After spending most of the season in the automatic promotion places, Leeds endured a bitterly disappointing end to the 2018/19 season, slipping into the play-off places in the final weeks and losing to Frank Lampard’s Derby County in the semi-finals.

To come so close and stumble at the final hurdle made it a difficult beating to take, but a couple of weeks on it’s a little easier to appreciate the massive leap forwards Leeds took during Marcelo Bielsa’s first season at the club and while the division won’t be any easier next season, Bielsa will have acquired more knowledge to tackle it.

According to SBD, Leeds will open as 8/1 co-favourites to win the Championship outright, level with relegated Fulham, expected in no small part because of the significant jump to 3rd from 13th during the 2017/18 season, and an improvement in goal differential by 28 to go along with it, despite the lackluster transfer window at the time. But if the right players are brought on board this summer, and we get a full season from a healthy Kemar Roofe, we should be in the thick of the title race all year.

It’s silly to pick faults with a man who took a distinctly average Leeds United side from 13th to 3rd, markedly improving several players along the way, not least Kavlin Phillips who went from a bit of a fringe player deployed almost at random in a positional sense, to arguably the best specialised defensive midfielder in the league, but Leeds did run out of steam a little in the final couple of months and if Bielsa’s to go one better next season, the club need to better assist him with greater success in the transfer market.

While I’d never normally argue one player could have made all the difference, Leeds’ failure to secure Dan James in the January transfer window may well have. Chance conversion was an issue all season, partly a result of the type of chances (ie. not exactly gilt-edged), but as the months went by it almost seemed like we’d run out of ideas a bit and the left side was a bit of a problem area from the start.

Would Dan James alone have been worth half a dozen more points (and a guaranteed £170m~)? We’ll never know for sure but seeing how the second half of his season played out, I suspect he might have. And if that thought alone doesn’t hammer home the need for more effective recruitment, nothing will.

I remain someone indifferent to our head of recruitment, Victor Orta, because that’s what his record justifies. He’s had some successes for sure, but he’s failed to land most of the key players we’ve been in for. While you can’t really blame him for Dan James, last summer we failed to secure several strikers (including Abel Hernandez and Matej Vydra) before eventually bringing in Patrick Bamford, who, let’s be honest, has always been somewhat hit and miss and hasn’t exactly set the world alight at Leeds. He seems to be a bit of a fair-weather striker who can be brilliant in patches but is often fairly anonymous. Injuries didn’t help him this season to be fair, but will he ever produce what the targets we went after before him would have? Like the Dan James situation, we’ll never really know, but it’s another agonising ‘what if?’ that falls on recruitment.

The key this summer then, is to simply have less ‘what ifs?’

Leeds need to attack the transfer market in the same way Marcelo Bielsa attacked the league. FFP means we can’t throw a great amount of money at it, lest we be slapped with a points deduction like Birmingham, but there’s ways and means to strengthen the right areas. Whether that means we have to stomach the sale of Jack Clarke to free up a few million or rely almost entirely on loans, Leeds need to act quickly, decisively and get the deals done without all the messing about that tends to result in us settling for our second (or 22nd) option.

Marcelo Bielsa worked wonders with the hand he was dealt, but if Andrea Radrizzani wants to go one better, only he and Victor Orta can improve the hand Bielsa starts with next season.