As the season draws to a close and it begins to look less and less likely that Leeds United will be making the play-offs, now seems like a good time to start assessing the first team squad to for next season. I’m sure Heckingbottom will already have an idea as to who he would like to retain and who he thinks the club should move on in the summer.
Below are a few players who I imagine Heckingbottom will be considering the futures of:
PH on Wiedwald: "I've been really fair with the goalkeepers. It's important you back them." Lonergan hasn't been fit. Said it was "possible" he could give Peacock-Farrell a go at some stage. #lufc— Phil Hay (@PhilHayYEP) March 5, 2018
Felix Weidwald - The first and most obvious choice, Weidwald has had a tough time of things in recent months. You could describe his season as being like a rollercoaster, if that rollercoaster mostly went downhill from the start with very few ups or even plateaus. Since Heckingbottom’s arrival he has not helped himself, making a number of costly errors that have lead to dropped points at a time when Leeds desperately needed them to keep up any hopes of reaching the play-offs. Once it is mathematically certain we can’t make the play-offs I would considering playing Peacock-Farrell to test him out at this level.
Liam Cooper - Although he had a strong first half of the season, Cooper has found himself in more recent games reverting to type, error prone and a liability. It doesn’t set a fantastic example for the rest of your team when the captain picks up two red cards in a season and, like Weidwald, has made a number of errors that have aided the opposition’s cause. It speaks volumes that Cooper, who couldn’t get in to the side last year is now a regular starter, and it’s not down to a dramatic improvement in his ability. Cooper is clearly a good influence at the club but his ability doesn’t match where the club need to be or are looking to go.
Mateusz Klich - It just wouldn’t be me without giving the Polish midfielder a mention. Hardly making an appearance then moved out on loan in January, Klich seemingly never had the chance to prove himself in the first team, mostly featuring in cup games. Clearly Thomas Christiansen didn’t value him much, especially when Conor Shaughnessy started getting in to the side ahead of him. Clearly Klich has something about him. Whilst it’s not the greatest league in the world it is still a competitive league and Klich has been a regularly with most teams he has played for in the Eredivise. Ultimately, however, Klich is probably still behind Forshaw, Vieira, Phillips and O’Kane in the pecking order at this point so for the sake of his own career it may be best if both companies part ways.
Pablo Hernandez - Out of contract in the summer, Hernandez is seemingly the of the only players not granted a contract extension at the start of the season. Whilst I can understand from a business perspective not diving in to handing out a new deal, the Spaniard has certainly put in a number of brilliant performances over the course of the season just to remind people that Saiz isn’t the only wizard in the team. Yes, you wouldn’t want him playing every game, but Hernandez has show that he is still willing to work hard and can cause defenders problems. This should be a no brainer.
Pawel Cibicki - Like Klich, he hasn’t had many opportunities in the first team but has, on occasion, shown a touch of class that gives management something to consider when looking at wingers. His substitute appearance against Queens Park Rangers proved to be something of a turning point in the game and he was granted further opportunities for a brief period. Still only 24, Cibicki still has some upside to him and a run in the first team before the end of the season may give Heckingbottom more of a chance to see what he can do.
Hadi Sacko - In theory I’m a big fan of Sacko. He has pace, some technique and can be unpredictable, something full backs hate. Yes, I know his final ball leaves something to be desired (read: a lot to be desired) but the idea of having someone like Sacko on the bench seems like a great idea when you need to chase a game. That being said, Sacko has done very little this season to show he is even close to pushing for a first team place and if you don’t see any improvement over the course of nearly two years then it may be time to cut ties. I’m sure he’s a great character to have in the dressing room but if that’s all he’s adding then he needs taking off the wage bill.
This will be the 8th different Leeds manager Berardi has had, he’s in to his 4th season as a Leeds player #lufc— Luke (@luke_hill) February 5, 2018
Gaetano Berardi: I know this is controversial but, taking my Leeds tinted glasses off he is someone we need to take a look at. It’s very easy to love Berardi, he’s a tough tackling, hard working full back that seemingly understands the club. Of all of the many, many signings that Cellino made, he’s the only one that we’ve truly stuck with. Unfortunately, I don’t quite see where Berardi fits when you have a full team available. He is an solid left back and has, more often than not, done a good job when asked to play there. Going forward, however, he is not than man I want as the club’s first choice left back and there is no question at right back that Ayling is superior. I really don’t want to see him leave, I just hope he is up for a fight next season if we strengthen.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga - A much maligned figure at the start of the season, Lasogga has begun to build up some good grace with the Leeds fans in the last couple of months after putting in some much more dynamic performances than we saw from him in the first half of the season. On his day there is no question of his ability as a striker in the Championship, the fact remains that come the end of the season we will have to decide whether he will be worth the money over the course of the next couple of seasons or if he will settle in and become the lazy forward he was around November and December. It is certainly a gamble. A lot will depend on his wages and how much he really wants to stay.
Verdict: Wait and see.