Following another disappointing Championship campaign, Leeds United are once again under pressure to get things right this summer to ensure they are ready to sustain a real Premier League promotion push next season.
Hopes were high last summer that new director of football Victor Orta would deliver the signings for Thomas Christiansen to take them back to the top flight, and the Spaniard focused on bringing players in from foreign leagues with no experience of playing in England.
That included the likes of Pierre-Michel Lasogga, Mateusz Klich, Felix Wiedwald, Pawel Cibicki, Caleb Ekuban and Samu Saiz, and while the latter did impress he was amongst the only ones with the others ultimately proving to be flops.
Orta, who has been heavily criticised by United supporters on Twitter, perhaps needs to look at changing his transfer strategy in the coming weeks and months, and he should be looking at players that already know what it takes to play in the tough league that the Championship is.
A look at the Premier League free agents’ market may well be the best route for the Yorkshire outfit, and the Spaniard, to take as there are plenty of players available for nothing that could really help them, ahead of what is going to be a huge season under Paul Heckingbottom.
Following the failure of Wiedwald – who looks set to go after just one disappointing year at Elland Road – and with Andy Lonergan’s future also potentially in doubt, Leeds may be left with just 21-year-old Bailey Peacock-Farrell between the sticks.
While the youngster impressed when he was handed an opportunity in the last weeks of the season, Heckingbottom may want a more experienced stopper next term and he could find the perfect solution in Brighton and Hove Albion’s Tim Krul, who looks set to leave the Amex Stadium when his contract expires this month.
The 30-year-old has plenty of experience in English football, and not only would he be a great addition for the Yorkshire outfit now, he would also be capable of making the move up to the Premier League if the best were to happen in 12 months’ time.
He isn’t the only free agent goalkeeper who could offer something to the Whites, with Boaz Myhill unlikely to extend his deal with West Bromwich Albion – especially if Ben Foster remains at the Hawthorns – 26-year-old Stoke City shot-stopper Jakob Haugaard set to be released, Leicester City’s Ben Hamer set to be available and Crystal Palace icon Julian Speroni’s future in doubt.
With Matthew Pennington returning to Everton and signing a new contract following his loan spell at Leeds, one of Heckingbottom’s priorities this summer will be to bring a new centre-back to the club to compete with Liam Cooper and Pontus Jansson, and there are plenty of options in the top flight.
Bournemouth have just released Baily Cargill, Leicester have let 2016 Premier League winner Robert Huth go, Gareth McAuley is set to leave West Bromwich Albion and James Collins, whom Leeds supporters on Twitter have already said they want, has made his West Ham United exit.
The latter trio in particular would bring some huge – and potentially vital – experience to the heart of the defence and to the spine of the team, and they are all big characters that would soon be Elland Road favourites.
If Heckingbottom wants to add some extra experience and quality in central midfield he could look into deals for West Brom duo Claudio Yacob and James Morrison, and Stoke pair Charlie Adam and Stephen Ireland.
Crystal Palace in particular have many out-of-contract players that should be of interest to Orta and Leeds this summer, with the likes of Joel Ward, Bakary Sako and Chung-Yong Lee set to be available.
The latter duo in particular would add something to the Yorkshire outfit’s frontline, while Ward is a versatile and experienced defender.
Finally, the Yorkshire club could take a look at two players – Aron Gunnarsson and Junior Hoilett – from promoted Cardiff City that could be on their way if they turn down the new deals that have been offered to them, with the latter scoring nine goals and providing a further 11 assists having featured in all 46 of the Bluebirds’ league games.
Orta has a point to prove this summer, and he can get the Elland Road faithful back onside by signing some of these Premier League bargains.