How many players do Leeds United need to sign this summer? - As Victor Orta needs ‘quick wins’ in transfer market

Of Yorkshire’s 11 league clubs, there is a decent chance five could change divisions this summer, yet the biggest transfer window could be for one staying put.

Sadly, the chances of Doncaster Rovers or Barnsley escaping relegation are looking increasingly slim. Although Rotherham United dropped to third in League One on Tuesday, the equation is still in their favour.

Play-offs are always hard to second-guess but Huddersfield Town, Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and Sheffield Wednesday are candidates to go up from the Championship and League One.

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As the footballing and financial gaps between the divisions widen almost every year – with the possible exception of League One to Two, which means Doncaster will have to buck their squad up – swapping one for another usually means a big turnover of players.

PLENTY TO PONDER: Leeds United director of football Victor Orta. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Seven points from the last three games have raised hopes Leeds United will be in next season’s Premier League. Winning at Watford on Saturday will go a long way towards that.

We always knew the first post-Marcelo Bielsa transfer window was going to be a time of big change. The question is whether Leeds have the wherewithal and skill to get it right.

Director of football Victor Orta picked Jesse Marsch to replace the Argentinian because he could make the transition smoother but his football is not identical.

More than their style, what has really cost the Whites this season is Bielsa’s insistence on an 18-man senior squad. Even more so with the Premier League back to allowing five substitutes per game next season it is not enough.

BIG HIT: Raphinha was an inspired signing for Leeds United in 2020. The Whites will be looking to strengthen their squad this summer. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA Wire.

Ideally Leeds need maybe six players just to get numbers up to a sensible level – and that is before departures. That will be expensive for a club which, partly at Bielsa’s insistence, partly out of financial realism, has been frugal in recent years.

Hopefully the investors from San Francisco feel generous.

Then it needs to decide if all its current players are suited to Marsch’s more direct style, and if it can keep Raphinha out of Barcelona’s clutches, and stop Kalvin Phillips being tempted away.

Selling one or both for big money – and neither can be allowed to go for anything less – could help fund the rebuild at the same time as widening its scope.

Already another full-back on either side is needed, the failure to sign a box-to-box midfielder in recent years must be addressed, a couple more centre-forwards – most pressingly, one able to stand in for Patrick Bamford – are required, as is someone to fill the No 10 role when Rodrigo cannot.

Not all need to come from outside. Joe Gelhardt looks ripe for promotion.

If the strategy Orta has worked on for a couple of years of hoovering up young talent comes to fruition, the first team should be bolstered from below in the coming years but beyond Gelhardt, how many are ready now?

Promoting youth is part of Marsch’s brief, but the only other youngsters (beyond those already established) seen in the first team were plunged in at Wolverhampton Wanderers, in a game which looked like a Casualty spin-off.

Bielsa stalwarts Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper, Stuart Dallas, Mateusz Klich and Adam Forshaw have tipped into their 30s. All are still capable of the high-intensity football Marsch, like Bielsa, demands (albeit Cooper has only played one more league game than he has missed and Klich has not consistently looked at his best since 2020), but Leeds will not want them growing old together.

And this season’s has not been a squad good enough to meet the standards and hopes set 12 months ago. Upgrades are needed as well as depth.

All three teams promoted to next season’s Premier League will probably be tipped to go straight back down, as Sheffield United and Leeds were. If just one has the first-season impact they did, it makes standing still dangerous.

It cannot be an ambition for Leeds anyway. Tuesday’s memorial for Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight was a reminder theirs is a demanding fanbase which rightly does not bite its tongue.

Recruits will have to be tailored to a manager yet to prove himself in the Premier League, but there is no other way.

With Dan James yet to fully convince – he has rarely played in his best position, Robin Koch still not established, Diego Llorente’s football and fitness erratic, Junior Firpo yet to fully bed in and Rodrigo only hinting under Marsch that he might finally do so, the brilliant signing of Raphinha is the only real out-and-out senior transfer success Orta has had (he bought Gelhardt too) since Leeds returned to the Premier League.

If the money men have to raise their game, so does the man in charge of spending it. Judgement on his longer-term transfer work will have to wait, but Orta needs some quick wins this summer.