Enough has been said about Leeds United’s recruitment this season to know that it hasn’t been good enough. Pierre-Michel Lasogga is perhaps the one with the most potential yet to see.
Samuel Saiz is the only player purchased in the summer that has consistently performed at a level matching the club’s supposed aim of top six.
Gjanni Alioski has played well at times, and (like everyone) looks a better player with Saiz in the team. But he is a confidence player, and that has deserted this team for large parts of the campaign. Adam Forshaw is a hard worker, but an unsettled midfield with no other central player holding down a starting position has hampered him at times.
All-in-all it’s a pretty poor return for a large squad overhaul. Of course, it’s not just recruitment currently that’s to blame. Poor performances from the likes of O’Kane, Cooper and Roofe show the signs of a longer-term problem.
A mixed season for Lasogga
The German striker has drawn affection from supporters in the second half of the season for his bustling style and work-rate. But if you were to canvass opinion on the on-loan Hamburg man in January, you’d find little love for him.
A particularly frustrating performance against Newport in this year’s annual FA Cup embarrassment left many fans wondering whether he’d be heading back to Hamburg in January.
But should his future at Leeds United be extended beyond this season?
His record of 10 goals and 3 assists in 18 starts suggests so.
If you extrapolate that record across a 46 game season, it’s the record of a 20+ goal striker. If you consider that he’s spent time out with injury, had a patch of poor form and played in a largely underperforming side – that’s promising.
The lack of any real replacement for Lasogga has hampered Leeds at times this season. With Ekuban twice spending extended periods out with injury, it meant he was playing a lot of games while not 100% fit. Roofe’s record suggests he should be a good option, but his anonymous performances have eroded all confidence in him.
The turning point isn’t a reference to his agility earning him the moniker ‘Der oil tanker’ amongst some fans. It’s a reference to the bizarre, brilliant and terrible game at home to Millwall. At 2-0 down and a man down, Lasogga turned in the sort of performance that gains you cult-hero status.
It was the performance of a man who ‘gets it’.
Despite all hope of the playoffs being battered out of us on a weekly basis, his performances have been largely consistent. Admittedly, he looks a lot better when players get forward to support him – which rarely happened in Saiz’s absence.
With little to play for now, the hope is that the performances become a bit more adventurous and a little less soul-destroying. If anything, we’ve looked at our best when we’ve played on the front foot. The real sense of frustration is that if we’d played as we did in the last half an hour in both the Bristol City and Derby games, we’d have 4 more points to our name.
Lasogga gives the team a focal point. In a fairly small team, he’s a physical presence who can hold the ball and give advancing players an option. Or, he can in theory if anybody actually gets forward. That’s a focal point that nobody else offers, and one that nobody else can offer.
Coming into a team as a direct replacement for the division’s top scorer is a tough ask. Chris Wood’s 30 goal season was one of the finest individual season’s you’re likely to see at this level. In Wood’s previous season, he scored 13 goals – but was largely derided for sub-par finishing and perceived lack of intensity.
Lasogga can’t be accused of a lack of desire or intensity, but perhaps there are similarities to be drawn to Wood’s first season.
Lasogga, like Wood in 15/16, has missed several gilt-edged chances this season. He’s also come in with big expectations and an under-performing squad. A lack of a full pre-season has left him playing catch-up with his fitness. In all honesty, I feel we’ve yet to see a fully fit version of him.
Lasogga’s parent club, Hamburg, currently sit second from bottom in the Bundesliga. They are 7 points from a relegation play-off position and are the lowest scorers in the division with just 18 in 25 games.
They’re currently paying £45,000 a week of his £60,000 wages during his loan in West Yorkshire. That is a bizarrely one-sided deal and suggests his future lies away from the former European Cup winners.
In fact, it has been reported that Lasogga’s wife and young child have moved to England to be with him. That suggests he’ll be enjoying a more settled home life, and also suggests he may be looking at a long-term future in England.
It’s frustrating to be in this position again, but it seems like another key summer of rebuilding. Recruitment has to be more refined. There needs to be a sense of ambition and tact. There’s no room for gambles or cheap alternatives.
There’s no doubt that he’ll be available in the summer, with Hamburg already looking to offload him. You’d imagine that should they be relegated, they’ll be desperate to get him off the wage bill as they attempt to rebuild.
Lasogga may represent a fairly good option. He’s a known quantity, and at 26 he’s got his peak years still ahead of him. We also know that there’s more to come from him. Much like Chris Wood, if you can get him lean and give him opportunities, there’s firepower there.
The hardest thing to do in this division is to find a 20+ goal a season striker. Leeds actually have a remarkable record of doing just that, with very little outlay. But that tells a story. McCormack’s first season was a frustrating one. Wood was a similar story. There are the same signs of ability in a poor squad in Pierre-Michel Lasogga.
A settled, hungry Lasogga could be a key addition for Leeds this summer.