4 areas of the Leeds United squad that require improvements for the Premier League

28 Apr 2020 08:34 am, by YorkshireSquare

Leeds United still hold out considerable hope of securing the promotion to the Premier League that the entire city has been craving for 16 years. They are in pole position to secure that promotion should football’s governing bodies opt to promote the top two teams in the English Championship this year.

In this hypothetical article, we’ll be reviewing the quality and depth of the Leeds United squad and assessing which areas will require an overhaul should the Whites return to the top-flight for the 2020/21 Premier League campaign. Of course, there’s little football action at present. Only the Belarussian Premier League is currently active for football fans to enjoy, with bookmakers like SkyBet streaming these obscure eastern European games live as part of their coverage of over 6,000 football games a year, making them one of the UK's most popular sports betting platforms. It only serves to whet the appetite further for a return to the beautiful game here in England, when Leeds could – fingers crossed – finally be back in the ‘big time’.

Illan Meslier needed on a permanent deal to provide competition for Casilla

It was considered a major coup when United managed to secure the services of experienced keeper, Kiko Casilla from Real Madrid. The 33-year-old, who won a Champions League medal with Real in 2018, agreed on a four-and-a-half-year deal at Elland Road and has since been a virtual ever-present between the sticks. Of course, Casilla’s recent eight-game ban by an independent regulatory commission has given loanee understudy Illan Meslier a chance to impress. Meslier’s three appearances prior to the season’s pause were encouraging and the club is already pursuing plans to sign him from parent club Lorient. Meslier is an imposing 6ft 6” and has been capped by France at U18, U19 and U20 levels. Both Casilla and Meslier are renowned for their distribution which has long been a prerequisite for boss Marcelo Bielsa.

Front line options required urgently with question marks over Bamford

A quick glance at United’s last starting XI in their 2-0 win over Huddersfield Town demonstrates the thin attacking options available to Bielsa in the final third. Granted, Patrick Bamford has ploughed a lone furrow up front on his own for much of the campaign, but question marks remain over his ability to step up to Premier League level. Is Bamford one of those so-called ‘yo-yo’ players? I.e. too good for the Championship but doesn’t quite cut the mustard in the top-flight. Either way, Bielsa will need a minimum of two additional front-line players, although one of those could be Jean-Kevin Augustin, whose loan deal is thought to include an option to buy later this summer.

More central defensive cover a priority alongside skipper Cooper

Bielsa and United have been heavily reliant on Swiss centre back Gaetano Berardi and Brighton loanee Ben White alongside skipper, Liam Cooper. Berardi has vast experience of playing in Italy’s Serie A, but it’s unknown whether he has attributes to thrive in the Premier League and is yet to sign a new contract. When you consider that United have only 20-year-old Dutchman Pascal Struijk as a permanent understudy to both Berardi and Cooper, it’s clear that Bielsa will need more experienced central defensive recruits for the top-flight. Ben White’s hugely successful loan spell could be made into a full-time switch, but with plenty of Premiership teams out for his signature Bielsa may have other names in mind too.

Left-sided additions at full back and wide midfield

It’s fair to say that Stuart Dallas has been something of a Leeds United stalwart in the last four or five years. The Northern Irishman has proven his flexibility, performing consistently both at left back and left wing. Combine that with Scotsman Barry Douglas and United have been well-stocked at Championship level for left-sided players. However, it’s unlikely that Dallas or Douglas will be viewed as long-term options in the Premier League. A new first-choice left back and indeed a left winger will surely be on Bielsa’s summer shopping list. Jack Harrison would fir the bill in the attacking role but would Man City be willing to let him go for a realistic figure?