In Focus: Bielsa plotting to take Whites to new heights
Leeds made light work of their first season back in the Premier League — now master tactician Marcelo Bielsa has European qualification in his sights.
The Argentinian will be striving for more progress after guiding his team to ninth last term and a shot at the top six could be on the cards if everything goes to plan at Elland Road.
But after such a successful return to the top flight, how can Leeds avoid the dreaded second season syndrome and push on to the next level?
Preparation is key
Nobody can ever accuse the fastidious Bielsa, 66, of not being prepared — and the same is true of director of football Victor Orta.
The transfer market guru was already assessing replacements for Ezgjan Alioski BEFORE the Macedonian left-back decided against renewing his contract.
That allowed Leeds to act quickly upon his departure, taking advantage of Barcelona’s financial plight to sign flying full-back Junior Firpo, 24, for £13million.
With some of their less diligent rivals sure to be still scrambling to secure signings before the window slams shut at the end of August, such foresight will stand the Whites in good stead.
The early bird catches the worm
Recruiting Firpo was not the club's only early piece of business — they moved to secure Jack Harrison on a permanent basis for £11m after three years on loan from Manchester City.
Including a clause to sign him at that price now looks like tremendous business and there surely will not be many better value deals across Europe this summer.
Harrison, 24, chipped in with eight league goals and eight assists last season, creating a commendable 1.86 chances and delivering 5.26 crosses per 90 minutes.
But with new recruits taking time to adapt to Bielsa’s tactics and physical requirements, getting any further additions through the door as early as possible will be a priority.
Leeds are in the market for an additional midfielder to complement England star Kalvin Phillips, Mateusz Klich and the versatile Stuart Dallas.
Metz playmaker Farid Boulaya is one name in the frame, with Les Grenats keen to cash in on the 28-year-old before his contract expires in a year’s time.
A fee of less than £4m could be enough to secure the services of a player who contributed six league goals and eight assists last season in Ligue 1.
The Algeria international was also in the division's top three players for shot-creating actions (148), carries into the final third (85) and key passes (74).
Illan Meslier is the undisputed No1 at Elland Road but Leeds need to replace back-up goalkeeper Kiko Casilla, who has joined Elche on loan in search of first-team football.
Levante stopper Daniel Cardenas, 24, and Valerenga prospect Kristoffer Klaesson, 20, are reportedly the two names on their radar.
Speaking on Tuesday, Valerenga sporting director Jorgen Ingebrigtsen appeared to confirm the club's interest in Klaesson.
He said: "Victor is one of the brightest in the subject. Leeds arrived on the field in the summer of 2019 and have been very good. We have had a good dialogue with them.
"They obviously saw something of Kristoffer early that they liked and have been good at updating themselves on developments."
Bielsa prefers to develop his players on the training field rather than make wholesale changes to his squad, so the club's ransfer business is likely to be quite restrained this summer.
But former Whites keeper Paul Robinson believes they may still add one more left-back to the squad.
Robinson said: "I wouldn’t be surprised if they go into the market again for another left-back. It depends what happens to Leif Davis but it is a position they lacked in last season.
"I wouldn’t be surprised if they go to get more reinforcements in that area or maybe a left wing-back who can play in midfield as well."
Things are ticking over nicely at Elland Road and there is no need for major surgery.
Minor tweaks to an already impressive squad should be enough to see Leeds climb the table again in 2021-22.