Leeds United ended what was yet another disappointing Championship season in the bottom-half of the table on goal difference following their 2-0 win against Queens Park Rangers at Elland Road on Sunday.
It was just their fourth win of 2018 – all of which came on their own patch – meaning they ended the campaign on 60 points, with 20 defeats from their 46 league fixtures.
It was certainly a case of what might have been for the Yorkshire outfit given they started so well back in August and topped the standings for a time in September, but a dreadful run of form since then saw then gradually drop down the table.
Paul Heckingbottom struggled to make too much of a positive impact from February until May having replaced Thomas Christiansen, and it remains to be seen whether he will stay or go, although he certainly deserves his chance to stamp his own foot on this squad during the summer transfer window.
The Whites certainly need to make some big changes over the close season seeing as a number of their players once again consistently underperformed, while more often than not they didn’t look like a team and were far too easy to break down.
The failings of the likes of Pierre-Michel Lasogga – who will return to Hamburg following his loan spell – Caleb Ekuban, Jay-Roy Grot and Pawel Cibicki up top mean that finding a decent replacement for Chris Wood this summer should be a priority, but the midfield needs some work as well.
Kalvin Phillips and Eunan O’Kane have been the first-choice central midfield for much of the campaign – especially under Christiansen – but while Phillips clearly does have some ability, neither of them showed it on a consistent basis in what was one of the key areas where Leeds struggled the most.
Someone like Ronaldo Vieira – who was something of a regular under Garry Monk last term – has failed to hit the heights that he did then and hasn’t pushed O’Kane and Phillips for a spot in the XI as much as he perhaps should have done, while the situation with Mateusz Klich was strange.
The Poland international was signed from AZ Alkmaar last summer, but for whatever reason he was barely picked in league games despite showing his quality in the EFL Cup win against Burnley at Turf Moor, with his relationship with Christiansen seemingly not good.
Despite the Yorkshire outfit’s woes in the middle of the park, the arrival of £4.5m-rated Adam Forshaw from Middlesbrough during the January transfer window saw Klich sent out on loan to FC Utrecht just days before Christiansen was relieved of his duties – and he has impressed.
The 27-year-old has scored one goal and provided a further three assists in 14 appearances from the middle of the park, with one of those assists coming in the draw against Heracles where he also made a remarkable 11 key passes.
While most of his outings for the Eredivisie outfit have come from the right-hand side, he has shown the quality that he has in his locker and the ability that he was never really given an opportunity to show for Leeds.
The Whites need to ensure that they bring the Polish midfielder back to the club and get him involved with pre-season under Heckingbottom – or whoever else – because he is proving why he should be starting ahead of the likes of Phillips, O’Kane and Vieira in the centre next term if the Yorkshire club are to challenge for promotion.
That isn’t the only change that must happen, either.
Forshaw has been one of Leeds’ best and most committed players on the pitch in the second-half of the campaign, and he has shown the leadership skills that he has.
Whether Heckingbottom stays or not, the 26-year-old needs to have the captaincy ahead of Liam Cooper – who is often a liability because of his lack of discipline during games – next season, in order to drive this underperforming club forward.
Forshaw’s tenacity next to Klich’s quality in the centre of the park for Leeds could prove to be crucial, and it could be a partnership that helps finally takes them into top-six contention – minimum.