Leeds look for new full-back options as squad reshaping continues
Friday, 12th Jan 2024 21:15 by Tim Whelan
After the departures of Djed Spence and Luke Ayling we are short of cover at full-back, but in other areas of the squad we are continuing to move on some of the players who are not part of Daniel Farke’s plans.
One of the names in the frame is West Ham United’s Ben Johnson, who can play on either flank, but this is only likely to be a loan deal. He came through West Ham’s academy and has played nearly 100 appearances for the East London club, but has been out of favour for most of the current season. His start against Brighton & Hove Albion on New Year’s Day was his first of the season in the Premier League.
And it looks like having just the three Welshmen at the club isn’t quite enough, as the other two full-backs we are chasing are Neco Williams and Connor Roberts. But it might be difficult to persuade Nottingham Forest to part with Williams, as he has played in their last five league games, so it looks like their new manager Nuno Espírito Santo sees the player as part of his plans.
Roberts is the more likely of the two to come to Elland Road, having started only 8 games this season thanks to the arrival of the Brazilian Vitinho. But the 28 year-old was one of the key players in the Burnley side who won the Championship last season, so it goes without saying he should be very useful for our campaign in the same division.
Meanwhile a couple of midfield players are heading out of the club, having fallen well down the pecking order after the emergence of Archie Gray and the signing of three more experienced players during the season. The Yorkshire Post are reporting that we are looking to offload Lewis Bate, who has made just one competitive appearance this season. He had a good loan spell at Oxford, but that might be the right level for him, as he hasn’t made the breakthrough in the Championship.
And Darko Gyabi has gone to Plymouth on loan, until the end of the season, having failed to progress as well as we hoped after signing him from Manchester City in 2022 for £5million. His first team appearances have been limited to the first half of the League Cup tie with Shrewsbury, and the final minute of the 4-3 win at Ipswich.
The new Plymouth manager is Ian Foster, who knows Gyabi from his time with the England Under-20s. One thing he ought to coach Gyabi is how to head the ball. According to Wikipedia he is 6 foot 6, but against Shrewsbury he never once went up for a set piece, and while we hanging on for the win at Ipswich I saw the ball bounce right in front of him, but he didn’t jump to head it clear. If he could add some aerial prowess to his game he might transform himself into a decent prospect.
Speaking of decent prospects who can head the ball, the latest on Charlie Cresswell is unfortunately that Leeds will now listen to offers for him, according to Phil Hay’s latest article in the Athletic. Once he reached the age of 21 it was always going to be a case of ‘use him or lose him’, and Daniel Farke thinks his head isn’t in the right place over his lack of game time.
He did nothing wrong at the start of the season, but Rodon was brought in as we needed to add some depth to that area of the squad. But it must have been galling for him not to get a game when Rodon was suspended, or in Sunday’s FA Cup tie at Peterborough. And it seems he’s not even in the squad, with Ampadu to play at the back if Liam Cooper isn’t fit enough to start.
The best we can hope for is probably that he goes out on loan, but I fear that we may have seen the last of him in a Leeds shirt. No doubt there will be plenty more developments before the month is through, and we’ll keep you all posted.
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