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Leeds United 2015-16 Player Ratings: The Attack

With Mirco Antenucci and Chris Wood leading the way, the front line endured a challenging season.

Not the easiest of seasons for the goal-scorers in white and yellow.
Not the easiest of seasons for the goal-scorers in white and yellow.
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Today, we conclude our postseason Leeds United player grades for 2015/16 by looking at the pointy end of the pitch. Just the distraction you need to get over selling our most promising player, right? Let’s all pour one out for Lewis Cook, more on this later in the week, if you can stomach it.

If you have missed our review of the Whites defensive unit or midfield maestros you should go check them out. Now to the forwards... starting with a now-departed Italian.

Mirco Antenucci (39 league appearances)

Mirco Antenucci’s season can be described with this one moment of brilliance from opening day.

In those five seconds he offered hope, promise and made me think this could be our year. But I should have known better. Just like United after that opening day, Antenucci’s season fizzled out into disappointment.

With apologies to those whom we'll cover below, Antenucci was clearly the most talented attacking option on the roster during 2015/16. This is why his season kept me wanting more. And yes, maybe this is an unfair standard to expect from a middle-aged journeyman, but moments like those seen against Burnley in August illustrate the potential.

He did finished the season as the team's second highest goalscorer behind Chris Wood. Achieving such a feat with only 9 goals speaks more to the quality of those around him than the substance of Antenucci’s final season with Leeds.

Antenucci's time at the club promised so much and there were spells when he looked very good. Yet there were too many periods in which the wheels feel off.

A four month goal drought bracketing the Christmas period. An insipid performance against Middlesborough. Rumours of a transfer request in January. Fighting with Wood to take penalty kicks. Just too much drama to justify 9 goals and several quiet patches.

Like many who have come before him, the Italian wasn't helped by the melodramatic environment of this football club. Antenucci has even said as much since the season ended. But a once promising marriage is now over. Antenucci is now headed back to Italy, finishing his Untied career with 19 goals from 75 appearances.

Season rating: 5 / 10

Chris Wood (36 league appearances)

Now to my favourite Kiwi!

Wood netted 13 times this campaign to lead the United scoring chart. But it could have been so much better.

He endured two separate spells on the sidelines with hamstring problems in 2016, costing the New Zealand international almost two months of football. Then there were the missed opportunities, highlighted by the two gilt-edged opportunities Wood squandered in April’s 1-0 loss at Burnley. Aww the humanity...

Seeing one is enough to make me cry so we’ll leave it at that. Now to the positive news.

All in all, Wood enjoyed a successful first campaign in White when on the pitch. The missed opportunities are obvious eyesores on his resume, but Wood showed that he can lead the attacking line and be a central presence. He will never be the prettiest footballer, but a number nine who can finish like this can play for me any day.

Better conversion in front of the sticks and a 20 goal season could be on the cards.

But there are still questions over whether Wood can become a prolific striker for Leeds United. Steve Evans certainly thought he could, but it must be asked whether Garry Monk feels the same. The recent acquisitions of Marcus Antonsson and Kemar Roofe only complicate matters.

On paper, the speed and touch of both should make for a good combination with Wood. There is now competition for minutes and the time for unfilled promise is over.

Season rating: 6 / 10

Souleymane Doukara (23 league appearances)

Souleymane Doukara entered the season as a reserve piece under Uwe Rosler and must have been the happiest man in Yorkshire once Evans took over... not that things moved instantaneously.

Evans quickly changed his opinion of Doukara, from a man who he thought would never play after his first month in charge, to an electric force who can score goals with ease and was capable of surprising the new gaffer.

With Antenucci struggling for form and Wood’s hamstring issues, he became a suprising success through the middle of the season. Doukara proved a revelation and broke out in December’s 3-2 victory at Wolves, with the 24-year-old entering as a first half substitute and stimulating United’s attacking prowess.

Doukara has always had the raw essentials, like pace and power, but constantly performing week in, week out was absent. While not perfect in this area during 2015/16, there was clear improvement and Doukara was regularly contributing to a side building under Evans.

All of this promise makes the biting incident even more infuriating. Doukara was enjoying the best season of his career and threw away eight games with a disgusting act against Fulham. Let’s hope he has learnt his lesson and can improve during the upcoming season.

Season rating: 6 / 10

Jordan Botaka (13 league appearances)

Botaka entered the fray in September after transferring to Elland Road from Dutch side Excelsior in what was a massively unheralded move.

He made only three starts during the campaign and was barely used by Evans during his first few months in charge. Evans was scathing about the winger after our FA Cup defeat to Watford in February, taking issue with Botaka’s attitude by saying he was "very fortunate to be on the pitch" and only appeared as a substitute because Leeds "didn’t have any other options for the bench." Not exactly a glowing endorsement.

As the season wore on, Botaka used Evans’ comments as motivation and he began to play consistent first team football. He made 10 substitute appearances and showed improvement as he began to gain the trust of Evans.

Botaka came close to scoring his first goal for the club against Wolverhampton and enough to suggest he deserves more opportunities. He remains on the books for next season, with enough talent to provide hope that he can help with a promotion push. Well, that’s what this hype video leads me to believe.

Forgetting Elland Road for a moment, it appears the highlight of Botaka’s last 12 months was this encounter with Ronaldo, who, judging by the looks of this photo, appears to be enjoying retirement a lot.

Season rating: 4 / 10

Lee Erwin (11 league appearances)

The 21-year-old forward moved to Leeds in the summer of 2015 and made little impact during his first season in Yorkshire.

He started twice, amassed only 11 league appearances and couldn't find the back of the net. Erwin failed to make a huge mark at Elland Road and was quickly sent out to Bury FC on a brief loan spell. He returned to make his debut against Rotherham in November.

Monk has ruled him out of his plans for the forthcoming term and he has been loaned out to Oldham Athletic for the entire 2016/17 season.

Season rating: 4 / 10

There you have it. The attacking group endured a difficult 2015/16 season, with a lack of goal scoring being one of the main reasons for our struggles. Wood, Doukara and Botaka remain in place for Monk to work with. New signings Antonsson and Roofe should help bolster this unit when the new season begins next month.

What did you think of our rankings? Let us know in the comments below.