I can already hear the cries of laughter before I’ve committed my season prediction to the highly-quotable and unforgiving world of the internet, so allow me to preface it by pointing out that I’m not one for blind optimism. It hasn’t been the most difficult task unfortunately, but I’ve correctly predicted Leeds’ boring mid-table finishes in every season since Simon Grayson left the club.

By and large, the problems have been repeated season after season. Too much change and instability, our best players sold and obvious weaknesses in a squad lacking balance.

I’m not going to argue Leeds are the strongest side in the league because if that was true, we’d be talking about an easy trot to the title, but I genuinely believe we’re in a better position now than we have been for several years.

Key to all that is the youngsters we’ve (at the point of writing) retained. They, along with Silvestri, Berardi, Antenucci and one or two others provide a stable core with a year of playing together under their belts. Given the price of success and failure in this division, that kind of stability can be pretty rare and should count for a lot.

We’ve also sured up our two biggest weaknesses of last season, or at least, we will have done when/if Stuart Dallas completes his move later this week. The left-side has long been an area of weakness for Leeds, creating an imbalance that dragged other players out of position and knocked on to everything else. The old ‘square pegs in round holes’ problem.

Sol Bamba signing permanently is a major improvement too. His arrival instantly strengthened our defence, he’s an obvious leadership figure that a squad as young as ours benefits hugely from and he too could be considered a piece of the stability jigsaw given that he was here for a few months last season.

I never doubted Chris Wood as such, but his performance against Everton convinced me he’ll lead our line like no one since Luciano Becchio has managed. He’s strong, has half a yard of pace, moves around well, looks comfortable in possession, holds the ball up to bring other players into the game and, rather importantly, has an eye for goal. With Micro Antenucci as back-up, width provided by Byram and Dallas plus Alex Mowatt adding support, I don’t think goals will be an issue this season.

Our philosophy or style of play is important too. Rösler has spoken about ‘heavy metal’ football, which is difficult to imagine in a division as scrappy as the Championship, but the “up and at ‘em” mentality that involves is crucial to a successful Leeds United side, mostly because it’s what gets the crowd going and an almost bloodthirsty Elland Road crowd roaring on every tackle is an intimidating place to play football, one that few teams would look forward to.

None of this is to say Leeds are without our problems. Neutrals are predicting a finish as low as 21st for Rösler’s side, which is undoubtedly a nod to the chaotic environment Elland Road was for much of last season. But in an interview with Uwe Rösler today, the Daily Mail talks about the buffer Adam Pearson and Martyn Glover provide Rösler from Cellino’s knee-jerk moments of frustration and they do seem to be having a positive effect on controlling the mood at the club. For the most part, this has been the calmest summer I can remember for a long time.

Depth tends to be an issue for every second tier club and while our starting XI is strong, there’s obvious areas in which an injury or suspension could do serious damage. Central midfield is where we’re at our strongest in that sense, but based on the 4-5-1 Rösler seems to be set on, strikers aren’t much of an issue either – Mirco Antenucci is excellent cover for Chris Wood.

We have the numbers – if not the quality – in central defence too, which leaves wide cover as our biggest issue. Doukara seems to have impressed people during pre-season and there’s a few centre-backs who can do half a job at RB. An injury to Sam Byram or Gaetano Berardi would obviously be a problem, but not as big of an issue as one on the left-side where Charlie Taylor and Stuart Dallas (assuming he signs) are our only options.

Our business may be complete with the arrival of Dallas, but if we are to add one more, I’d suggest signing another left-back makes the most sense since Taylor is versatile and can play LB and LW, thus giving us adequate cover in every position. You can’t totally negate the effect of an injury to key personnel, even a club with Man City’s resources would struggle with the loss of Sergio Ageuro, but a serviceable plan B should be a given.

However, barring any mental moments from Massimo Cellino or a plague of injuries to key players, I think Stuart Dallas pushes us over the top six contenders line. We have the required stability, a manager with a plan to play the kind of football I think will get the best out of our young side and have strengthened the biggest problem areas of last season.

In some ways, this could be very reminiscent of Simon Grayson’s first year back in the Championship. While we’re reliant upon key players and aren’t quite the finished article, all that separated us from the top six that season was Ken Bates’ poor performance in the January transfer window, which is an issue I don’t foresee with Cellino. If Leeds are there or thereabouts come Christmas, I fully expect him to double-down on a promotion push and strengthen any areas in which we’ve struggled.

For all those reasons, I’m predicting top six. Brace yourselves, optimism is returning to Elland Road.

29 Responses

  1. henrymouni

    Good summary TSS!
    I think Mr Rosler will keep a good grip on things.
    It is a long season and we have to keep up a momentum and belief.
    When Redders first stepped in to the hot seat we played great for a few games, closing down and attacking, and scoring goals.
    Then it all fell away, never to return.
    We must use the fans support to pressurise teams at ER, and attack from the off.
    Exciting times – we hope!!!

  2. pattayarag

    I think Leeds are stronger than last season but that comment applies equally as well to 10 other clubs in the league. I also think everything hinges on Bamba staying fit so I’ll stick with top 10.

    So I’d say you’ve nailed it whilst dabbling with a bit of crack.a,k,a, erring on the side of optimism.

    • Chareose

      Yes I feel that too, bamba injured and we are up the kyber but if the key players, byram, bamba, wood can stay fit we might sneek the top 6, top 2 would be pushing it too far……….

      Agree also on TSS comment about needing a left full back but i hope its not to the detrement of Taylor who has the look of eagles about him……. Watching him pre-season i was struck by the confidence he exudes, hes not a fancy player but hes got good technique , hes very comfortable running on the ball and he seems to be transforming into an absolutely outstanding defender…….who knows maybe one day the (English Maldini)…….

      Really liked the look of Adeyimi …big strong, good runner but has a dash of talent to go with it……

      Mowatt and Byram seem to be coming of age now but i think Cook will need another year before he starts to ripen, hes still quite raw

      My Prediction us 5th

      • pattayarag

        Must be a spill over from Yorkshire Day but I agree 100% with all your comments. I also want your prediction to be correct, pleaseeeeeee. MOT.

      • spellz

        We do look a different beast all together, just like you said Adeyemi has looked exciting so far what a prospect and his age too, might not miss Austins tenacity as much as I thought. With all our youngsters in place atm we look very strong this season.

  3. chris m

    for me Top 3..because of the additions of Dallas and Adeyemi in Particular. we underperformed last season for many obvious reasons. I don’t have any doubt that Leeds have turned a Corner this time. Mowatt is going to be one of a few Key Players for me.when you look at the Midfield now,compared to the previous last few seasons,it a Big Different. we have the right combination and battlers such as Cook and Adeyemi,playmakers such as Mowatt dallas and Doukara. not to mention Murphy on form,who can also score goals from Midfield.I could go on..I really believe this is the Year for us to be Positive and Optimistic because we have a really good team and I have noticed already,Rosler knows how to get that extra Effort and get the best from his Players..this Leeds side is going to be a Surprise this season..we have stability now at the Club,this is the best Opportunity we have had since a decade to get back in contention for Promotion. the Players have belief and Rosler’s other Philosophy, working on fitness levels of his players,which is going to another plus and be the Key factor for winning more games than losing. because at the end of the day,we we need to keep it simple, to score more goals than we concede.. fitness and good Midfielders combined with a Good striker will go a long way to Achieving this result.my prediction,top 3

    • spellz

      I agree totally, I think Mowatt providing he stays fit will be a very key player this season he pulled all the strings against Everton and looks like he shook of the attention of other clubs, so far so good.

      I have never felt as confident as I do to stick a ton on leeds this season at 25/1 for the title, big value lets hope we do it.

    • Chareose

      Rossler keeps asking the fans to keep expectations low and not add pressure to the squad…………..hes right and I think a prediction of 3 is pushing it a little too far, expect less and be happily surprised
      Its the same with England fans, we go un beaten against the likes of Slovenia etc and suddenly England fans expect us to conquer the world, then piss and moan when we go out at the group stages…………….on an international level there are probably 8 countries that are better than us…………. Germany, Holland, spain, france, chille , argentina etc

  4. spellz

    Well, we looked Barcelona – esque against Everton, the build up to the Mowatt goal was phenomenal especially against a stable consistent premiership club in Everton.

    Honestly if we play like that week in week out and avoid injuries to key players, I feel we would be challenging for the title surely, with the infrastructure in place and the right singing here and there we have made and hopefully Dallas completes his move or Buckley, we look a very strong prospect,

    Rosler has such an air of professionalism, which I think will rub off on the players alike and with his gung ho mentality, I think Belussci Bamba e.t.c will have enough time to deal with the defensive duties without pressure so all round we are a much better club.To all the Cellino haters out there, my guy has done a hell of a lot for our club and seems to be taking a step back from the lime light so the plaudits should also go to him for creating such a positive vibe amongst us fans.

    My prediction – has to be top six with chance of auto, I am going to say 4th.

    M.O.T AA.

      • spellz

        I know and we wrote it at the exact same time, it shows the confidence amongst us fans is resounding lol.

  5. chris

    1,Mowatt,2,Cook,3,Adeyemi,4,Dallas,5,Byram,6,dakoura ,7,Bianchi,8,Murphy,…that is very Impressive! you have the making a Great Side … you can pick 4 top Players there that is as good as any in the Championship.. 1,3,4 and 5 definite starters. Cook,Doukara Murphy and Bianchi as Cover…the Key will be in Midfield. defense and forward will do their job as long as the Midfielders are controlling the game..we have the right Central Midfielders to help the back four..and we have the right Playmakers to help the Forward Player…..attacking is the best form of Defense..this is Rosler’s other Philosophy,,and I agree with that..

    • Chareose

      Doukara is not good enough, hes the same as last season, touches of brilliance followed by casual, lazy passes and gets pushed off the ball too easily………. until he can sort the kinks in his game out, hes nothing but a decent impact player off the bench in my eyes

      • henrymouni

        Doukara starts well, then runs out of steam.
        Mr Rosler said he was not as fit as he could be.
        Maybe there is more to come?
        I don’t know what is happening with Matt Dawson, and maybe he will go out on loan to get some games?
        Berardi & taylor look sound in defence.
        It would appear that our goals will come from Wood, Mowatt & Antenucci, in the main.

      • Chareose

        i dont think its fitness mate, i think its application……………for goals lets hope Dallas gets a few in

        im still secretly hoping they sign both Dallas and buckley (as long Byram still plays and doesnt get sold)

  6. Bunga Bening

    I’m sure we’ll do better than last season but I still feel our squad is a bit too lightweight to achieve a top six finish.
    I know we’ve got Luke Murphy and probably Stuart Dallas to come in but with 46 very competitive league games plus several cup ties to play injuries are inevitable.
    We have the same players in defence that we had last season so I expect we’ll continue to look very static and when anyone runs at pace at us we look in trouble. Add the fact that UR plans to play with a high back line and speedy opposition players could have a field day against us.
    Sorry fellas but my prediction is top ten finish but missing out on playoffs.

    • henrymouni

      The biggest problem last season was that we never looked like scoring a goal, so once we went behind we were done.
      I think/hope our midfield will be stronger and more mobile defensively
      and can keep the pressure off the defence.
      If Mr Rosler’s high tempo, and pressurising the opposition in all areas can be maintained, this will help too.
      It’s in the lap of the Gods!!!!

  7. oldschoolbaby

    There is no point to football if you can`t conjure up some hope pre season.
    I`m hoping Silvestri has been on the weights and has developed more physical presence.
    I`m hoping Berardi can suppress his homicidal urges, fulfil his potential and nail down the RB berth.
    On paper I wouldn`t pair Bellusci and Bamba but I`m hoping they replicate their stats, in tandem, from last season.
    I`m hoping Cooper has his head up and is working hard
    I`m hoping Taylor, Mowatt, Cook and Byram have just improved incrementally ( does anyone else think Mowatt is looking a bit leaner, fitter and hungrier ? )
    I`m hoping Ademyi can fulfil the promise a number of people have seen in him and has the nous to match his intelligence.
    I`m hoping we keep the faith with Bianchi as he can do the midfield holding role.
    I`m hoping both Wood and Erwin prove to be Morrison on quality, pace and enthusiasm steroids, a comparable work ethic will suffice.
    Only 11% of the population are left sided. We need one. Everyone knows we need one. It will reflect in prices quoted. I`m hoping a deal can be done.
    I`m hoping another youngster makes a meaningful breakthrough
    The downside is the length of the season for such a young squad. I`m hoping Murphy recovers quickly.
    I`m hoping Wootton and Doukara ( Charerose is right ) find other clubs.
    I suspect youthful enthusiasm will attack the cup competitions adding to the fixture burden. Remaining injury free is key. If we are lucky in that regard we can scrape the play offs

  8. Markman

    I don’t see how our defence has been strengthened from last year.
    Having said that we are certainly a better looking team all round

    Some bookmarks have Leeds a shorter
    Price to finish in the bottom half of the league than the top. Can’t see that

    I am in the Tss camp

    • henrymouni

      It hasn’t Mark.
      But if the midfield do a proper job covering back and tracking runners, it will make a big difference.
      Also marking properly at set pieces, and not leaving people unmarked at the far post will help too.
      Hopefully Sol will be skipper, and can marshall the boys at the back.
      Momentum is vital.
      Onward and upward!!

  9. Dr Zen

    I’d love you to be right but we’ll be 14th or thereabouts. Probably realistic to think we’re a better chance of going down than up but not all that likely to do either. Hope I’m wrong!

    • henrymouni

      It would be great to have a season where we are competing at the top, instead of worrying about relegation!

    • Scally Lad

      We’re better positioned than last year but, by my count, so are at least 8 or 9 other Championship sides. I still think we’re likely contenders for about a 12th-place finish, therefore – near mid-table or a but above. Relegation is unlikely if everyone – everyone – stays healthy and we play to our potential, but a top six finish … gotta be unlikely.

      • spellz

        “Relegation is unlikely if everyone stays healthy” have you not seen the work that has been made behind the scenes and to the roster? we had a pretty strong team last season but we were a mess (organisation wise) there was Cellino enforcing his ego, he seems a little laid back especially with the hiring of Pearson, we had so many manager changes (Rosler actually at this point looks safe)

        We also had the embargo nonsense and Cellino Ban to contend with(all pretty demoralising for the club) I reckon we will stay far away from relegation this season, I would bet a huge packet on that and just hope we can challenge for promotion for once.

  10. Mike

    I think Adeyemi(as long as he continues to look as he has) will be the biggest difference maker this season and it’ll be quietly as most CDM are. Obviously Tom is not on the same level but look what a player like Matic did for Chelski last season.

  11. Al

    The end of loan duds, top class youngsters & some good recruits. A midfield enforcer would be nice.

    Uwe brings the heavy metal…. We’re going up!


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