Have we improved from last season, or have we downgraded?

Goalkeepers:

First up is the goalkeepers. This is a position that most people would argue we shouldn’t even have looked to change following an impressive season for Rob Green even with a shaky start. After making mistakes early on, Green’s place in the starting eleven was questioned, however, he went on to make crucial saves and to add confidence to the defence in front of him. This season it is a completely different story. Felix Wiedwald is much better in possession and at playing the ball out from the back, however, this is the only attribute of his that is better. He doesn’t offer confidence to the defence and it is safe to say that we’ve downgraded over the summer letting Green go and bringing Wiedwald in.

Defenders:

Two of the back four from last season remain in the starting eleven, however, their form is very different. Ayling was arguably the signing of the season last year, but he has failed to live up to expectations this year, with the loss of the next player, I believe being the main reason. Kyle Bartley had a brilliant season, bringing a steady, calm influence to the side and leading from the back. This allowed Ayling to push on and he was influenced by Bartley as to when to attack and when to defend. The same can be said about Jansson, who despite a good start to the season this year, his performances have massively declined in quality. I also think this is due to the loss of Bartley, who helped Jansson a lot as each one’s strengths helped to improve the other’s weaknesses. Third choice centre back from last season, Liam Cooper, is now first choice this season. A player who off the field is a nice guy who has plenty of time for the fans however, he just doesn’t perform on the field. He’s a player that will always give the opposition a chance and against the good teams is usually punished for it. Last up is left back, a position that those in charge of bringing players in have failed massively with other the summer. Last season Charlie Taylor brought a left footed left back who was good going forward and defending. He wasn’t always at his best, however, remains of a higher standard than the players we have this season. Due to the actions of previous owners it was near impossible to keep Taylor, but the reported five million we gained from selling him should have been reinvested and it wasn’t. I like Berardi, but like the previous position we have downgraded over the summer. Overall the players that are still in the starting eleven this season from last are not playing to the same level and the players that have replaced Bartley and Taylor are not at the level required.

 

 

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Midfielders:

Not a lot has changed in the two midfield defence positions this season and the same players are fighting for the two spots. This is an area that last season let us down and if addressed in January could have been the difference in the end. Klich was brought in this season to make that difference but has struggled to get game time. The main difference this season compared to last is the attacking areas, arguably the only unit of players that we’ve improved on. Alioski and Saiz have come in this season and took the places of Dallas and Sacko in the starting eleven. Saiz has been that good that he’s forced Hernandez out wide so that he can play his best position. Alioski has been showing glimpses of the quality he has and recently hit a bit of form scoring in the last three games. Sacko hasn’t had a look in this season, and to be honest when he has played he has not shown enough quality to replace anyone in the team. Dallas however is a bit unlucky not to get more game time and away from home should be playing instead of Hernandez. Overall, when you compare last season’s midfield to this season, it’s fair to say attacking wise we’ve improved but defensively we’ve remained the same.

Strikers

The final position and the position we have downgraded on the most this season. Last season we went into every game with a chance of winning due to the goals of Chris Wood. He finished the season as Leeds United’s top scorer and the top scorer in the championship. It wasn’t just his goals but his ability to lead the line and bring other players into the game. If you sell your top scorer and replace him with a player who has never been prolific in his career you are asking for trouble. Grot and Ekuban were brought in for their potential, however Lassoga was Wood’s direct replacement. Roofe has also had spells as striker and has done an okay job, but when you compare the four options to Wood they are all way off his level. If you want promotion out of the Championship you need a player who can score twenty plus goals and Leeds sold theirs and failed to replace him.

We are still not halfway through the season yet so it’s not to say that the players brought in won’t come good in the end but so far, the only unit of players we have improved on is our midfield area. This being said however, the real judgement will come at the end of the season when all of our games have being played. I do understand that keeping Bartley was always going to be difficult after the season he had had and how poor Swansea were, the same could be said of Wood. The issue is we gained a lot of money from the sales of Wood and Taylor and replaced them with players that aren’t of the same standard. Green should, and would’ve stayed at Leeds so letting him go was a massive mistake. I’m still unsure as to the ability of Victor Orta, he signed a lot of players but Saiz and Alioski are the only players to really impress so far.

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A Potential Star? Views From A Local Journalist on Jay-Roy Grot

After selling Chris Wood to Burnley and losing Caleb Ekuban to an injury, Leeds United are on the hunt for strikers. NEC Nijmegen striker, Jay-Roy Grot who is 19 years old is expected to complete his move today for a rumoured 1.5m after having his medical yesterday. In thirty-one games for the Dutch side, Grot has scored 5 goals; not too impressive but it’s important to remember that he is still very young. The Dutch u19’s international is held in high regard in his home land but, like many Leeds United fans, I don’t know very much about him. However, I managed to get in touch with a local journalist in Holland who has seen Grot progress through the ranks of NEC and knows a fair bit about the striker.

After having a conversation with Raymond Janssen (@RaymondJanssen) on Twitter, here is a summary in Raymond’s words as to what we can expect from Jay-Roy Grot:

What are his strengths?

He is very strong and has a great shot. Peter Hyballa, his former trainer, once said: I hope one day he becomes as smart as he is strong.  He should be more clever, intelligent player but very useless for English football, strong, enthusiastic and pretty quick. He is also a very kind young man, no big star, just normal.

What are his weaknesses?

He has to work on his technical skills however is still very young so big potential. if he becomes smarter than he can make the difference with his physical attributes.

Did you know:

NEC Nijmegen and Vitesse Arnhem are the traditional football enemies. Grot was born in Arnhem but played in Nijmegen, this meant the fans had a love hate relationship with him.

At the rumoured 1.5m, is he value for money?

I think it’s a lot of money. A Dutch club would never pay that amount of money for him but that is probably the difference between the UK and The Netherlands.

Is he considered a talent in Holland?

In the Dutch championship yes, at the highest level not really. In Holland clubs like FC Utrecht or AZ Alkmaar could have been interested, but then he’d probably wouldn’t play a lot. He’ll play more in the Leeds team than here in Holland. Comparing him to Jordan Botaka (different positions), I believe he is better, stronger, but not as good technically.

Who player would you compare Grot to?

Ahanach, from Almere City, now playing for Brighton.

These are some very interesting comments from Raymond Janssen about Jay-Roy Grot. After hearing a bit more about him I would not expect Grot to have an instant impact and he looks like a long term buy from Leeds United. Let me know what you think, is he a good signing? Comment below.

 

EFL Championship: Week 2 Predictions

My Prediction

Barnsley 2 Ipswich 2

Having lost to Bristol City on the opening day of the season, Barnsley will be looking to get back to winning ways. However, they face an Ipswich side who managed to beat Birmingham in their first game of the season. I am expecting goals in this game as there normally are in games that involve Barnsley and 2-2 is my final prediction.

Birmingham City 1 Bristol City 2

Birmingham lost their first game of the season against an Ipswich side who are tipped for relegation. They play a Bristol City side who are enjoying a brilliant start to the season after winning 3-1 and 5-0 in the Caranao Cup. I expect Bristol City to win this one 2-1 and leave Harry Redknapp frustrated with the lack of signings he is getting.

Brentford 3 Nottingham Forest 1

Brentford were disappointing against Sheffield United in the first game of the season so I expect a reaction from them at home to Forest. However, Nottingham Forest did enjoy an opening day win against nearly promoted Millwall but they weren’t spectacular in anyway. Brentford tend to score goals especially at home so I’m going with a home win and 3-1 is my prediction.

Cardiff City 1 Aston Villa 1

Two experienced managers meet when Cardiff City play Aston Villa and Cardiff won their first game however weren’t impressive when they did so. Aston Villa, who are one of the favourites for promotion, drew to the nearly relegated side Hull City in their first game and I’m expecting the same result against Cardiff this weekend.

Derby County 1 Wolverhampton Wanderers 1

Two big teams who over the years have spent a lot of money meet at Pride Park Stadium on Saturday. The home side drew their first game against Sunderland on Friday night whereas the away team picked up, in my eyes, the result of the first weekend with a win against favourites Middlesbrough. I’m expecting this to be a tight game and I think a fair result for both teams would be 1-1.

Hull City 2 Burton Albion 0

After impressively staying up last season, Burton Albion will be looking to build and finish higher up, however I think this season they will struggle. This was the case against Cardiff and I fully expect Hull City, who got a decent point away to Villa, to get a comfortable win on Saturday.

Leeds United 3 Preston North End 1

Not a fan of predicting Leeds United results as they are my team and I don’t want to be biased, however I’m confident we will get the result on Saturday. Preston won’t be coming to Elland Road to lose though and they got a good win against Sheffield Wednesday, however they lost in the cup to league 2 side Accrington Stanley. Leeds have been scoring for fun even though we’re just two games in and I’m hoping they can continue, however we have looked shaky at the back.

Millwall 2 Bolton Wanderers 2

Both nearly promoted sides lost their first game of the season and will be looking to get some points on the board. I’m expecting plenty of goals in a game that may lack quality but both managers will make sure that their teams are putting 110%. I’m going with a 2-2 draw at the Macron.

Reading 1 Fulham 2

Two of last season’s surprise teams meet early in the season with the away team, Fulham, the favourites in my eyes. Fulham drew their opener against Norwich with the hosts Reading disappointingly losing 2-0 to a poor QPR side. I’m going with an away win and Fulham’s first 3 points of the season.

Sheffield Wednesday 2 Queens Park Rangers 0

Although Wednesday lost their opening game of the season to Preston and QPR won their first game against Reading, I believe the home team will get a comfortable win. Sheffield Wednesday struggled away from home last season however at home picked up a lot of points, and I expect 3 points to be heading their way come 5pm on Saturday.

Middlesbrough 2 Sheffield United 1

Like the last prediction, the home team, Boro lost their first game and the away team Sheffield United won their first game. Despite this I expect Middlesbrough to get their first win of the season but I expect a fight from the league 1 champions who will be full of confidence after beating Brentford last Saturday.

Norwich City 1 Sunderland 1

Both these former Premier League sides drew their first games of the season 1-1 against Fulham and Derby respectively and I’m expecting the same result when they meet on Sunday afternoon at Carrow Road. Both teams are still in a building process and it will take a number of games to reach their potential.

5 Players To Watch Out For In The Championship In 2017/18 season!

Martin Braithwaite: Club- Middlesbrough

After scoring twelve goals and gaining three assists in thirty-six games in all competition last season playing for FC Toulouse, Braithwaite made the summer move to Middlesbrough. The Danish international’s main position is striker however he can play across the front four, something you would expect him to do in Monk’s 4-2-3-1 system, with it likely that Assombalonga will be the main striker.  As previously mentioned, he joins Middlesbrough with International pedigree, playing sixteen times for his country and scoring one goal. He is described as a fast striker who is good at playing in tight areas which is why his game suits playing out wide when required. With Middlesbrough expected to be fighting for promotion, expect Braithwaite to play a big part this season.

Ezgjan Alioski: Club- Leeds United

Next up is Ezgjan Alioski. The Macedonia winger scored sixteen goals and gained fourteen assists last season for Swiss side FC Lugano. This caught the attention of Leeds United scouts with the club eventually making a move for the pacey winger. So far, he has looked bright in pre-season and if you would like more information on Alioski, please see the individual blog on my site.

Ollie Watkins: Club- Brentford

The young forward arrived at Brentford this summer from league two side Exeter City for a rumoured 1.7 million. All together last season Watkins scored sixteen goals and gained thirteen assists, a good return for a player aged just twenty-one. A move to Brentford will do him the world of good. Him playing in an attacking side alongside the likes of Jota can only help him improve and score even more goals. Don’t be too shocked if it takes him a season to adjust to the championship but also don’t be surprised if he is scoring bags of goals.

Ruben Neves: Club- Wolves

The record championship signing Ruben Neves cost Wolves around sixteen million from Porto with the move only being made possible due to super-agent Jorge Mendes links with Wolves’ owners. The Portuguese midfielder was linked with top clubs across Europe but ended up signing for Wolves. The defensive midfielder became the youngest captain in the Champions League history aged eighteen, and this speaks volumes about the potential of Wolves’ new man. Expect Neves to run games from deep this season, whilst an impressive season could see Wolves fight for promotion.

Ike Ugbo: Club- Barnsley

The last player might come as a bit of a surprise to many, but new Barnsley man Ike Ugbo should not be underestimated. The young striker joined on loan from Premier League side Chelsea and will be looking to have the same impact that fellow Chelsea loanees Izzy Brown and Tammy Abraham had last season. Barnsley are a club that give youth a chance and with the attributes Ugbo has, fast, strong and he scores goals, I’m sure his style will suit the Championship perfectly. I’m not 100% on the loan agreements, but don’t be surprised if Ugbo is recalled if he performs well and sent to a side fighting for the play offs like Brown was last season.

Defender Arrives: Everton Fan Views on Matthew Pennington

Leeds United today completed the signing of central defender Matthew Pennington from Everton on loan for the forthcoming season. Pennington is 22 years of age and came through Everton’s academy after joining them at the age of 11. Having only played 7 games at Everton and a few loan spells in league one, Pennington is still relatively unknown. I spoke with Everton fan and writer of readeverton.com Elliot Cuff (@CuffWrites) about what we can expect from the defender.  pennington

What are his strengths?

@CuffWrites: “His key strengths are his raw defensive qualities. Similarly, to Phil Jagielka, Pennington is an old-school defender over a footballer. He’s ideal for a team that wants to keep a tight back line. He is versatile too. Although his performances at right back haven’t been overly impressive, he can prove to be an adequate short-term stop-gap when needed.”

What are his weaknesses?

@CuffWrites: “Mainly, mobility. Pennington isn’t overly mobile: better than some, but it’s a weaker element to his game. Defending against pace, he is weak too. He has been turned about often when playing against pace for Everton, which makes him a liability.”

Having played some games in the premier league, do you think he will fit the championship?

@CuffWrites: “I do, I think he’ll do very well. I’m not sure he has a long-term future with Everton, I’m almost certain he doesn’t in fact, but he should do great in the Championship. He should certainly stand up to the physical challenges of the league. If he does partner Pontus Jansson at the back, I would be very pleased if I were a Leeds fan.”

Do you think he can perform under pressure for a team that will be looking to win promotion?

@CuffWrites: “I would like to think so. He has proved before that he has the ability to play a major part in first/team plans, and his loan spell with Coventry. As said before, with a player like Jansson who I rate as a very decent centre half alongside him, I would imagine he’ll do a good job.”

With him coming on loan, is he one for the future or will Everton be willing to sell next season?

@CuffWrites: “The door is still open for him to play a part next season, but only just. Everton have five senior centre backs this season, with two others out on loan in Ty Browning and Brendan Galloway, both of whom would rank above Pennington. Given his age too, I would say it’s very likely that he will move on next season. “

Fair to say that this loan could make or break his career at Everton?

@CuffWrites: “For me, I would certainly say so. Not to discredit him as a player, simply Everton have many more better options.”

Big thanks to Elliot for his insight and time, make sure you check him out on twitter and at readeverton.com.

From The Man That Broke The News: An Insight Into Rumoured Leeds United Signing Ezgjan Alioski.  

After weeks of rumours it is looking increasingly likely that FC Lugano winger Ezgjan Alioski will join Leeds United. The Macedonian international who plays in the Swiss top division had a productive season in front of goal, notching up an impressive fourteen assists and scoring sixteen goals.  He finished the season as the second top goal scorer in the league behind only Seydou Doumbia who earned himself a move to Sporting CP off the back of his goal scoring record. Alioski’s performance last season caught the attention of clubs in the top flights in Italy and Germany however it looks as though Leeds United have won the race. I spoke to Swiss reporter Patrick Della Valle (@p_dellavalle) who was the person who originally reported Leeds’ interest in Alioski regarding what we can expect from him if the move goes through.

What are his strengths?

@p_dellavalle: “He plays with heart. He cares about the team. He runs a lot to help the team in the defensive side. Left foot (he plays almost only with it), shoot and speed. The best way to describe him is that he is a quick, direct winger who is very one footed with eye for goal.”

What are his weaknesses?

@p_dellavalle: “As said, right foot, sometimes with the ball he is a bit “selfish”. “

How do you think he will adapt to English football?

@p_dellavalle: “Though to say. Swiss league isn’t the top in Europe but I think he can do it there. He has a great will to succeed.”

What’s his best position?

@p_dellavalle: “Having played a few during his career. 2 years ago, in second division he used to play full back (he won the award as the best full back of the league) then in Lugano coach Zeman moved him right wing. In last 6 months, he played forward. I don’t see him playing again as full back. As a right wing he can bring the ball wide and try to shoot with his left foot. As a forward he is more free to look for spaces.”

You’ll know more about the rumoured transfer fee then me, but is he worth what Leeds will be paying?

@p_dellavalle: “It’s a bet, that’s sure but Leeds will win it.”

Although this is only a brief overview of the strengths and weaknesses of Ezgjan Alioski, it gives fans an insight into the type of player Leeds are bringing in. The fact that he can operate in several positions and that he has a strong work ethic are attributes that can only benefit our squad. This, combined with his ever-improving attacking ability since making the switch from left-back provides fans with a player that, given time, may be well worth the fee Leeds will pay for the winger.

Meet Samu Saiz: A SD Huesca Fan’s Perspective!

Leeds United are set to beat many La Liga sides, including SD Eibar, to the signing of SD Huesca attacking midfielder Samu Saiz. The former Real Madrid youth player who is twenty-six years of age gained twelve goals and nine assists last season playing in the second tier of Spanish football. This has caught the attention of Leeds United and they have quickly become the favourites to sign Saiz after outbidding the competition. Samu Saiz is a unknown player to most Leeds United fans so I got in touch with @deivid_dd who is an SD Huesca fan to get the low down on what Saiz can offer at Elland Road next season if the move goes through.

What are his strengths?:

@deivid_dd: “He’s a different player. His ability and technique to dribble and keep the ball are his strong points. This season, he has been an outstanding player. One of the best in Spanish second division. He is an offensive midfielder with excellent technique. He could dribble the whole opposing team. Maybe, if he goes to Championship (harder in def.) he may have problems. But, if he wants he’s an incredible player.”

What are his weaknesses?:

@deivid_dd: “His mindset can be a problem. He has been in many teams, but never worked hard. Anquela (former coach) got it and discovered a sensational player. Huesca is a small and quiet city, maybe in a bigger city have more ‘distractions’.”

How do you think he will adapt to English football?:

@deivid_dd: “Can be a bit complicated. He likes to have a lot of the ball, sometimes he doesn’t pass the ball and finally loses it and I think in championship it’s more difficult. But if he wants, he can be amazing.”

At the rumoured 3m, is he worth the money?:

@deivid_dd: “Eibar is one of the teams that best invests their money in the Spanish football. And they also pay €3m. I have enjoyed a lot of this season with Samu Saiz.”

Are you sad to see him leave?:

@deivid_dd: “Yes, of course. But for long time we all know that he will leave. It’s impossible to keep him here. Huesca is one of fewest budget in the league.”

Thank you to @deivid_dd for his time and his opinions on Samu Saiz. Check him out Twitter and don’t forget to comment on who you think Leeds United should sign next.