Today, we continue our postseason Leeds United player grades for 2015/16 by looking over the performance of each midfielder from last season. What better way to forget the last few days of European competition than focusing on our club again? If you missed our appraisal of the Whites defensive unit, you really should check it out.
Now to the midfielders, starting with Leeds United’s sole representative at the 2016 European Championships.
Stuart Dallas (45 league appearances)
After coming across from Brentford FC in the summer of 2015, Stuart Dallas was the ironman of Elland Road last season. The Northern Irishman played in all but one league contest and was a consistent force through the middle of the park. Dallas impressed me with his energetic work rate and ability to keep on performing throughout an indifferent campaign for his new club.
The highlight of Dallas’ season was his performance in United’s victory over Birmingham City in April, a performance in which he fatally wounded the Blues playoff hopes with a two goal brace. The second of which was an absolute wonder strike.
— #WALMOT (@WALMOT3) April 12, 2016
The signing of Dallas is undoubtedly one of the best since Massimo Cellino took over. He signed with Leeds in August of 2015 for an undisclosed sum rumoured to be in the range of £750,000 to £1.3 million. This was a great value play at the time, and Dallas’ performance throughout the campaign provided a fabulous return on investment. Dallas was an outstanding addition to the squad and fell in love with the Elland Road faithful. Don’t worry Stuart, the feeling is mutual.
— Northern Ireland (@NorthernIreland) April 25, 2016
Season rating: 8 / 10
Lewis Cook (43 league appearances)
Now on to the best young footballer in England. Wow, that feels really good to write! 2015-16 will hereforth be known as the year in which Lewis Cook enjoyed his coming out party. The Yorkshire lad backed a promising debut performance in 2014-15 to arguably become United’s best player this season.
Cook offers hope for the future and can do everything. Playmaking, defensive instincts, work rate and counter attacking style, Cook has it all in spades and put each skill on display this season. For all his flashy strikes and mind-blowing moves, it’s highlights like this foray forward against Wolverhampton that fuel my love for Cook the most. The kid has so much talent.
The 19-year-old blossomed as a classy talisman and in many ways is the biggest prize for being a Leeds United fan in 2016. He is a midfield maestro and looks ready to become the next big thing for England. And here’s the best part: he is home grown and plays for Leeds United….well for now anyways.
As I wrote back in April, a player of Cook’s quality belongs in the Premier League. Let’s just hope we can get there as quickly as he does. Because I can think of nothing better than watching Cook highlights like this for years to come.
Season rating: 9 / 10
Luke Murphy (36 league appearances)
Luke Murphy might have quietly been United’s most improved player in 2016. After signing a lucrative contract extension last summer, Murphy was largely irrelevant during the first few months of the 2015-16 campaign because of a pre-season knee injury and the acquisition of Tom Adeyemi to play his position.
Yet over the season’s final third Murphy played the best football of his Leeds United career. It seems a pep talk from Steve Evans did him wonders. Murphy was a two way force over the season’s final stretch, combining his always exemplary ball skills with a more well rounded defensive game. The 26-year-old put all his talents on display in April’s victory over Reading, being the best performance of his season in an always enjoyable victory over our former mate Brian McDermott. And the fan base was paying attention.
Murphy showed resilience throughout and never stopped battling for a starting spot even with new signings brought into potentially replace him. His return to form was a welcome boost and will provide Garry Monk with another solid option when the new season kicks off.
Season rating: 7 / 10
Alex Mowatt (34 league appearances)
Twelve months ago, Mowatt was a breakthrough star at Leeds United, having just won player of the year honours at the club’s official awards for the 2014-15 season. But now things aren’t so sweet.
Mowatt couldn’t find consistency this season and was never able to recapture his best form after Neil Redfearn was dismissed in the summer. Redfearn was the man who brought Mowatt through the academy and into the first team. Whether Mowatt can perform without his tutelage remains a concern.
When playing to form, he remains among the most talented players within the United squad, but such moments were too few and far between this season. Mowatt struggled for playing time as Cook ascended into a prominent midfield role and his slump in form made it difficult to play the two together. According to SoccerWay, the 21-year-old’s playing time dropped by almost 1,200 minutes this campaign, something that is of grave concern for a youngster who should be improving each season.
Whether a disappointing season is attributable to the departure of Redfearn, a form slump or something else remains unknown. But with Mowatt now entering the final year of his contract it’s time for him and club to rekindle the magic from twelve months ago.
In the interests of fairness, let’s finish a disappointing section with Mowatt’s ultimate highlight from 2015-16.
Season rating: 5 / 10
Liam Bridcutt (24 league appearances)
The Sunderland midfielder was a welcome acquisition once he joined United on loan in November. Bridcutt quickly became a fixture in the United squad, playing in the majority of matches once acquired and helping us improve over the season’s second half. His well travelled experience added another dimension to a young midfield group and his talents were a great match with Steve's philosophy.
The relationship was mutually beneficial as Bridcutt returned to international football in Scotland’s March friendly against Denmark. His performance in that friendly was… not so great... but alas, we only care about Leeds United in this post.
Bridcutt is eager to maintain first team football and Sunderland now appear willing to facilitate a full time move to United for a reduced price. Bridcutt has showed his value over the past six months and it’s hard to think why a permanent move shouldn’t be made.
Season rating: 7 / 10
Tom Adeyemi (23 league appearances)
Unfortunately for Adeyemi, the departure of Uwe Rosler pre-emptively signalled the end of his Leeds United experience. Adeyemi joined us for the 2015/16 campaign last July when Rosler was in charge and put forward some promising displays before the Christmas period. But things quickly changed once Evans took over, with the 24-year-old only appearing in four league matches during 2016. The signing of Toumani Diagouraga in January rendered Adeyemi useless and affixed him to the bench.
When on the pitch Adeyemi showed some promise but he was just a bad fit with Evans, and his season was torpedoed when he lost form and the new gaffer lost confidence. Just another reminder that things change very quickly at Leeds United.
Season rating: 4 / 10
Toumani Diagouraga (17 league appearances)
Diagouraga was the only permanent signing made by Evans, and it was clear that the now departed manager trusted his sole signing more than many others in the squad. Whether Diagouraga will enjoy such latitude under Monk should be up in the air. But his performances since joining the cub in January were first class and everything expected from a veteran leader.
Diagouraga joined United midseason from Brentford and helped bring something different to the middle of the pitch. He quickly became a first team regular and fan-favourite, and while Diagouraga will never be confused with the most talented players in the squad, he can be counted on week in and week out to perform at his best.
Season rating: 7 / 10
Mustapha Carayol (12 league appearances)
Another midseason acquisition, Carayol was a reserve player during his stint with United. The speedy winger joined Leeds on loan from Middlesbrough in January and while he showed signs of the crossing skills and pace that can make him a dangerous threat on the wing, Carayol could never establish a regular position for himself within the squad.
Brentford had looked comfortable for 80 minutes until Carayol’s precise low effort snuck into David Button’s bottom-left corner. His time at the club was short but we will always have this exciting moment from a dreary January night. Thanks, I think?
Season rating: 5 / 10
Kalvin Phillips (10 league appearances)
Phillips entered the season as a bright prospect on the back of an impressive end to the 2014/15 campaign. So much so that he began 2015/16 in the starting eleven. Unfortunately, he lost this position after three matches and never regained it. All up, Phillips only played 10 times in the league and only made two appearances during 2016.
The 20-year-old was expected to play a key role, but didn’t make the impact many had predicted. Phillips remains a bright prospect and this past term was not all bad as he gained valuable experience and consolidated his place within the squad.
It remains to be seen what role Monk sees for Phillips, but the fact the youngster was last week handed a new three year deal suggests that Leeds’ new manager rates him highly. Phillips’ commitment to Leeds is clear, with his more fancied teammates delighted that the midfielder is sticking around.
Season rating: 5 / 10
Will Buckley (4 league appearances)
The 25-year-old joined United on loan in October and made four appearances before he was hastily recalled by Sunderland at the end of November. Buckley joined us to bring pace, scoring and aggression to the table but was never able to prove his worth once Evans took over. Yet another victim of the Leeds United managerial merry-go-round.
Season rating: 3 / 10
Ronaldo Vieira Nan (1 league appearances)
Young Ronaldo spent the entire season with youth squads but made his professional debut on the last day of the campaign. Despite only getting a handful of minutes at the end of the match, the very fact he got on the field as a 17-year-old is amazing.
He has the names of two footballing greats and here’s hoping he can replicate his namesakes at United. Definitely a name to watch for the future.
Season rating: 8 / 10
(Sliding scale for Ronaldo, debuting this young deserves a standing ovation.)
There we go. The midfield group experienced many a disruption this season due to continual roster change and an unhealthy number of loaned footballers rotating through the club. Dallas, Cook and Murphy are the big names which will be leading this group in the 2016-17 season; we'll see if we get any more additions in the next few weeks.
What did you think of our rankings? Let us know in the comments below.