Leeds United manager Daniel Farke has spent a good portion of the last week working with summer signing Djed Spence as he plots to uncover a more reliable option for the Whites at right-back.
The Championship newcomers have endured a bumpy start to life back in the second tier of English football following relegation last season. And with their three-year spell in the Premier League ending with a whimper last season, the club has seen a huge turnover of players – aided by some dubious loan escape clauses in various deals – as a result.
With some 15 first-teamers departing, Leeds were finally able to focus on new arrivals in the final week of the window. And a busy end to their summer recruitment drive resulted in nine players arriving in total to finally justify, to some extent, the “aggressive approach” to transfers promised by new owners, 49ers Enterprises.
Of those that arrived, striker Joel Piroe came in for the biggest fee with an initial £12m package paid to Swansea for the Dutch frontman. Ethan Ampadu also arrived for £7m from Chelsea, and the Wales star has already made a significant impact at Elland Road.
However, it is perhaps the signing of Tottenham pair Joe Rodon and Spence, both of whom have arrived on season-long loan deals that perhaps will give Leeds a defensive steel so long missing.
Rodon has already made a good impression in his two outings so far. He will add much needed guile and no-nonsense defending to a backline that has proved all too easy to penetrate in recent years.
But it perhaps the addition of Spence at right-back that will have Leeds fans most salivating.
Farke hoping for more to come from Leeds new boy Djed Spence
The 23-year-old has hardly had a look in at Tottenham since a £20m move to London in summer 2022. However, with memories of his excellent form for Nottingham Forest in the 2021/22 season not far from memory – he also played there on loan, this time from Middlesbrough and played a crucial role in helping the Tricky Trees win promotion – Leeds will be hoping history can repeat itself at Elland Road.
Spence came on for a nine-minute cameo during the 0-0 draw against Sheffield Wednesday just prior to the international break. Despite his limited action, Spence showed in that short time what his game is about; a marauding full-back, who likes to attack with speed but one whom also knows his defensive resposnsibilities too. A modern-day Luke Ayling if you like.
Now with some believing Ayling’s best days are behind him – his deal expires next summer as it stands anyway – Leeds are hoping Spence will prove both a short-term, and potentially long-term, successor.
Farke has spent the last week working with his new arrival and the chance of a full debut at Millwall on Sunday are a strong possibility.
Discussing the work that is to be done with the player, Farke appears determined to lower expectations despite reflecting on his impressive debut last weekend.
“He needs a bit of time in order to be then ready that he knows each and everything about us,” Farke said. “I think the international break and the time that we can spend on the training pitch will be unbelievably beneficial for him but I think he showed also glimpses.”
Farke to pick from Spence and Ayling
“I would have preferred him to be sometimes even a bit higher and to show us like his quality in one-against-one situations close to the opponent’s box but he was also one time good in recovery and repairing a mistake in order to avoid a counter-attack because quite often, such a game develops like this.
“So it’s more like you find it so difficult to score and in the 89th minute the opponent is there with a counter-attack, and Djed was there with a crucial interception and crucial tackle to avoid this. I was pleased with this and he showed also glimpses in this offensive play. Yes, we’re definitely all happy that we have him and we build on this.”
Leeds will travel to the Den seeking just a second win of the season, having drawn three but lost just once of their five games so far.
Farke has plenty of selections all over the pitch now – not least a glut of options in central midfield – but it will arguably be at right-back and what happens with Spence and Ayling which will generate the most attention.
And with Spence not seemingly having a future at Tottenham, a positive impact at Elland Road could well see the Whites moving to make his loan stay in West Yorkshire into a permanent move.