The absence of an experienced midfielder could cost Leeds United Championship survival.
Neil Redfearn has inspired some incredible performances from his midfield quartet since his full-time appointment earlier this year.
Lewis Cook and Alex Mowatt have certified themselves as two of the most promsing young talents in the Championship, whilst Tommaso Bianchi is one of the highest performing midfielders in the entire division. Brazilian youngster Adryan has prospered at the tip of the diamond midfield, and the football is a joy to watch with such ball-playing figures in the centre of the park.
However, Redfearn’s faith in his selected quartet comes at a price. Bianchi is, at 26-years-old, the most experienced midfielder on the pitch - having registered over 100 appearances in Italian football prior to his switch to Yorkshire. His midfielder partners are much younger - Adryan is 20, Mowatt is 19, and Cook is just 17-years-old.
Bianchi has been outstanding this season, and his experience is showing, but his lack of English football knowledge is costing the side. As the veteran of the midfield, he should be commanding his team to their positions when attempting to hold on to a game, but - whether due to the language barrier or an inability to organise - the Italian struggles, and the Whites are losing too many points from winning positions.
Adryan has no defensive responsibility and so cannot fulfil the same job, whilst Mowatt and Cook are too young to read the game well enough to organise their teammates.
There is only one player in the Leeds’ ranks who currently represents an experienced midfielder - Michael Tonge.
31-year-old Tonge has over 300 league games behind him, and he was a key part of the Whites side under Neil Warnock and Brian McDermott. Despite limited footballing ability, he would be the perfect man to bring on late in a game to do little but organise his teammates to see out a game. There are few players who fulfil the role of ‘pointing’ midfielder in the current game, with Keith Andrews currently on-loan at Watford, and Michael Brown - who left Leeds over the summer - at Port Vale.
Brown would have been an ideal addition to the current Leeds squad, as he could have been the focal point of team organisation when he entered the field of play. Increasing age did little to reduce his work rate, and the 37-year-old has a keen football brain and plenty of experience of English football.
Leeds need to sign a player who fulfils such a duty, or rely upon Michael Tonge as a ready-made fix, if they want to overcome their current defensive frailties. Whilst an ageing Englishman may not represent the idealised Massimo Cellino dream, it may be the perfect fix to tide the club over until the President delivers stability to Elland Road.