Sky Sports News senior reporter Tim Thornton examines what’s next for Leeds with stars Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips set to leave the club this summer …
Leeds have been fully aware these moves could happen for a while. They even knew last summer that Marcelo Bielsa could leave the club.
In January, they managed to fight off interest and keep Phillips and Raphinha and they’ve been planning ever since. They’ve already made three signings this summer in Brenden Aaronson, Rasmus Kristensen and Marc Roca. Those players would have signed regardless, but there’s money in the kitty now.
We expect Leeds to move quickly and bring new players to the club: another midfielder, a winger and a striker to play alongside Patrick Bamford as Jesse Marsch likes to play two up front.
Leeds paid £ 16m for Raphinha and will look to do the same by buying players early and developing them. That’s the strategy. They won’t spend £ 60m to £ 70m on a player. They’ve identified targets, they know who they want and they’ll move quickly to bring them in.
If Leeds can get three more in then they can argue it’s been a good window – even though they’ve lost two massive players.
Chelsea edging closer on Raphinha deal – Leeds planned for exit
Discussions are ongoing with Chelsea over Raphinha, it’s a deal that’s edging closer but it’s not done yet. We know that Arsenal are interested in him and they had a bid rejected. Barcelona are keen, Tottenham as well.
Chelsea’s interest is a long-standing one and the deal is edging closer. Leeds are yet to receive a written offer so it’s about going through the technicalities of the deal now and the formalities. It looks like the player is heading towards Stamford Bridge.
It would represent good business for Leeds. It’s not too long since he joined Leeds but what a servant he has been for them. Seventeen goals in the Premier League over two seasons. It’s a move that suits him and Leeds were aware that this could happen this summer. They planned for this.
Phillips to Man City to be done after player’s holiday
The reason why this deal is not done yet is because Kalvin Phillips is on holiday. He’s due back at the end of this week so I would expect this transfer, in terms of being finalized, to be done either then or at the start of next week.
The fee has been agreed with Man City and it’s about moving the deal on and getting it completed. He’s been a fantastic servant for Leeds and I don’t think any fans would begrudge him for moving to Manchester City.
It’s the next stage for him: Champions League football and challenging for titles. He’s done all he can do for Leeds – he kept them up last season and he’ll always be a legend at the club.
Leeds go to Australia on Monday week so in terms of transfers there is a timeline and a deadline to get the ones out that are going and try to get the ones in, but I think they are ready to move on the targets they want if Phillips and Raphinha deals go through as expected.
Marsch needs to balance defense and attack
One of the things Marsch talked about when he took over in February was that he had to come in and hit the ground running by winning pressure games. Now, he has a bit of time to implement his ideas and the side will evolve from Bielsa’s type of style.
The players need to adjust and maybe the fans do as well. One of their criticisms of Bielsa was they were too attacking and open. Then, towards the end of last season, they were better defensively but not creating as many chances.
The biggest challenge facing Marsch is striking the balance between attack and defense. He needs the right players to come in that he wants, in the right positions, and to have time to implement his ideas on the group.
Leeds’ first set of fixtures are Wolves, Southampton, Chelsea, Brighton, Everton, Brentford, Forest. Take the Chelsea game out and all of those matches are ones Leeds need to win or pick up points in. They can hit the ground running but the challenge is to get the new players in and settle quickly.
It could be a big positive if they get the players in and get the wins on the board. The flip side is, if they take time to settle, then you’re through that group of fixtures and the next lot are going to be more difficult.
Bamford for England?
Marsch came in at a time when the likes of Phillips, Patrick Bamford and Liam Cooper were injured and players were low on confidence. The injuries went right through the spine of the team and Bielsa liked a small squad so there was no loads of back-up.
Statistically, with Phillips and Cooper on the side, Leeds were a lot better than when they weren’t. If they can get the right players in now, like another quality striker, if Bamford were to get injured next season, for example, then they have a few more options.
Towards the end of last season against Chelsea, I was sat on the TV gantry watching the game next to Bamford, who was unable to influence what was happening on the pitch. He might have been wondering if he was going to get another chance to play in the Premier League for Leeds.
It’s massive for players like him to stay in the division and probably at the back of his mind he’s thinking, ‘I need to hit the ground running’ because, don’t forget, he was in the England squad. It’s only injuries that have put him out of it. If he starts the season well, then who knows …
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