Bielsa Oversees a Summer Clearout at Elland Road
While most football fans have enjoyed the rearranged Euro 2020 and Tokyo 2020 competitions during the summer, Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has been busy. The likeable Argentinian has been working frantically behind the scenes as he aims to prepare the Yorkshire club for the fast-approaching new Premier League season.
Leeds fans enjoyed success last term, despite being locked out of games for much of the season due to coronavirus restrictions limiting public gatherings. The team secured a top-10 finish in the top-flight of English football and are ready to improve on that in the coming months. Can they continue their climb and bag a place in the best six and return European football to Beeston next year? Season ticket holders certainly hope so.
As we approach matchday one of the 2021/22 Premier League season everything is in place for a huge campaign for Bielsa and his team. The fixtures have been announced, the top sports betting sites offer their views on how the campaign will go and the gates to Elland Road are back open.
Several players ushered towards the exit
Since signing off the previous season with a stunning 3-1 home win over West Brom who have since been relegated to the Championship, the backroom staff including coaches, scouts and members of the board have been moulding the team for this year. Bielsa, unlike the eight managers that finished ahead of him in the EPL last season, is working on a budget. That makes his achievements even more impressive. But it also means the boss is in a constant battle to balance the books. It’s his job not just to target players but also to ensure he works within the guidelines set out by his employers.
To put it simple, Leeds must get rid of players before they can bring in reinforcements. Cutting the squad is never an easy task but leaving came as little surprise to most who were sold, released or sent out on loan to gain first team experience which is valuable for the development of Premier League stars of the future.
The outs were more than the ins, which is normal at any big club. Included in the list of players that were released from the club is Barry Douglas, Niklas Haugland and Matthew Turner. Loaned out included Ryan Edmondson, Oliver Casey and Pablo Hernandez. Fans need not worry as most departures were pushed through to help free up some of the wage bill and regulars to Elland Road will be delighted to learn the team were able to hold on to their best performers from last season. More players are expected to exit the club between now and the end of the summer transfer window before Bielsa is happy with the numbers.
Leeds bring in Barca’s Firpo
A far more interesting list for the fans is the one made up of new arrivals and there are some exciting arrivals. Amari Miller made the switch from Birmingham and that deal appears to be one with the long-term in mind. Jack Harrison signed from champions Manchester City, Sean McGurk from Wigan and Lewis Bate previously of Chelsea. Targeting names with previous experience of English football will help speed up the settling in period.
The gaffer has also expanded his recruitment overseas. The headline signing came from Barcelona, who allowed Junior Firpo to jet to England, where he’ll attract lots of attention. Does he have what it takes to make it in English football? Fans will get their answer soon enough. Firpo is joined by another foreign recruit in Kristoffer Klaesson, who signed from Valerenga and is also here to make a name for himself in the UK. The new arrivals must hit the ground running as they will quickly discover there is no settling in period at Premier League clubs. The days of fan patience are long gone.
Season starts with a bang
The season starts in some style as Leeds United head to Old Trafford on Saturday 14 August for a grudge match against old rivals Manchester United. The locals will be favourites to bag the points in that one, but Leeds are no strangers to causing an upset in Manchester, and the travelling support will believe their side is good enough to do it again.
Top image: “Leeds United FC” by Tim Keeton/Pool is licensed under CC BY 3.0