I’m not going to lie, earlier this month I had those January blues. Three defeats in a row including losses to Hull and Nottingham Forest in the league and being knocked out of the FA Cup by QPR were in stark contrast to the seven game winning streak we enjoyed after our last defeat to West Brom. January also means the transfer window opens and as usual there is the speculation and clamour to bring players in. Only players seemed to be going in the opposite direction at Leeds.
Having already lost Jamal Blackman to injury and Samuel Saiz to the sunnier climes of Spain, Lewis Baker was then recalled from his loan by Chelsea. “No big deal!” I hear you say, but it is still one more player out of the door and one less available for selection during a period when injuries have hit us hard. This season more than ever, with promotion a real possibility, January seemed the right time to strengthen. But Marcello seemed to think differently, we only need a goalkeeper and a winger he said.
With Sheffield United and Norwich breathing down our necks I started to lose a bit of faith in him. I shouldn’t have of course; the man is a genius and who am I to question him? Because in one weekend faith was fully restored. First of all #spygate and his brazen admission of guilt, not only winding up Frank Lampard but a large proportion of the football world in the process. Having been the darlings of the media all season we were Dirty Leeds again, us against the world, just as we like it. On the pitch too, the complete dismantling of Derby reminded us all of just how good the football he is getting this Leeds team to play is.
There is a reason to be cautions with January signings, prices are inflated, the players you really want are not always available and teams panic buy. Bielsa is not one to panic. The team we saw taking “Frank Lampard’s” Derby apart is largely the same team as last year plus a couple of academy graduates. This team is greater than the sum of its parts and that is down to Bielsa’s philosophy and the players willingness to but into it. Any players that have come in needed time to get fit and get up to speed with the style.
That’s why we have seen Bielsa prefer to bring Under 23 players through who are being blooded in the system rather than sign new players. It means signing players in January, despite the possibility of promotion, is probably not quite as important as important as many fans think. Of course Bielsa has identified a couple of key positions we need to strengthen but not panic buying means we can concentrate our efforts and resources on signing really good players who will improve the squad. That’s where Victor Orta comes in.
Orta has had his detractors in the past, his scattergun approach in his first season was hit and miss but was probably what was required at the time. His last signings have been more measured and we have brought in proven players. If as suggested he manages to complete the deal for Kiko Casilla from Real Madrid it can be seen as a real coup. The fact that a player would leave one of the best clubs in world football to sign for Leeds United is a great endorsement of everything Bielsa, Orta and Radrizzani are doing.
So forget the January blues, don’t worry about us not signing Burnley bench warmers, we’ve got higher targets now. Some of you may be doing Dry January but lets hope we are popping those Champagne corks come May!
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