January transfer window opens, what are we looking at? Graham Smeaton January 2, 2015 Loan watch, Transfer News 33 Comments The Preamble Ah, the January transfer window, the time when we all rub out little mitts like Mr Burns from The Simpsons and wonder what riches will be bestowed on us and how it will turn us from also-rans, through nearly-rans and towards smoothly-rans – we tend to fall somewhere between these ‘rans’ and never quite reach ‘smoothly’ status; we also tend to stumble more like drunks or toddlers trying to regain their balance rather than thoroughbreds running with consummate assurance. It seems that the Pavoletti transfer is playing to the right tune and that his signature is imminent and a mere formality, it being wrapped up in the very near future. There are also rumours floating around that we are looking to bring in Inter Milan’s Rene Krhin to replace Rodolph Austin who is apparently being allowed out on loan with Brighton and Millwall allegedly interested in his services. With this in mind attention is turned elsewhere to plug some gaps and, let’s be frank, there are enough to plug that a new team could be ordered to do that job. But, unfortunately, thanks to the Football League’s ’embargo’ for breaking FFP regulations – actually going £15 million over the £8 million limit allowed, Leeds have four spaces in their ‘established squad’ list to play with. If Pavoletti and Krhin sign (without Leeds being able to arrange Austin’s loan out), as is being mooted, then that leaves only the two spare places available. As ever, names are being floated around and the current two being mentioned are Juventus’ Italian centreback Luca Marrone and Catania’s Brazilian-born Italian left midfielder Raphael Martinho. Luca Marrone Listed on Whoscored.com as a ‘central defender’, yet mentioned elsewhere as a defensive midfield player, 24-year old Marrone seems a solid and dependable sort of player who has strengths in three main areas. Firstly, his tackle rate is high and over the two main seasons he played in Serie A (Sassuolo and Juventus) he completed 80% of the tackles he attempted. Secondly, he is also comfortable with the ball in his possession and he has a better than average success rate when dribbling with the ball, completing 66% of all dribbles attempted. Thirdly, he possesses another strength in that he is a high-volume passer with impressive accuracy, for example he completed 92% of the average 59 passes per game playing for Juventus in Serie A in 2012/13. Raphael Martinho Martinho presents himself quite differently to the effective tidiness demonstrated by Luca Marrone. He has amassed much more game time experience than Marrone in Serie A (2,547 minutes in 49 appearances) and his experience at this tier does show some encouraging tendencies. In Serie A it was his willingness to run at the opposition in his natural wide left position that is one thing that Leeds lack at any great level of consistency; Martinho making 113 attempted dribbles, succeeding in 59 of these. However, another facet of his game that Mssrs Salerno and Cellino might have been enamoured to is his contribution whilst in Serie B. During the two seasons he has played at this level (2012/13 for Verona and the current season with Catania) he has scored a total of 13 goals and provided 9 assists. Verdicts Like the little Dutch boy plugging a leak in a dyke, wait that was a film I saw once…anyway, like the story of the Dutch boy whose simple act of plugging a leak saved an earthen dam from breaking. The thing is at Leeds we have more than one leak that needs plugging and potentially only 4 ‘established squad’ places available to act like the little boy’s fingers. I’m not sure what you guys think or what you think are priorities but I will sling my ha’pennorth worth in to the mix. We concede too much, both goals and shots to the opposition; more shots give the opposition more opportunities to lash balls goal-bound. That in itself is a recipe for disaster, one which our defensive frailties don’t really help with. I must admit, I’m not really enamoured with any of the combinations that we have tried out in the centre of the defensive backline; it’s been a case of either Barry and Paul or Barry and Paulo Chuckle at times. None of our central defenders are commanding in the air, losing more than the fair share of headed duels that a centre back should. That’s one ‘plug’ that I would make sure I hammered in there, more defensive solidity and composure. Luca Marrone could possibly provide that if he is a natural central defender; if a defensive midfield player then I sorely doubt he could stem the flow enough. Added to reducing opponent’s shots on goal, we need to raise our own game and start creating chances at the other end. We don’t put teams under enough pressure, gifting them tracts of the field and passages of play where we allow them to set the agenda. At the moment I think there is only one real thing stopping that and I think it’s the inflexibility of the ‘diamond’ system and what it forces the players to do. I think we have the nucleus of players that could do a job for us, the formation doesn’t allow them to do that. Over-run in midfield, we always seem to be on the back foot – defending rather than attacking. Playmakers like Adryan are having to track back, receive the ball and turn and run for longer at the defence rather than receiving it further up the field and surging towards the box, committing opponents into tackles and areas they don’t want to be in. That’s where someone like Martinho might come in handy; not afraid to take opponents on and able to weigh in with goals and assists; things that we are sorely lacking at the moment. Whatever we do in this transfer window, I really hope it is a player for a reason not just for a player’s sake. If you purchase on impulse, you always end up with ill-fitting garments.