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17 Dec 2014 09:45am, by Shields53

This team is too good to go down. You hear that all the time but as we know only too well from our own experience it simply isn’t true.

In many ways a lot of our new continental signings have been very encouraging; Antenucci, Silvestri, Bellusci, Bianchi and Adryan have all shown they can cut it in the Championship. Our own academy graduates Cook and Mowatt are shining too but there is a lack of consistence, from minute to minute and game to game. We may have individuals good enough to compete but it’s playing as a team that matters and at the moment we are lacking in both consistency and experience.

The table and the form guide do not lie and at the moment neither are looking good for Leeds. Our two home wins against Blackpool and Derby mean we are 15th in the form table over the past six games with seven points in six games. Our away form however is the worst in the league, with only one point in the last six games. Our trajectory has been downwards, we now find ourselves 19th in the table five points off the relegation places. At the moment it’s not our own performances from keeping us from the bottom but rather the poor form of those below us. Wigan, Brighton, Rotherham and Millwall are all struggling to win games.

The reality is we are in a relegation battle and our form against our nearest contenders in the table is not good. We may have beaten Blackpool but we have lost to all of Brighton, Rotherham and Millwall and we need to be winning games against teams below us. It makes the Boxing Day game against Wigan that old cliché, a six pointer.

Things can change quickly in this league though, we are as many points off the bottom as we are from seventh. It’s about consistency, if any team can string a few wins together they can find themselves moving up the table quickly. Sadly consistency is not something we have had at Leeds this season, or in any recent season really. The squad has changed dramatically since last season and it takes players a while to gel, that is not helped by the fact that we are on our third manager of the season. The constant changing of training, systems, tactics, style and leadership cannot help the players.

The one consistent it had seemed would be Cellino. We all knew he was a firebrand, that he liked changing his managers, that this would be a rollercoaster but there was hope that at least he would bring continuity to the ownership of the club. But recent weeks have seen confusion over the power GFH still held over the club and the Football League’s announcement that Cellino has been found to be ‘dishonest’ and as such fails the directors and owners test. Cellino will appeal but will step down whilst he does leaving a power vacuum, how it will be filled we do not yet know.

Experience is also key and we have a team distinctly lacking in it. We have a young team, which shows great prospects for the future but we need an experienced head or two in the middle of the park to control things. We have a team full of youngsters and continental players with a lack of English football experience. Whilst they have been exciting to watch at times they lack the physicality to scrap with more physical teams and lack the nouse to control the flow of the game when we are up against it.

Neil Redfearn may have may have vast experience of the English game and in coaching but he is an inexperienced manager. It does not help that ever since he took the reigns on a permanent basis he has lacked an assistant manager, overall the coaching team is thin on the ground with Michael Tonge acting as an assistant to Redfearn over the last few games. At a time when we struggle to find a plan B in games that extra head on the bench could be vital, any experience that could be brought to the coaching team could really help an inexperienced team and manager.

But with the revelation this week that Leeds are now under a transfer ban it may not be so easy to bring in experienced players to steady the ship. Leeds are able to maintain a squad of 24 players over the age of 21 who have made 5 appearances for the club. With 20 players fitting this criteria it is possible to sign 4 players over 21 but no fees can be paid and their wages must not exceed £600,000 per year each.

So is relegation a real possibility? Very much so, especially if results continue going the way they have been. I have no doubt we have some quality players but we lack strength in depth and experience. We also lack width to change the system and our young players are looking increasingly tired, if we are denied the opportunity to strengthen next month I fear for our chances. It’s going to be a tough second half to the season.

15 Dec 2014 12:28pm, by Shields53

Along with Blackburn Rovers and Nottingham Forest Leeds United have been handed a transfer embargo by the Football League breaching Financial Fair Play rules. The embargo had been rumoured for some time but the League have officially confirmed the embargo this morning and it will take effect for the rest of the season. Under existing rules clubs are allowed to lose no more than £3 million per season with owners being able to invest a maximum of £5 million. According to last year’s accounts Leeds made a loss of around £23 million.

The embargo will apply for as long as Leeds breach the rules. This could be lifted in June but the club would have to demonstrate that it made losses of less than £3 million with a maximum investment from owners of £6 million for the current season. Given the financial situation at Leeds this seems quite unlikely at the moment. The current rules for next season allow for losses of no more than £2 million with owner investment of £13 million and rules agreed last month allow for £15 million of losses across three seasons from 2016-2017.

The ban prevents the club paying any transfer fees or compensation. The embargo does not mean a complete ban on signing players though, there is some leeway. A club is allowed up to 24 players over the age of 21 who have made five appearances. They can maintain this 24 player squad on a one in one out basis and players under the age of 21 at the start of the season do not count to this total. So far Leeds only have 20 players who meet these criteria; Antenucci, Austin, Bellusci, Berardi, Bianchi, Cooper, Doukara, Morison, Murphy, Norris, Pearce, Sharp, Silvestri, Sloth, Thompson, Tonge Warnock and White plus players out on loan Scott Wootton and Noel Hunt.

Any signings made to fill this quota must not cost more than £600,000 over the season, this would mean signing a player on no more than £11,000 a year in wages. The club is permitted to make loan singings provided there is no loan fee. The club can pay all or part of the players wages provided that it does not exceed the £600,000 per year limit. Agents fees can be paid as part of any signings but the value counts towards the annual limit. Clubs under an embargo are also permitted to sign a goalkeeper on an emergency basis.

With a young and inexperienced squad, looking tired over the past few games signing an experienced player for the middle of the park seems vital to most Leeds fans. This embargo and the limitations it imposes on us makes it more difficult to sign such a player and without that experience we could struggle in the second half of the season. As we fall down the table, perilously close to the relegation places is there any more bad news the Football League can throw at us?

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