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After another departure of a young player, what is going on at Leeds?

Sam Dalby’s unexpected exit leaves more questions than answers

2017 Skybet League 2 football Leyton Orient v Notts County Feb 18th Photo by Mark Kerton/Action Plus via Getty Images

Leeds United have been shedding contracts lately, as yet another young player departs the club on a permanent basis. The latest player to go is Sam Dalby, who is off to Watford FC in the Premier League.

Per the club’s official website:

Leeds United striker Sam Dalby has today joined Premier League side Watford for an undisclosed fee.

Dalby signed for Leeds from Leyton Orient in January 2018 and became part of Carlos Corberan’s Under-23 side.

The 19-year-old spent time on loan with Sky Bet League Two side Morecambe last season, where he made two substitute appearances.

We wish Sam all the best for the future.

Dalby was one of the many players signed in the 2017-18 season who haven’t been able to make their mark at the club and have been allowed to leave, and joins other Academy players such as Paudie O’Connor, Liam Kitching, Mallik Wilks, and Aapo Halme who have all been transferred out of the club.

All of these departures are in addition to the high-profile transfer of Pontus Jansson to Brentford, leaving a Leeds squad that was already thin on defenders short an experienced Sweden international defender.

So what is going on?

Marcelo Bielsa has a reputation of wanting a smaller squad, as all Leeds fans can tell you that he really doesn’t seem to believe in squad rotation. But are the club taking it too far, letting young players with potential leave along with some players who aren’t going to make it?

O’Connor had looked pretty good in his appearances in a Leeds shirt at the tail end of the 2017-18 season under Paul Heckingbottom, although given the dire quality of that team, any competent footballing seemed like a breath of fresh air. And he’s only 22. Kitching is 19. Halme is 21. Wilks is 20 and is coming off of a good season at Doncaster on loan. And now 19 year-old Dalby is another teenager that the club is moving on. Perhaps the club is giving up on these players too soon?

Teenage prospects don’t develop in a straight line, and it wouldn’t have cost very much money to keep the players on the roster to see what another year of development would do. Players like Lewie Coyle, who is 23, perhaps can and should be allowed to depart if they haven’t broken into the first team, but 19 year-olds should be given plenty of chances, especially ones that the club brought in about 18 months ago, as they did with Dalby.

If Leeds are to be a team that brings up talent through the ranks and looks inward for replacements to players that have left, then selling teenagers doesn’t make a lot of sense. If the club is looking to reduce the wage bill, then going about it by shedding the contracts of young players doesn’t seem to be a great idea, as there are still plenty of players on senior contracts, such as Samu Saiz, Laurens De Bock, Vurnon Anita, and Ouasim Bouy who aren’t going to be playing at all in the future. Finding new clubs for those players and taking those wages off the books would go a lot further towards reducing the wage bill without letting future prospects go.

Leeds will need to have a plan to replace the players in an extremely successful U23 side, both ones that have moved up to the first team and those that have been moved. Carlos Coreban has a lot of work to do this season.