Could Leeds reignite their interest in John Stones during the January window?
Leeds United face a critical few months ahead as they look to carry on acclimatizing to life back in England’s top-flight. After a blistering start that turned many heads, the Whites have recently been on the receiving end of some humbling defeats that have brought the West Yorkshire side down to earth again. Although you do get the feeling that Marcelo Bielsa’s squad aren’t prone to getting above their station.
The lesson over the last few fixtures, which included a heavy 4-1 defeat away to Crystal Palace, is that perhaps the Whites aren’t as prepared defensively for life in the Premier League as first thought. At the start of the November international break, Leeds had conceded the joint-most goals in the league.
The question now is whether the Whites use the January transfer market as a time to bring in some cover for a few of the stalwarts from the Championship that helped them get promoted. You could imagine if they did, Leeds would look to recoup a fee for some of last season's stars that did so well in the first division. Indeed, it's easy to picture a team like Bournemouth, whose Championship odds on promotion are hovering around evens, jumping at the chance of signing defensive reinforcements who guided Leeds to promotion only a few months previously.
But first, United will have to bring in players who will immediately strengthen their own backline. One particular target over the summer was thought to be Manchester City’s John Stones but instead, Bielsa chose to sign Diego Llorente from Real Sociedad. Llorente, a Spanish international, hasn’t made his debut for Leeds yet and you’d imagine his form would ultimately decide whether or not Leeds take out the chequebook in January.
The 27-year-old Spaniard could well be the answer to Leeds’ defensive frailties with many fans hoping that Bielsa will not take too long in putting him in for captain Liam Cooper. Indeed, a defensive pairing of Robin Koch, a German international, and Llorente would help Leeds fan sleep a little easier at night. However, should injury continue to hamper the Spaniard's integration into the starting XI, Leeds may have to look elsewhere in order to preserve their Premier League status.
Stones would be an oven-ready addition to Leeds' system having worked under Pep Guardiola since signing from the Toffees in 2016. Both Guardiola and Bielsa’s footballing philosophies overlap so you’d imagine there wouldn't be a prolonged period of adjustment. The 26-year-old is also from Yorkshire having been born in Barnsley before eventually playing for his hometown club who now ply their trade in the Championship.
The challenge for Leeds, however, is to not drop down to the Championship themselves at the first time of asking. As long as Marcelo Bielsa finds a way of shoring up his creaking defence then that shouldn't be a problem to worry about. How he goes about doing so will make for intriguing viewing.