Leeds linked with Watkins as search for striking talent goes on
Wednesday, 5th Aug 2020 23:20 by Tim Whelan
It’s been reported that Brentford’s Ollie Watkins is one of a number of striking options Leeds are pursuing, but the BBC say that Aston Villa, Newcastle United and Crystal Palace are also chasing his signature. And as we continue to overhaul our squad, a couple of younger forwards are heading out on loan.
It hasn’t taken long after Brentford’s play-off final defeat at the hands of Fulham for the vultures to start circling in the hope of picking off their best players. Watkins has an £18m buy-out clause in his contract and the BBC have already report that it has been triggered, presumably meaning that someone has made a bit of that amount.
Watkins scored 25 goals for the Bees in the Championship season just finished, a total bettered only by the elbow man Aleksandar Mitrovic, and he has of course been a nuisance to us in the past. But those stats haven’t gone unnoticed elsewhere, and there will be a number of other Premier League clubs competing for the 24 year-old.
Said Benrahma is also likely to be heading out of Brentford, but there is no buy-out clause in his contract, and with Arsenal and Chelsea said to be interested, the competition may well drive the transfer fee beyond a level that Leeds can afford. Not that another winger should be our highest priority when we already have a number of options on the flanks.
It’s clear that an out and out striker is our most pressing need, given that Patrick Bamford has had his critics last season and that he’s never established himself at Premier League level in the past. Bamford never got a first team game at Chelsea and during his loan spells at four other clubs he managed one Premier League goal in 27 games, though quite a few of these were as substitute.
Meanwhile, Football Insider has claimed that Leeds have "set their sights" on Michy Batshuayi, even though the 26 year old managed a grand total of one goal in 16 appearances last season. Presumably quite a few of these were as a late sub, but even so, that stat hardly suggests he’s likely to give us a prolific season at the highest level.
Chelsea are ready to let the Belgian international go for a cut price fee now they’ve spiced up their strikeforce with the signing of Timo Werner, but he’s supposedly on wages of £90,000 a week. Surely that’s far more than we can afford to pay to a bang average player, not least because the rest of the squad will then be demanding the same.
A striker who is far more likely to be coming to Leeds is 18 year-old Joe Gelhardt, as we’ve had an offer of £1million plus performance-related add-ons accepted by Wigan’s administrators. When he made his Wigan debut last September his manager Paul Cook told the BBC "He's got that unique talent to find space in a telephone box. A lot of young footballers coming into the game are not very nice people. We're just lucky to have a boy with his humility playing for us - the game is easy for him.”
So he sounds like the sort of player that Bielsa would love to have in the squad. But he will find it hard to get first team opportunities early in his time at Elland Road, like a couple of other young strikers who will be heading out of the club on loan. After the impact Ryan Edmondson has made for various age group teams it was a surprise to many that he didn’t get a first team opportunity last season despite the issues we had with the other strikers in the squad.
The 19 year-old has now started a loan spell at Aberdeen, and by all accounts he was impressive when he came on a substitute in their game against Rangers on Saturday. He will be there until January, with further first team opportunities likely now that particularly with striker Sam Cosgrove facing between eight and ten weeks out having suffered a fractured cartilage in his knee.
Edmondson will be with the Dons until January, but their manager Derek McInnes has said that Leeds will be offering him a new contract. And the player told Aberdeen’s official website that Bielsa has improved him as a striker. “I used to be a big target man, I liked the long ball up to me and to try and hold it. Since Bielsa has come into Leeds he has changed all of us as players. As strikers now we are running in behind, we are pressing everyone, we are dropping it into feet and spinning off defenders.”
“He has taken what I have been which was a big target man and turned me into an all-round striker. For someone as young as man to have that versatility, to have that physicality up top and to use my pace to get in behind is brilliant and hopefully I can use it in my game up here”. So it sounds like Edmondson will be keen to work with Bielsa again and that while he’s at Pittodrie he will show that he’s worthy of first team football.
Another young striker going on loan is Kun Temenuzhkov, who has joined Spanish Segunda Division B side Real Union on a season-long loan deal. When he first came to Leeds he was hailed as a Bulgarian wonder-kid, but he will now be playing in the third level of Spanish football, and as he’s already 20 it now looks unlikely that he will ever add to the one Leeds appearance he made in an FA Cup tie at QPR.
Last and almost certainly least, you’ve probably forgotten about Jay-Roy Grot, but he’s now back at the club from his loan spell with Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem, which apparently was rather less than successful. He’s a big lump, and I saw one game at Preston when he proved he’s a good man to have on your side if a fight breaks out on the pitch, but if he can’t find the back of the net in Holland there’s not much chance of him doing his main job in the Premier League.
The Premier League have announced that the new season will begin on September 12th, so there’s not much time to get some new signings in and give them a pre-season to get them playing the Bielsa way. So let’s hope we can get a few signings over the line in the next couple of weeks.
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