As Deadline Day approached, we all knew it: Leeds United needed a striker. We could probably use another defender as well, and while Garry Monk might have hinted at it, we really didn’t expect to sign a midfielder with eleven already on the first team squad.
Yet here we are.
On Wednesday, Leeds United completed the signing of Bournemouth’s Eunan O’Kane, a midfielder born in Derry who plays internationally for the Republic of Ireland. That was the only move of the day... a day when some of us expected a lot more. We’ll get to O’Kane in a minute, but first, let’s look at what didn’t happen.
Luke Murphy and Toumani Diagouraga were both essentially told they could leave, and rumors of them landing with Sheffield United and Rotherham United respectively came to nowt. They remain in the Leeds United midfield, though in what capacity, we’re not too sure.
The midfield options available to Monk, in alphabetical order because who knows whose more likely to play: Liam Bridcutt, Stuart Dallas, Toumani Diagouraga, Matt Grimes, Pablo Hernandez, Alex Mowatt, Luke Murphy, Eunan O’Kane, Kalvin Phillips, Kemar Roofe, Hadi Sacko, and Ronaldo Vieira. My goodness. That’s TWELVE.
If I had to guess, Bridcutt and O’Kane will be the most constant names in the Starting XI, with Roofe, Sacko, Dallas, and Hernandez making appearances as well. Phillips and Vieira can develop a little more slowly and be used as late game substitutes. Murphy, Grimes, and Diagouraga? Who the hell knows.
Ffs Diagouraga is still here— Leeds All Over (@LeedsAllOver) August 31, 2016
I’d like to see Murphy in particular regain his form and his role on the squad, but really, there’s a lot of names ahead of him. We’ll see what happens.
Charlie Taylor is still in White.
After Cook’s departure, many expected Taylor to be the next Academy player sold off, but that did not happen in this window. Whether offers were too small or Cellino and Monk realized they couldn’t replace him in time, he still plays for Leeds United, against his wishes perhaps. He’ll need to elevate his game back to 2015/16 levels to appease some fans, but he’s the best option we had at left back, so it’s probably a good thing we didn’t lose him.
Jansson and Bartley look to be the starting center back pair of the future with Bamba and Cooper likely relegated to backup duty. Ayling will join that group once Berardi gets healthy, but for now, he’ll probably take the right back spot over Lewie Coyle. The defence could’ve used some help on Wednesday, but other places needed it more...
Leeds United needed another striker.
We knew this, Monk knew this, Cellino knew this... and we ended up without. Chris Wood and Marcus Antonsson have been... adequate at best, and another attacking force could have made this a team to be reckoned with. Instead, we’re left waiting until the January window, as the emergency loan window has been abolished this season.
That’s not to say they didn’t try. As we suspected, the Babacar and Ariyibi rumors were silly and baseless, and the Pelly Ruddock Mpanzu transfer from Luton Town never came to more than speculation. But more interesting names crossed the internet yesterday, including one high-profile striker and one older English star:
Looks like Yaya Sanogo was indeed the striker that #lufc were chasing, on loan from Arsenal. Wenger said no, wants him staying with Gunners.— Lee Sobot (@LeeSobotYEP) August 31, 2016
Yaya Sanogo was a target! Scenes if that had happened. But Arsene Wenger, the over-loyal head man at Arsenal who shipped his beloved Jack Wilshere off to Bournemouth yesterday, couldn’t be convinced to part with another of his projects, no matter how little he plays.
Sanogo signed in 2013 and has literally played in 11 Premier League matches... but he’ll stay on the bench for another season instead of lighting up Elland Road. Regardless of that simple solution’s logic for both sides, and regardless of their efforts, Cellino and Monk couldn’t deliver Sanogo to Leeds.
Another name was definitely hot on Wednesday night:
Peter Crouch. The tall, lanky Englishman pranced into the #LUFC transfer rumours in the final hour, but nothing came of that either. He could’ve been something up top, the enormous gazelle heading in crosses alongside the playmaking Antonsson, but that’s maybe one for five or ten years ago. He’s three years older than me for chrissakes, and I feel old on a daily basis.
I’m happy we didn’t make that move, think we would’ve regretted it, but to make no move for a striker at all didn’t sit well with fans. I won’t include all those tweets and Facebook comments here, because the list would be too long (and honestly, got pretty vile). We’ll go into the rest of the season with Wood and Antonsson up top, and God forbid either of them get injured.
So what did we do?
We brought in Irish international Eunan O’Kane on Wednesday: a cagey, tough midfielder that plays hard and doesn’t score goals. He played for Bournemouth through their rise up the English ranks to the Premier League, but never fit in with the Cherries once they made it big, though some say that’s possibly due to injury.
Our resident Irishman, Sean Ryan, said this about him before the transfer was confirmed:
O'Kane is a decent central midfielder in the Neil Kilkenny mould. He's an absolute engine and really allows the more attacking players in a side to get forward. The best example of this was the year Bournemouth went up. His play in the middle of the park, especially when deployed in front of the back four allowed the likes of Harry Arter and Matt Ritchie to get forward. If we do sign him, and Garry Monk persists with Pablo Hernandez, O'Kane could be the man to allow him to flourish. Or he could be used to cover the void left by Lewis Cook and allow Mowatt to rediscover the form that saw some sublime goals during the 14/15 season. Either way, he's tailor-made for Leeds United and we should be seriously considering him if Eddie Howe is serious about allowing him to leave.
So that’s a strong endorsement. And I’ve heard nothing but good things about him since he signed his two-year deal either. He should start alongside Bridcutt once he gets up to speed, helping with possession and enabling us to use our speedy wingers (or Hernandez, who’s atrocious on defence) in attack. It’s a good, smart addition, though not a flashy one.
And O’Kane is just one of a long line of additions in this transfer window, one that fundamentally changed the team we see on the pitch every matchday. Here’s the complete list of transfers... though they didn’t all happen on Deadline Day. Maybe Cellino and company just got their shopping done early.
Robert Green (QPR, free)
Luke Ayling (Bristol City, approximately £750,000)
Kyle Bartley (Swansea City, season loan)
Pontus Jansson (Torino, season loan)
Liam Bridcutt (Sunderland, approximately £1.5m)
Eunan O’Kane (Bournemouth, undsiclosed)
Matt Grimes (Swansea City, season loan)
Kemar Roofe (Oxford Utd, approximately £3m)
Pablo Hernandez (Al-Arabi, 6-month loan)
Hadi Sacko (Sporting Lisbon, season loan)
Marcus Antonsson (Kalmar FF, approximately £2m)
That’s basically our entire starting XI, people. We can complain about the quality of those transfers as long as we want to (we’re Leeds fans, of course we’ll do that), but that’s an impressive quantity by anyone’s standards.
Monk has changed the face of the team in every way. He clearly needs to get them to play together... quickly... to avoid being sacked and to deliver on the refund promise of playoffs or bust. But let’s look at the bright side for a minute and say that group, right there, is better than this one:
Lewis Cook, Mirco Antenucci, Guiseppe Bellusci, Scott Wootton, Lee Erwin, Jordan Botaka, Tommaso Bianchi, Casper Sloth, Eric Grimes, Alex Purver.
Cook hurts, but I’d take those 11 over these 10 any day of the week.
We need a striker. No doubt about it. Sanogo or Crouch or anyone would’ve helped, and when we see the money splashed around by the other teams in the Championship it hurts. But I’m going to try to make the best of it.
I’m looking forward to seeing O’Kane on the pitch, and I’m going to hope that he and Bridcutt come together to let Roofe and Sacko and Dallas and Hernandez and yes, maybe even Luke Murphy, shine bright in that midfield, allowing Antonsson and Wood to play better together than they have so far.
And if not? There’s always January. MOT.