PMH

    Players still coming in, so we don’t even know which team we are talking about. With no crystal ball I cannot tell if this team will work out or not. The talent looks mid division, but they could easily do better or worse than that. Ask me again in a month.