Moving into the 2021/22 campaign Leeds United had established themselves as a Premier League club following a seventh-placed finish the previous campaign.
We continued with a focus on signing exciting youngsters, signing several youngsters from Brazil and immediately loaning them out – so I won’t focus on them for now. However, one player that will step straight into the first team is Egyptian midfielder Ahmed Zahran. That’s because we sold Mattia Viviani after one season as he didn’t settle in England, moving on to Sassuolo for £8 million.
We were also in need of a new goalkeeper as Lazio came in with a huge offer for our number one thus far, Kiko Casilla. Now 34, they came in with a £12.5 million bid for the Spaniard, which I’d have been foolish to have rejected. In his place we signed Udinese’s Simon Scuffet for just £5 million and exciting young Portuguese prospect Augusto Leitao as a backup. In total, 25 players left the club during the transfer window.
A mixed start to the season
We began the new campaign well with a 3-1 victory over Leicester City, with Patrick Bamford picking up where he left off the previous season then Jack Clarke and Alessandro Cortinovis sealing the win.
But any hope that result had given us was dashed by being on the wrong end of a 5-1 thumping at Manchester City, although young winger Konrad de la Fuenta did score his first goal for the club late on.
A 0-0 draw at West Ham United and 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal followed, then we went to Liverpool and – yet again – lost convincingly to them, this time 3-0. And then bounced back with a 3-0 win of our own, in which centre-back Benoit Badiashile grabbed his first goal for the club.
A Carabao Cup third round victory over Tottenham Hotspur was followed by three consecutive league draws, including a 4-4 draw at Everton in which we were 3-0 up inside 11 minutes and 4-0 up at half-time but somehow bottled it and conceded twice in the last minute. I was fuming.
We saw off Cardiff on penalties in the fourth round of the Carabao Cup then got back to winning ways – and made it five league games without defeat – with a 2-1 win at Southampton thanks to Zahran and Rodrigo De Paul.
But our inconsistency continued as we again suffered a big defeat at one of the top six sides, this time 4-1 at Manchester United, then drew 2-2 at Brighton & Hove Albion, with Badiashile scoring in both.
A strong start to December began an unbeaten month to end the season. Spurs came to town and we put six past them in an impressive performance. Jamie Shackleton got things started after half an hour, De Paul added a second five minutes later, before both doubled their tallies along with a Hugo Lloris own goal and a late Alejandro Marques goal made it 6-1.
We followed that up with another big scalp, beating Chelsea 3-2 at home despite being 2-0 down after 24 minutes. But a Zahran double strike in four minutes clawed us level then Clarke claimed all three points in the second half.
And we ended the year with three straight league draws sandwiched by another draw, which finished in a penalty shoot-out defeat over Norwich City to take us in the Carabao Cup quarter-finals. But the league draws were good results as a 1-1 result at Bournemouth was followed by the same scoreline at home to Leicester then a 2-2 at home to Man City, in which there were three goals in the last 10 minutes.
We headed into the New Year just below the European places in a very close battle in the mid-table. Join us next time to see if we could push on during the remainder of the campaign.