Thank you all for your kind comments over the past couple of weeks. My Christmas break, as you can probably tell, did go on for a little longer than I thought it would. Nonetheless, I'm back at it, ready to get this story to really take off in the New Year.
So far on the thread, I've banged on about the ground, the history of the club, the players currently at the club as well as various off-the-pitch matters such as vision, tactics and so forth. On today's update, I'll be going into how the way I want to play will fit in with the players we have at the club, as well as pinpointing where we need players and where some players will need to leave. Without any further ado, let's jump straight into it:
The screenshots above depict what I believe to be my strongest XI and the way we will play by default. I've already discussed each player at length so I won't delve too much further into what each player offers. I will however touch on the main highlights of this setup from a personnel standpoint.
Firstly, Casilla as the sweeper keeper is a must. His eccentricity will come in handy in situations where the defence has been left exposed. We've seen on a few occasions in real life how much he contributes to this team when he comes rushing out of his box, a goal-saving challenge on the edge of the D against Preston on Boxing Day when Cooper , Phillips and Ayling were in no-man's-land was a great example of this. He's also an adept ball player, which in a system where we play out of dangerous situations, is an absolute must.
Next, the two centre backs. as discussed previously, everyone in the team needs to be confident and assured on the ball, and few centre backs in this league fit the bill like Cooper and White. It's no secret that we need depth in that position should either of them get injured/suspended, but there's no other pairing I'd rather have in this league both set as BPDs.
Key to the team's success last season was Kalvin Phillips and the role he played sitting in front of the back four. The Leeds-born midfielder is key protection for the defence, stifling opposing attacks from flank to flank and getting the team up the pitch as soon as possession is won back. I felt he would fit the system as a half back as the description is that of a player that "looks to offer an outlet for quickly recycling possession and to offer protection against the counter-attack". This is something Phillips does in his sleep.
Adam Forshaw is another key cog of this system, giving the team control in the midfield. He plays an important role in keeping the opposition hemmed in their own half by recycling possession and putting in challenges that prevent counter attacks.
The attacking mezzala role fits Mateusz Klich like a glove. The Pole will spend much of the game making probing passes as well as diagonal runs in behind the defence to disrupt the opponent's shape. There's actually a drill at Leeds United in real life known as 'The Klich', whereby a midfielder, off the ball, will make a run for the byline. A defender will inevitably go after him, giving the striker space to move into ready for Klich's cut-back.
In the wide positions, I have a real selection headache. Although Harrison will mostly be a guaranteed starter on the left, it leaves me with a toss up between Helder Costa and Pablo Hernandez on the right. I'll initially go with Pablo as a wide advanced playmaker, purely because he has proven himself in this side so far. The position is his to lose, and Costa will no doubt be snapping at his heels to take on a more traditional winger role. Having Pablo as an advanced playmaker plays to the magician's strengths- rather than take on his full back and drill a cross in, Pablo will be expected to drop into pockets of space out wide when off the ball and play intricate through balls.
Finally, spearheading the attack, I want Bamford to be our shithouse. Bullying centre backs all game and holding up the ball will be his main calling card although I will be expecting goals from him as well.
I've touched on this being the system we will play by default. What I mean by this is that unless we hold a lead that is coming under threat or we are put on the back foot from the off, this will be how we play. Relentless pressing and fast intricate breakaways will be the way we primarily look to play and every player will have a role to play in this regard.
Plan B is a more controlled plan A, as the screenshots above show. The aim is to slow play down and take a more considered approach to our game on the ball. Off the ball, the aim is to still press, but not as high up the pitch. Bringing the attacking line closer to the defensive line will make us more compact and harder to work the ball past. It is a pragmatic approach but one that won't be as dangerous to the opposition. The aim with this game plan is game management, and is to only be used when defending a lead or when it's becoming apparent plan A is just not going to be possible, perhaps due to strength of opposition.
WHAT WE NEED
As Ben White and Liam Cooper are our only senior natural centre backs, we need cover. Berardi and Ayling can play centre back, but I would like at least one more natural body in there. A transfer budget of £908k gives me very little wiggle room, so my most realistic chance of getting a decent extra centre half would be by dipping into the loan market. In the youth squads, Pascal Struijk represents a potential cover option but again, I still need at least one more senior option.
The game tells me I need another left back, but I think otherwise. Whilst Barry Douglas is my only senior natural left back, Leif Davis is a fantastic young player who I believe we can bring up to speed very quickly. Alioski, though mad as a box of frogs, can also do a very capable job at left back, so I'm happy in this regard.
The only other position I can realistically see us needing more players in is up front. Bamford is a great player and Eddie Nketiah is a clinical finisher but the two are very different strikers. Bamford, despite his capabilities in front of goal, is also a work horse, giving everything to hold the ball up in the attacking third and adding a lot physically in that area. Nketiah is a goal-poacher, who looks to get in behind the defence to get a run in on goal. He has bags of pace, but lacks the physical prerequisites for the role Bamford plays. I'll try to get Nketiah to work where possible, but if it's not working out come January, I may have to look for a better fit. Ryan Edmondson of the under 23s could potentially be a better fit, but if the loan market can offer more quality in this regard, I'll opt for that instead.
I was also going to do a section for what we don't need, but Eunan O'Kane is the only player I can realistically envisage us not needing. I have a feeling it might be a long struggle to try to get rid of him given how long is left on his contract (he's here until 2021), but I'll give it a go.
That's all for this update. I won't go into the training as I could be here all year posting updates on every tiny intricate detail I'll look at from the start. I'll go and actually play the game so the next update will be at the end of pre-season