Now that the January transfer window is officially open, the inevitable flurry of loan deals is upon us. Most notably for Leeds United, all four of the loanees who were on 6-month loans will return to their temporary clubs for the remainder of the year. Samuel Saiz will of course be joining the loaned-out list at Getafe, as will youth academy graduate Alex Wollerton, who is on a one-month trial with Darlington FC, who play in the National League North Division. Now let’s take a look at how Leeds’ top loanees fared in their first months abroad.
Mallik Wilks - FW, Doncaster Rovers
Mallik Wilks grabbed the attention of Leeds fans early on this season, when, as a teenager, he scored 3 goals in Doncaster’s first three matches. He is an extremely dynamic player and has helped the Rovers become the fifth best offense in League One. Wilks has recorded 7 goals and 4 assists so far in League 1 play, which is good for 2nd on the team in both categories.
Wilks is far and away the best prospect for Leeds right now. He has incredible vision and speed, attributes that have been on display even during his goal droughts. Wilks has made the League One Team of the Week twice for his efforts against Walsall and Bristol.
✍️ Congratulations to Mallik Wilks (20), who has extended his contract with #LUFC until 2022.— LeedsYouth ♂️ (@LeedsYouth) January 1, 2019
Wilks has starred on loan at Doncaster Rovers this season, scoring eight goals and registering five assists.#LeedsYouth pic.twitter.com/mjh66gi1up
The 20-year-old’s loan expired on January 2nd, prompting Leeds to negotiate a new contract with the forward. He will rejoin Doncaster for the remainder of the season and is under contract with the Whites until the summer of 2022. Hopefully, he can continue his good form for the rest of the season
Liam Kitching - LB, Harrogate Town AFC
Despite playing in the National League, Liam Kitching turned in the second-best performance of all the loaned-out players in the first half. A mainstay in Town’s starting eleven, he proved to be a talented defender and was crucial to Harrogate’s league-leading attack. The defender scored three goals (second-best of all the loanees) and recorded numerous assists, though exact statistics are not officially recorded. He is extremely dangerous down the flank and can send in deadly crosses, which is one of his best abilities:
Kitching’s pinpoint accuracy helped him garner the attention of Marcelo Bielsa earlier in the year, and his loan was nearly cancelled so that he could help fill in for Leeds’ several injured defenders.
However, Kitching’s most glaring flaw is his tendency to step out of position and leave space for attackers to exploit.
As you can see here, Kitching (the left back in yellow) needlessly steps to the Eastleigh midfielder, leaving a channel of space down the right flank. With no one to provide pressure, the opposing winger easily swings the ball into the box for the assist. There are countless examples of the Leeds loanee making this critical mistake, and often on counterattacks. For Kitching to fulfill his potential, he must work on fixing this issue during the second half of the season. However, his loan expires on January 2nd, so it remains to be seen where he will spend the next few months.
Update: Like Mallik Wilks, Kitching has signed a new contract with Leeds and will rejoin Harrogate for the remainder of the season.
Jay-Roy Grot - FW, VVV-Venlo
After an extremely disappointing 2017/18 season, Grot has greatly improved over the past few months at Venlo. Playing on the left wing, he began the season struggling, but the 20-year-old was able to turn around his poor form and at times looked like VVV’s most threatening player. However, his form has suffered recently, largely due to his terrible passing. As noted in an earlier loan round-up, he is in the 4th percentile for passing completion in the Eredivisie (63.7%), which is just awful. But one poor facet of his game should not define his season, which could be described as a work in progress. In his 1,200 minutes played, he picked up 2 goals and an assist, while registering a solid 2.4 shots per 90 minutes.
His best performance so far came against NAC Breda, where he scored the above goal and added an assist to help his side win 3-0. This match was just a small sample of Grot’s potential, and, if he is able to finish out the year strong with Venlo, he could certainly find a place with Leeds’ first team.
Paudie O’Connor - CB, Blackpool FC
To say the least, Paudie O’Connor’s stint with Blackpool has not gone as planned so far. Allowing only 22 goals against, his side has the best defense in League One, and the young Irishman was unable to earn himself a starting position. He has appeared in just 9 matches, including 6 starts, in league play to date. His most notable performance was in the Carabao Cup against Arsenal, where he scored a great header off of a free kick. Unfortunately, he also picked up red card just minutes later, dooming any hope of a Blackpool comeback.
After making 4 appearances and looking like a top prospect last season, O’Connor has quite clearly taken a few steps back. Because he is on a season-long loan, he cannot switch clubs now, but he should try to find somewhere where he can see the pitch more often in the future..
Paweł Cibicki - FW, Molde FK
Cibicki had a decent year with Molde, though he only played in 13 matches in the Eliteserien. He picked up 3 goals and 3 assists in 822 minutes and played a small role in Molde’s impressive 2nd place finish in the Norwegian first division. At 24 years of age, he is still relatively young, but he lacks the qualities that most Championship-level strikers need. Namely, his speed, finishing, and technical abilities all leave a lot to be desired.
Here is a chance he had on an essentially open goal that did not go as planned (number 24):
Cibicki’s time with Leeds appears to be about over, as it has been reported by Sport Bladet that Swedish side Effsborg is close to agreeing on a fee with Leeds for the forward. His stint at Elland Road did not go as planned, so hopefully the next step of Cibicki’s career will be more successful.
Lewie Coyle - RB, Fleetwood Town
Originally loaned out until January, Coyle looks set to rejoin Fleetwood Town for the remainder of the season, according to Phil Hay. The 23-year-old has spent the last two seasons at the Lancashire club and has impressed manager Joey Barton greatly:
“Lewie Coyle – what a great player to have in your side because he competes anywhere you want him to”
With just 1 assist and no goals on the season, Coyle needs to work on his offensive contributions, but he is excellent defensively. He is a very physical and aggressive defender despite his small stature (173 centimeters), meaning that he fouls and picks up cards often. Coyle has gained the attention of many Leeds fans over the past few years, and hopefully his hard work will pay off sooner rather than later.
26' | Vital block from Coyle to deny Curtis a shot on target as Portsmouth threaten on the counter attack.— Fleetwood Town FC (@ftfc) December 29, 2018
Laurens de Bock - LB, K.V. Oostende
Laurens dee Bock was another one of the several outside backs that was sent out on loan from Leeds this year. He was dreadful last season and was one of the many problems with Leeds’ terrible defense. Despite this, the defender has been decent with Oostende so far, though he has missed several matches due to injury. His only offensive contribution has been a goal last week against St. Truiden, which helped his side to a draw.
Oostende were terrible in the first and allowed 37 goals in just 21 matches, leaving them in the bottom half of the Belgian league. Given his poor form last season, de Bock would only be called up in an emergency situation and would be behind Coyle, Kitching and perhaps even Tyler Denton.
Loan watch - Somewhere in Belgium Laurens De Bock’s goal in the 33’ cancels out Jordan Botaka’s 4’ opener.— Eric Klein (@TheReKleiner) December 28, 2018
And in other news I need to find something better to do with my spare time.
Tyler Denton - LB, Peterborough United
Tyler Denton was perhaps the most disappointing loanee of the season, and that is quite impressive given Leeds’ slew of strikers who did next to nothing over the past few months. Despite being one of the first players loaned out, the left back did not make Peterborough’s squad for a league match until late October and has played in just 6 games to date. He was quite impressive last year while winning promotion in League Two with Port Vale, but was clearly unable to smoothly transition to League One.
He has managed to play in the last 2 matches with Peterborough, so perhaps in 2019 the former England U17 player will reaffirm himself as one of Leeds’ most exciting loanees.