It was full of rumours, innuendo and, quite frankly, plenty of fanciful thinking, but the January transfer window is now complete and Leeds United is a better side because of it. That’s the takeaway we all need to focus on.
No, we didn’t sign the big names that have been linked to Elland Road since the season began back in August. (Ashley Fletcher, I am looking at you!) No, Pontus Jansson and Charlie Taylor were not officially signed to long term deals... yet. And no, the three obvious weaknesses in the squad – goalkeeper, reserve centre half, and striker – were not directly addressed.
That’s three red crosses and when translated into reality, they read like the recipe of a disappointing transfer period.
But while it may not have been perfect, the past 31 days were anything but useless.
To look at it more optimistically: Leeds only lost players on the fringes Garry Monk’s squad, signed Pablo Hernandez to a permanent deal and acquired two new young attacking threats to compliment Chris Wood. That’s a successful period if we define success through the prism of challenging for promotion this season. The squad got better and didn’t need to mortgage the future to do so.
Sure, Alex Mowatt was sold to Barnsley, and that makes some of us sad, but it became evidently clear Monk didn’t value his talents like the raft of managers that preceded him. He didn’t fit Monk’s system, and so, he needed to go for his own good and for ours.
Likewise, the Charlie Taylor debate is littered with impossible decisions that spring out of the same issue: he clearly wanted out, but the club doesn’t want to lose one of its best players in the midst of a promotion push. If all goes to plan, Taylor will have the choice to remain a vital cog of a side just promoted to the Premier League (**passes out while thinking about this**), or he’ll leave for pastures which appear greener, albeit with zero guarantees. If Taylor wants to take a gamble elsewhere after leading us into the play-offs, fair play to him. He should just be wary of the success (or lack thereof) currently enjoyed by Lewis Cook at Bournemouth and Sam Byram at West Ham.
As for the new additions, both Alfonso Pedraza and Modou Barrow are attacking options who fit the glaring need facing Garry Monk: we must score goals.
Pedraza oozes talent and, at just 20 years of age, is the type of gamble a growing football side should be taking. He can help boost scoring over the coming months and has the pedigree of a footballer who could blossom into a Premier League contributor if, and hopefully when, Leeds get there. Johnny covered the Pedraza acquisition fully earlier in the week, and the best news for United is that the club has the option to permanently acquire the Spaniard should everything go to plan.
It seems like Pedraza is initially coming on loan to our Championship side, with a provision that, should Leeds earn promotion, the deal becomes permanent... for a rumoured 10 million Euro transfer fee. Allen (of Villarreal USA) followed his analysis above by saying that fee will “seem a snip” should Pedraza live up to his potential; he’s really sad to lose the youngster.
In his other order of Deadline Day business, Monk turned again to his old club and brought Modou Barrow to Elland Road on loan for the rest of the season. Barrow worked with Monk when he was still controlling the Liberty Stadium turf, turning professional in 2014 when Monk was still playing for Swansea.
Barrow has made 18 appearances this season for the Swans, but was recently shifted down the pecking order after recent managerial changes. He attracted interest from a number of other Premier League clubs, plus Newcastle United, and is a good get for Leeds, seeming to fall out of the sky to us on the window’s final day.
Barrow is a swift winger who is capable of creating chances for others with his pace and guile. On paper, he looks like a good compliment for Wood. The same goes for Pedraza. Neither perfectly fit the description of what the fan base think United needed, but Monk deserves the benefit of the doubt. He nailed almost every move made back in August and it is fair to assume he has a plan in place for the two new additions.
In the grander scheme of things, both new additions speak to where the football club is aiming, a point raised by James yesterday. Both Pedraza and Barrow are exciting wingers who are yet to reach the prime of their careers. This is especially true of Pedraza, who has been a key contributor within the Spanish youth team for years. They are investments into the present and the future, something which could become the norm under the stewardship of Andrea Radrizzani.
Monk fixed the defence back in September and his challenge down the final third of this season is to find more goals, enough goals to first guarantee a top six spot and then win two play-off ties.
Did help arrive in the January transfer window? Most definitely.
Will it be enough? Only time will tell.
But Monk has earned the benefit of the doubt with me. He has new talent to play with and that is dangerous for the rest of the Championship.