Shorn of the talents of their two star men in Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha, Leeds United have invested heavily on their squad to try and ensure they are upwardly mobile under Jesse Marsch in the 2022/23 season.
The Whites sailed desperately close to the relegation wind last season, only escaping on a dramatic final day at Brentford.
Their squad was bereft of depth last season, with a number of injuries to key stars leaving Leeds light.
But that is something the club has attemped to address with seven new recruits so far.
Now with Saturday’s Premier League opener against Wolves fast approaching, this is how we expect the season to go for Leeds.
TEAMtalk writers have six different categories to dissect – including where the team will finish in the Premier League table, how the cup competitions will go and who will end the campaign as Player of the Season.
LEEDS UTD PREMIER LEAGUE FINISH
I’m an eternal optimist and, even in the depths of our struggles last season, always maintained that we wouldn’t go down.
This is Jesse Marsch’s squad now and it will have his stamp on it, not just with personnel but in the way we play.
To be honest, the top two in the Premier League are on another level. Then there’s that second tier of clubs who try and make up the top four. And from sixth or below you have 14 teams who, on their day, can all beat one another.
I’d like to think Leeds United are somewhere in the middle of that pack.
Lessons will have be learned from last season and I’m sure some progress will be made.
A deeper squad means there’s, surely, less reliance on the main men.
All said and done, and at the time of writing I reckon we can achieve a 12th-14th placed finish this season. I don’t think Leeds will get embroiled in the dreaded relegation picture again and I believe the 2022/23 season will give us something to build on.
Plenty seem to think Marsch will be a man under pressure and will soon face the sack. I disagree. And I think he’s far cleverer than people give him credit for.
Granted, the football wasn’t pretty last season. But Marsch came in with the club staring relegation in the face. He assessed what was needed and delivered the points required to survive. Whether the outcome would have been different under Bielsa, we will never know.
But Marsch, I believe, is a clever tactitian, a great man-manager, and an even better public speaker. I don’t think he’ll be under pressure or be in line for the sack at any stage this season.
DOMESTIC CUP PERFORMANCE
It’s something that has always eluded us as a club. It’s frustrating when you have seen the likes of Wigan and Portsmouth win the FA Cup in the last 15 years, and the likes of Stoke and Watford get to finals.
My first season of supporting Leeds saw us reach the FA Cup semi-final in 1987. Something similar would be really exciting and a genuine break from simply surviving in the Premier League.
I’ll back us to reach the last eight though of the FA Cup with a favourable draw.
The League Cup might be our best bet though with the big guns resting their star men.
I’ll ludicrously back us to reach the semi-finals before being pummelled by a top-six side who just then play their star men!
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Tyler Adams. Leeds love someone who can get stuck in and do the ugly stuff well. And while Adams has some sizeable shoes to fill in Kalvin Phillips, I think he’s a smart signing by the club.
He comes with a wealth of Bundesliga and Champions League experience so should hopefully hit the ground running.
If you can tackle, pass the ball well and protect the defence – as I believe he can – I’m hopeful Leeds United won’t miss Phillips too much.
And if he can play more regularly than Phillips did over the past two seasons, he could prove the smartest signing of them all.
SIGNING OF THE SEASON (at the time of writing)
Despite tipping Adams to be player of the season for Leeds, I think Brenden Aaronson will also make a massive difference.
Leeds have lacked a player who can deliver some forward thrust from midfield for some time now. Pablo Hernandez was capable back in the Championship, but his age and the step-up to Premier League level ultimately caught up with him.
Aaronson, though, has that ability to dribble past players and create opportunities for those around him.
Leeds tried to sign Conor Gallagher last season from Chelsea, only for the player to ultimately pick Palace. Had we landed him, I genuinely think we’d have been nowhere near the drop zone.
I’m hoping Aaronson can have a similar impact on Leeds that Gallagher did in Croydon.
The only doubt I have is that he is quite light weight, but then I look at Philippe Coutinho and reckon his skill can more than make up for that.
I think he’ll be an excellent signing for Marsch and well worth the wait.
Two words: Robin Koch! The German has been in and out the Leeds side since signing from Freiburg in summer 2020. However, its only a series of niggling injuries that have prevented him becoming a regular.
But when he has played, the player has looked a calming presence on the defence and something of a natural leader.
I think finally his time to shine for Leeds has come and I believe he can displace Diego Llorente as a starting centre-back.
For a long time, Leeds fans all talked about Raphinha being their star man at the World Cup.
However, a good start for Leeds can see him cement his place in the Germany squad and I think he can surprise a few.
That will come as a major bonus for Leeds, who have only seen flashes of Koch since his arrival.
TOP LEEDS UTD GOALSCORER
Joe Gelhardt. This kid has everything required to make it to the top. And while I hate to make comparisons, he’s the nearerst thing this came has seen to Wayne Rooney since his emergence 20 years ago.
How will Leeds fare in the Premier League next season without Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips?
How will Leeds cope without Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips in the upcoming campaign?
Blessed with two excellent feet, he offers eveything you want in a modern-day forward. With Raphinha gone, there is room in the side to forge a new club favourite.
And I think Gelhardt will be the one! I reckon he can form a great understanding with Aaronson just behind him. And with Luis Sinisterra and Jack Harrison proving ammunition from the wings, he can add a bit of a ‘fox in the box’ addition to his game.
Still rubbing my eyes in disbelief that we only paid just over £1m for him. Sorry Wigan, life can be cruel at times!