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Leeds looking at transfer options after Spence departure
Saturday, 6th Jan 2024 21:13 by Tim Whelan

After Thursday’s shock news that Djed Spence is returning to Tottenham Hotspur after the club had terminated his loan deal six months early, Leeds now need to assess the options at right back, as well as a couple of other problem positions.

A brief statement on the club’s official website said “Leeds United can confirm that Djed Spence has returned to Tottenham Hotspur, bringing his loan spell with the club to an end. Spence made seven appearances whilst with the Whites after joining in the summer transfer window. We would like to thank Djed for his efforts whilst at Elland Road and we wish him well for his future career.”

Much was expected from Spence when he came to us at the end of August, having been one of Nottingham Forest’s key players in their successful promotion campaign two years ago. It was unfortunate that he picked up an injury soon after his arrival and then had to fill in at left-back, where he never looked comfortable and was always looking to cut inside rather than having the confidence to cross the ball with his left foot.

But he finally did get the chance to play in his favoured position at West Brom once Byram had returned to the side at left-back, so it was a bit of a surprise to see Archie Gray back in that slot against Birmingham, with Spence an unused substitute. And now we know why. Clearly something had gone off behind the scenes, and in his Friday press conference Daniel Farke went into rather more detail than the statement on the club website.

“Listen, in the summer we came here in order to create and to bring new values and to create a new culture within the club. Obviously it’s important, the potential and the quality of the player but also it’s professionalism, it’s discipline, it’s workload on and off the pitch and also the soft skills, so also if he’s positive and committed, good for the group and engaged with these topics.”

“And we decided okay, this is the player we want in our group and want to represent Leeds United, our demands are very, very high and we don’t differ between loan players, permanent players so we are pretty picky in this topic. We came to the conclusion that we will end the loan for Djed and he will return to Tottenham. We are grateful for his time here.”

In other words, it was an attitude problem, and one of the issues is said to have been the player’s poor timekeeping. Leeds are not the first club where it hasn’t worked out, with Neil Warnock having been scathing about his lack of application during his spell at Middlesbrough, and Spurs immediately putting him up for sale as soon as we sent him back, having already had doubts about him.

So where do we go from here in the right back position? One option would be to persist with Archie Gray, but he can struggle against quality left-sided attackers, such Preston’s Liam Millar. And we could do with him back in his natural position in central midfield, where Kamara has looked a bit weary in the last few games.

I’m assuming that Drameh won’t come back from his loan at Birmingham, but a couple of other loan signings have been suggested. One is Burnley’s Connor Roberts, who was a key member of last season’s promotion side, but has struggled to get selected now they’re back in the Premier League. Another is Liverpool’s 20 year-old Conor Bradley.

Shackleton and Ayling both returned to training this week and either could fill in at right-back if need be, although the latter is out of favour these days and has been linked with a possible loan move to Middlesbrough. And the word is that we are looking for another left back, which would allow Sam Byram to move back to his natural right side whenever his hamstrings allow.

Italian outlet Toro Goal have reported recently that Leeds looking at Hellas Verona left-back Josh Doig, who is actually Scottish despite playing in Italy, and was previously at Hibernian. The transfer fee would be around €6million (£5.2m), but we would face competition for his signature from Rangers and Torino.

One other position where we need to strengthen the squad is the ‘number 10’, and although Rutter was impressive in that role against Birmingham, this option requires Bamford to play instead of Piroe to allow him to drop deeper, and this might not happen too often. But now Spence has gone we have three of the maximum five loan slots unused, and we might use one to bring in an attacking midfielder.

Transfer expert Fabrizio Romano has claimed on twitter that Leeds have asked Liverpool about the possibility of taking Fabio Carvalho on loan. But we’re not the only ones, with Hull City, Southampton and Wolves also sniffing around. And the latter could be our main contenders, as we saw in August how the lure of the Premier League seems to be the main draw for players, no matter which club it is.

There will be plenty more transfer stories to follow before this month is through, so watch this space.


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