Five conclusions from a surprisingly encouraging Leeds campaign so far.
United can challenge
A look at the Championship table tells neutrals the promotion race is a tight-run contest this season. From a Leeds United perspective, however, it also tells you the Yorkshire side have nothing to fear next term.
Why? Because, of the division’s very best, Leeds have beaten several top sides.
At their peak, Neil Redfearn’s men can compete with anyone in the second tier. And, with the right summer recruitment and greater consistency across the season, United can definitely challenge at the right end of the Championship.
Keep Bamba and you have a solid defence
Key to Leeds’ strong recent form has been repeatedly brilliant defensive showings. Redfearn’s side have only scored 43 league goals all season but their low scoring has been enough to win games in recent months thanks to astute defending.
Naturally, there has been the odd game Leeds have won by convincing margins - but even they needed a strong back four (as well as Marco Silvestri) at their best.
There’s no reason why this shouldn’t continue until the end of the current campaign and into the next one. Keeping Sol Bamba beyond the summer will help immeasurably.
Better recruitment up front
At the same time, though, more is needed up front for Leeds and that’s an issue owner Massimo Cellino and boss Redfearn will surely have discussed. Only Mirco Antenucci can be argued to be a truly successful signing in attack this term, with Billy Sharp in and out of the team and Souleymane Doukara & Edgar Cani nowhere near the first team at the minute.
However much praise Redfearn lavishes on Steve Morison, meanwhile, he simply doesn’t score. A lethal goalscorer would be the final piece in the Yorkshire side’s jigsaw.
Faith in youth is working
Perhaps Leeds could turn to a forward from the Under-21s as their faith in youth has been mightily rewarded this season. Sam Byram, Charlie Taylor, Alex Mowatt, Lewis Cook and more have been brilliant for the Elland Road outfit, acting far above their age in terms of both ability and maturity.
As Redfearn has continually stated, these players will grow better and better with experience and it looks as though any young talents Leeds turn to come good for the senior side.
With some stability, Leeds could go a very long way
With seven games remaining of the Championship season, United sit 13th and are closer to the play-offs than the relegation zone.
And that’s only really having turned up in 2015. Yes, Leeds had their patches before the New Year - but they also had their considerable struggles.
Should some stability finally present itself this summer, Redfearn’s side can quite easily go a lot further than they have this term. Leeds have steadied the ship and the future looks bright. Just no more Darko Milanics or Dave Hockadays please…