With our season all but over as early as February, the dissection of where it all went wrong has already begun. With people pointing the finger of blame at Massimo’s constant shenanigans, Steve Evans over-confidence, and SKY’s agenda against us, there are more than enough people responsible for the disappointment we are now all so used to. However, I want to look strictly on the pitch, the field of battle, where this season, the points return has just not been good enough.
— Batesy (@BatesyLufc) February 21, 2016
There have been several players who we can admit have had a good year so far. The likes of Taylor, Bellusci, Dallas, Cook and Bridcutt have performed admirably. It would be harsh on any of these guys to say they have underperformed. There are a few things all these players have in common though. First, they’re not 20 goals-per-season strikers. And second, they're not 20 goals-per-season strikers.
The fact I can only really name with confidence five players who I think have pulled their weight this year tells the tale of a squad with a massive lack of depth. But even with this glaring floor, I would wager a bet that with a Ross McCormack in the team we would be a good five places higher in the table. This is the biggest of the floors we have this year and one that could have possibly been avoided. I want to take a quick look at the attacking options Leeds currently have, but also the ones we have let go in Massimo’s tenure as owner.
Mirco Antenucci (33 Appearances, 5 Goals)
After joining in the summer of 2014 from Ternana, Micro had a very respectful first season at Elland Road, scoring 10 goals in all. We couldn’t have expected much more from him as he wasn’t exactly prolific at any of his previous clubs. This year has not been anywhere near as successful for Antenucci, however, only returning 5 goals in all appearances. Not only this, but he has generally looked out of sorts in most of the games I’ve seen him play. Rumours were rife of him wanting to go back to Italy in the January window, but with Leeds not getting any replacement up top it all came to nothing. Perhaps his heart isn’t with Leeds anymore and at the age of 31 he could have one eye on an easy retirement back in Italy. Unless he turns on the style for the last part of this season, I would be surprised if the bearded Italian will remain in Leeds next year.
Chris Wood (26 Appearances, 8 Goals)
Chris Wood was our big money signing in the summer, coming in somewhere close to £3 million, and perhaps the pressure of expectation has taken a bit out of him. He has received a fair bit of stick at times this year, but with his Injuries of late, I think all Leeds fans would agree with me that we want him back as soon as possible. Our top scorer so far this season with 8 goals is a far stretch from what we all wanted, but there is a good future ahead for Chris Wood in my opinion and had he been available for these past few months I’m sure his tally would be higher.
Soulymane Doukara (22 Appearances, 4 Goals)
The Duke has been the shock surprise so far this season, which I think says a lot more about our opinion of him last year than anything else. His performances have been promising, but with a return of only 4 goal in league and cup we are probably giving Doukara more credit than he deserves. Yes, he has scored at important moments, and yes, he has overall played better than the previous season, but if we are singing the praises of a striker who has only scored 4 in 22 than perhaps our ambitions are not what we think they are.
With our current main 3 strikers only mustering 17 goals so far this year, let’s see how the top 3 strikers we let go are getting on.
Ross McCormack (36 Appearances, 18 Goals)
Surprise surprise, Ross McCormack is having another blinding season. After basically keeping us in the Championship singlehandedly with his goals in 2013/2014, Ross is doing the same again with Fulham. At the time, I’m sure most of us thought £11 million was a deal we could not turn down, and perhaps many of us still do, but looking at what his 20+ goals can do at a club... you have to wonder. They say every player has his price, but why should they? Ross didn’t have the promise of the top flight when moving to Fulham and if we kept giving him the top dollar contracts, It would have been a statement of intent that Leeds were serious about this promotion push idea.
Nicky Ajose (28 Appearances, 19 Goals)
Time at Leeds was very short-lived for Nicky Ajose, only making 3 first team appearances in the 2014/15 season, before being loaned out to Crewe and then sold to Swindon Town. Nicky was a young player who we were very quick to move on and this one may have been another bad move on our part. Sticking goals away in League One doesn’t necessarily mean he could be doing the business in the Championship but at the age of 24 we were certainly very quick to make that decision. Evans was looking to bring in Sam Winnall in January, so it shows that he must put some weight into how players do in the lower divisions. Perhaps if Evans was in charge the previous season, Ajose may have been given more of a chance.
Billy Sharp (35 Appearances, 15 Goals)
After a very overdue move to Leeds in 2014, the love affair with Billy didn’t work out exactly how we hoped, but now that he is back home in Sheffield, things look alright again for the "fat lad." With Leeds lack of options in terms of strikers this season, would it have been a good idea to keep Billy on as someone to bring off the bench? He certainly would add a different dimension in place of Mirco or Douks.
I am not saying that had we kept on any of these three that they would be doing better than the current crop at United. But with all of them doing so well at their respective clubs, you do have to wonder if we were a bit rash in some of the decisions we have made. Of the three, would any of them still get a place in your Leeds United starting 11? Or does scoring plenty in League One not translate to the Championship? Are there any players I have missed off that you would still like to see back at Elland Road? Let us know if the comments below.