Well, the shoe finally dropped on Steve Evans' tenure at Elland Road yesterday. Cellino said in a press release that Steve "completed the job he was brought in to carry out" and yet Massimo and company have "decided that a different approach is required in order to achieve our targets for the new season." Those targets, as you might've heard, involve promotion to the Premier League, or a play-off appearance at the very least, as a massive refund to season ticket holders is on the line should Leeds United fail.
Should #lufc fail to reach at least the play-offs in 2016/17, supporters will receive a 25% refund on their Net Season Ticket price.— Leeds United (@LUFC) April 19, 2016
So before the news about Evans broke, I asked our staff the Weekly Wednesday roundtable question, and I think it still applies today: if you could make one change on the pitch at Leeds United for the 2016/17 season, where would you start? Clearly, the new man in charge (Garry Monk is the rumor today) will make some changes when he arrives, as the tumultuous Cellino reign continues. So before he gets a chance, our staff takes a crack at it.
Back with you this week: Anthony Linley and Matt Robinson are from Yorkshire, Ben Mallis is from Perth, Australia, and Johnny Wakefield is from Charlotte, North Carolina in the States. All are "all Leeds," all have brought you coverage throughout the season, and all will try to answer the questions we present every Wednesday to the best of their ability. It's not a quiz show, but it should give you some insight into them as fans and writers alike.
And at the end, in the comments, don't forget to let us know how you'd answer the question of the week.
The Weekly Wednesday Roundtable... begins now.
What one addition/change would you make on the pitch for the 2016/17 season?
Ben Mallis: Goals, goals and more goals. Defence wasn’t a problem this season but scoring goals was an issue from the outset.
United had the seventh worst attack in the Championship, scoring only 50 goals through the league season at a tick of 1.09 goals per game. Remarkably, things got even worse at Elland Road – we only scored 23 goals in 23 home league appearances this campaign.
Home form in general must improve and putting that little round thing in the net more often will be a good start. All playoff sides scored at least 63 goals this season, and each of the promoted sides Burnley, Middlesbrough and Hull City averaged at least 47% more goals at home this campaign.
Once this managerial merry-go-round is resolved, all offseason resources should be focused on finding attacking options to compliment a good defensive unit. This isn't good enough:
Our four leading scorers from last season - Chris Wood, Mirco Antenucci, Souleymane Doukara and Stuart Dallas – are serviceable but none will be ever be confused for a great attacking option. The play-off promise has no chance unless scoring improves in 2016/17.
Matt Robinson: It's another hard question. In terms of style of play, I think we are inevitably going to change under a new manager. Until a new manager comes in though, we can only speculate on how we will approach things tactically next year.
I guess my real want next season is twofold and similar to Ben's. First want: buying a big money striker, who has proven quality and brings you 15+ goals a season. Secondly, play him alongside Chris Wood, thus meaning, we play with 2 strikers, and have a more attacking style of play than we had for large parts of this year. If that's in a 4-4-2 with wingers, then cool. Diamond, flat middle 4, whatever. I just want two strikers who rake in the goals.
It hurts me to say it now, as it hurt me to say it then, but Sheffield Wednesday made some quality signings in the January window, and they thoroughly deserved a play of place. Instead of signing no-name Italians, we need proven quality. Wednesday signed Forestieri, Hooper etc: proven talent. We too often take a punt of cheap players and it doesn't pay off. We need more of this quality at Leeds, if not better:
Signing Chris Wood was on the right lines for me and another striker of his ilk would give me a lot of faith. Somebody like Nahki Wells, Chris Martin, a player who has been around a while and produces the good every season. It might cost us somewhere in the region of £5 million, maybe more. But if we buy a player like that, put them alongside Chris Wood, and they score 40 goals between them in a season, that'll go a long way towards a play-off push.
Johnny Wakefield: Clearly, the consensus here so far is that changes have to be made in the goal-scoring department. There's no denying that; I remember at one point this season seeing a graphic on BBC Sport that we were amongst the 5 or 6 worst sides in all of England in goals per match, and that's just not acceptable for a team "battling for promotion."
But unlike Matt and Ben above, I think that there is a more pressing issue. A healthy, more experienced Chris Wood needs some help up top, but Charlie Taylor needs far more help on the back line. Wootton and Bellusci were travesties in defense this season, and Bamba and Cooper weren't consistent enough to warrant a place in a Premiership-dreaming starting XI. There was never a point where I was comfortable with our defense, at least, not after this...
Byram aside, the quality of the back line shouldn't inspire groans and squeaky-bum time in every single match. If Berardi can stay healthy in 2016/17, that's a start, but two new CBs would go a long way towards solidifying our chances under the new manager. Maybe he'll know a guy or two.
Anthony Linley: Sadly, changing just one thing on the pitch wouldn’t help cure all ills at Elland Road right now. Not too long ago we had the Championship's leading marksman, Ross McCormack, and having him with us didn’t make any difference to our promotion hopes. Granted, he was often played out of position by the manager.
We have also had now-sought-after Premiership starlets, worth millions, on loan such as Connor Wickham who was an FA Cup finalist this season, and he didn’t make much difference whilst at Elland Road. Mind you he was played out of position by the Manager at the time.
And what about Ross Barkley? He had little impact during his spell. Neil Warnock, the Leeds manager at the time, cut his loan spell short claiming the lad had little ability. He chose instead to go with Luke Varney. But Ross won't be worried about that as he drives to the Airport in his £114k Range Rover en route to starring for England in the 2016 Euros.
It seems the common denominator is the poor management of our club. So maybe a change in the approach to management for 2016/17 might be the right idea after all. How about the approach be picking the right manager in the first place so you don’t have to sack him after a few weeks and go through endless court cases and pay outs?
Cellino get the right man, let him build, plan and manage without your interference... that would be the right approach to management.
Lots of changes coming in the next few weeks at Elland Road; if you had to pick one place, where do you think the team needs to start? Vote in our poll, get at us on social media, and leave some comments and we'll be sure to respond. Thanks for reading this week's roundtable, enjoy your summer, and see you again next week. #MOT