Considering the circumstances under which Marcelo Bielsa has masterminded Leeds United’s promotion bid, Victor Orta and Andrea Radrizzani will be mightily impressed with how the season is panning out.
One cannot help but ponder exactly where Leeds might be if they’d suffered a typical number of injury problems at this stage in the season. That the Whites have opened up a five-point gap on third place Sheffield United and sit just one point shy of league leaders Norwich is verging on remarkable given the majority of their players are apparently made of glass.
Bielsa’s pre-season insistence on keeping the squad tight-nit, intimate and ultra competitive has paid off against all the odds, and the development of a handful of players who have risen through the ranks at Thorp Arch has certainly contributed to the club’s success.
Jamie Shackleton has deputised to near flawless effect in an unfamiliar right-back position and Jack Clarke’s cameos have consistently been the talk of Elland Road, while another young talent who didn’t start at Leeds, Aapo Halme, has recently stepped up to the plate in the absence of just about every central defender.
The lesson to be learned from the season so far is that Leeds are well prepared to deal with an anomalous injury crisis, and that should be at the forefront of Victor Orta’s mind as he prepares for the January transfer window.
However, Leeds’ fine start to the season has arrived with one major permutation in the shape of interest in some of their most exceptional players, with Kemar Roofe and Clarke attracting interest across Europe in recent days.
Italian media outlet Blog Sicilia claim that Palermo have already made contact over a deal for Roofe, and Football Insider have suggested that Clarke is now a transfer target for Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Everton.
Now, panic stations won’t be setting in just yet but, with Roofe’s contract situation remaining delicate and Clarke clearly demonstrating the potential to outgrow Championship football, Orta must act in the January window.
In order to consolidate the feel-good factor around Elland Road, prove the club will financially reward outstanding performers and, ultimately, boost their chances of promotion, Orta must prioritise new deals for Roofe and Clarke before attempting to bring new talent into the club.
The tangible results of Manchester City’s policy of handing out long-term deals to key players require little introduction, and although they remain an exceptional club in every sense of the word it’s worth using their success as a blueprint for promotion at Leeds.
Leeds have dodged every heavyweight knockout blow which has been thrown in their direction this season, so why rock the boat by shifting the dressing room dynamic in January?
Promotion is in sight and the atmosphere among the squad seem incredibly harmonious. But the sale of either Thorp Arch’s poster boy or Leeds’ top goalscorer could tarnish that atmosphere, along with the optimism among the supporters, so new deals for the aforementioned pair cannot come soon enough.
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