Leeds United have plenty to ponder ahead of new season

Ezgjan Alioski, who has impressed so far in pre-season for Leeds United.
Ezgjan Alioski, who has impressed so far in pre-season for Leeds United.

Leeds United are back home from their Austrian training camp with plenty to ponder ahead of the new season, which is now less than two weeks away.

The opportunity to get away from home distractions and a great chance to build team bonding with so many new players from different countries made such a trip essential. But on the field it was not entirely successful and there is definitely a lot of improvement needed as United failed to win any of their three friendlies played during the trip.

While results from pre-season games are not always a measure of how a team is progressing they can throw up areas that need work and there are a few defensive problems to solve quickly it would seem.

A 1-1 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach certainly brought some encouragement, but a 3-0 defeat in the first game against Bursaspor highlighted the need for defensive reinforcements and United ended their Austrian stay with a 4-2 loss to Spanish La Liga side Eibar when they conceded three goals in the opening half.

Eibar are no mugs, having finished tenth in La Liga last season, but the ease with which they raced into the big lead will have caused some concern with Leeds fielding all bar one of what would be considered to be their first choice back line.

Only Gaetano Berardi was missing because of a minor injury as Rob Green started in goals, Pontus Jansson partnered new boy Matthew Pennington at centre-back and another summer signing, Vurnon Anita, started at right-back with Luke Ayling playing left-back.

United did show some decent attacking as they pulled a goal back when Chris Wood met Ayling’s cross and they threatened a comeback when wide man Ezgjan Alioski made it 3-2, shooting home after good play by Kemar Roofe and Eunan O’Kane.

But it was Eibar who sealed victory as Paulo Oliviera headed home a late corner.

Most of Leeds’ squad got a run-out as they used 20 players in the match and new boss Thomas Christiansen has now had a decent look at all the players he has, with the one exception of midfielder Mateusz Klich, who is continuing to recover from a muscle problem.

Berardi is not expected to be out of action for long and there was another injury scare for Leeds in the Eibar game with key defender Jansson picking up a leg injury that forced him to go off early in the second half, but he said afterwards that it was nothing too serious.

He will miss the opening game at Bolton on Sunday week, however, and the EFL Cup clash at home to Port Vale the following Wednesday following a ban held over from last season.

Leeds added Pennington on loan from Everton to bolster their defensive ranks last week and are looking at further additions this week. Bristol City’s Aden Flint is believed to be one of the men under consideration, but the club are keeping names close to their chest.

After a couple of days’ rest the players are back in at the Thorp Arch training ground tomorrow ahead of their final pre-season warm-up at home to Oxford United on Saturday.