Football Manager 2020: Leeds United – Tactics, formations, transfer targets & more
Leeds are pushing for promotion. Here’s our ultimate guide to get back to the big time.
The term “sleeping giant” is thrown around a lot in football but the most prevalent example of that is perhaps Leeds United in Football Manager 2020.
The club hasn’t competed in the Premier League since enduring financial turmoil that almost saw The Whites go out of business in the early 2000s.
That could all be about to change though, as Leeds almost got promoted to the top flight this season and currently sit top of the Championship.
Marcelo Bielsa has been revolutionary at Elland Road since his move to Yorkshire but can you replicate his exploits?
Here’s our comprehensive guide to getting Leeds back into the Premier League in Football Manager 20!
Leeds’ main goal is to obviously get out of the Championship and play Premier League football for the first time since 2004.
The board want you to win promotion at the first attempt, meaning either a top-two finish or winning the play-offs.
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The board also want you to reach the fourth round of the FA Cup and the third round of the Carabao Cup but those won’t matter as long as you achieve promotion.
Going further in the future, the board want you to maintain your Premier League status while working towards a top-half finish by the end of the 2023/24 season.
Tactical style & formation
Leeds’ tactics have been very attacking and positive under Bielsa, something which you can and should continue during your time as manager.
Wing-play plays to your strengths the most, as your side has plenty of pace and talent in wide areas. If you’re struggling to score or playing against one of the bottom Championship clubs, you could use tiki-taka or vertical tiki-taka instead.
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4-1-4-1 DM wide is your best formation, just like Bielsa’s side. 4-4-2 and 4-2-4 also recommended but if you’re needing to go more defensive, a variation of the 4-2-3-1 would probably be your best bet.
Your starting 11 should be Kiko Casilla in goal, with a back four of Luke Ayling, Ben White, Liam Cooper and Barry Douglas. Your central midfield trio are best being Kalvin Phillips (DM), Kateusz Klich and Adam Forshaw.
Your two wingers should be the evergreen Pablo Hernandez and Helder Costa, who will provide service to your lone striker Patrick Bamford.
Your seven best subs are Illan Meslier (GK), Ezgjan Alioski, Jean-Kevin Augustin, Jack Harrison, Stuart Dallas, Tyler Roberts and Mateusz Bogusz.
Leeds have a team full of top quality Championship players and some that are already ready to be playing regularly in the Premier League.
Here’s the top five currently on their books in terms of current ability (CA).
|Kalvin Philips||DM, M (C)||23||140/149||17 natural fitness, 16 aggression, 16 work rate|
|Pablo Hernandez||AM (RLC)||34||137/156||17 anticipation, 17 technique, 17 vision|
|Kiko Casilla||GK||32||135/160||18 rushing out, 16 reflexes, 16 bravery|
|Helder Costa||AM (RL)||25||133/145||16 acceleration, 16 dribbling, 16 flair|
|Ben White||D (C)||21||131/148||15 composure, 15 stamina, 14 marking|
The talent is well spread around the pitch, with goalkeeper, defence and midfield all being represented here. The main issue with Leeds’ squad though is how much it’s depending on loan signings.
In the list above, Costa, Casilla and White are all loan signings, meaning they aren’t signed to permanent deals at the start of your save.
Leeds don’t have a great recent history when it comes to their youth players but they have produced Premier League talent. Sam Byram, Jonny Howson, and Scott Carson all once called Elland Road home.
Leeds have usually opted to buy their talent from lower league sides and nurture them into first-team players before selling for a profit. This should be part of your philosophy as manager but keeping your young talent should be a higher priority.
There are some really promising young players on Leeds’ books right now as well, so don’t sell them on until you have to. Here’s their top three according to their potential ability (PA):
Nohan Kenneh – CA 2 star (89), PA 4.5 star (140-170)
Nohan Kenneh is only a 16-year-old but his up to 170 PA value makes him top of this list. Kenneh is a ways off making a first-team appearance but giving him a chance at a National League side during your first season would be a good idea.
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The defensive midfielder could become an English international in the future if he reaches the top of his potential bracket. Despite his young age, his physical attributes are impressive, all being 11 or higher already which is vitel for his position.
Jamie Shackleton – CA 2.5 star (119), PA 4 star (130-160)
After making his first-team debut in the 2018-19 season, Jamie Shackleton has already proved he has a bright future with The Whites. The English central midifleder has a PA up to 160 and is already not far off the CA values of the starting players.
If you get promoted to the Premier League, Shackleton could benefit from a loan to a Championship club or you can keep him at the club to help with your home-grown numbers.
Alfie McCalmont – CA 2.5 star (111), PA 4 star (130-160)
Another player that’s been at Leeds their entire life is Alfie McCalmont. McCalmont could be lining up in central midfield alongside Shackleton before too long. The Northern Irishman hasn’t yet made his debut for the first-team so it could be worth loaning him out during your first season.
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The 19-year-old has already made his debut for the Northern Irish national team and it’s little wonder why as he has an excellent footballing brain.
Starting transfer budget: £1.2 million
Remaining wage budget: £22,000 a week
Put simply, Leeds need to get promoted at the first time of asking, or they will fall foul of Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations. If you remain in the second tier, the bank will require an injection of £60m after three seasons to break even. Their current model isn’t sustainable.
Premier League TV money will change all of this, as turnover will rise by around £80m per season, which will make the club profitable, even with a healthy transfer budget.
Leeds’ biggest omission from their squad is that of a natural defensive midfielder (DM). Kalvin Phillips is excellent but he’d be better used in central midfield with a natural DM in his place. Your transfer budget isn’t big enough to buy a new DM but you could loan one who has a weekly cost of up to £40k.
With wages of just £8k to cover, Josh McEachran is a very affordable option for your DM addition. The Englishman could also be bought for around £5m once your loan deal expires, so it’s worth adding that clause into his contract.
In truth, you probably shouldn’t buy him in the Summer of 2020, as he isn’t good enough for the Premier League and you’ll have to funds to purchase someone with more talent. Beware about putting him in the side for the Championship as well, as you’re only allowed five in the starting XI and subs.
If McEachran doesn’t tickle your fancy, consider these other DM players instead:
|Marvelous Nakamba||25||Aston Villa||Zimbabwe||127/135||£12m||£25k|
|Ismaila Soro||21||Celtic||Ivory Coast||118/145||£2m||£10k|
Helder Costa is set to join from Wolves for £15m in the summer of 2020 but you shouldn’t stop there as there are a lot of areas to improve.
Ben White would be a solid addition to the defence if you can get him permanently, although he will cost around £20m to buy. You could consider options like to fill his place. For around that price, you can purchase Juan Foyth, Issa Diop or Alessandro Bastoni.
You’ll need a top-quality striker as well, Bamford isn’t good enough to be your number one forward in the Premier League. Assuming you’ll have a budget of around £25m for your striker, Odsonne Edouard, Neal Maupay and Moise Kean are all options you should look into.
Leeds have a grand total of five first-team players on loan at the club during your first season in change. White, Meslier, Harrison, Augustine and Costa although Costa will join permanently in the summer.
Berardi and Hernandez also have their deals up in June 2020. Berardi can leave on a free, he’s average in your team in the Championship and won’t be good enough for the top flight. Hernandez is one of the highest-rated players at the club and despite being 35 at the end of the season, he should be offered another year.
Going further forward, Ayling, O’Kane, McCalmont, Shackleton, Bouy, Douglas, Bogusz and Alioski and have deals that expire at the end of your second season. You can choose to keep or sell these players depending on how they perform in your first season and if they’re good enough for the top tier.
If we had to give a call now though, O’Kane and Bouy should be leaving Yorkshire.
Thankfully, Phillips, Casilla, Cooper, and Forshaw are all tied to long-term contracts when you join the club.
Return to Europe
Leeds’ short-term aim is to get back to the Premier League but they aren’t going to stop there. The West Yorkshire club will want to return to the heights which they reached in the ’90s and early 2000s.
Breaking into the top six is very difficult thanks to the financial might of these clubs. However, as Leicester and Wolves have shown, this is possible and there’s no reason why the Whites can’t join this group.
The board want Elland Road to be expanded, which will mean a capacity of almost 50,000. Being a one city club, the Leeds faithful will sell-out their stadium most weeks, as they have been doing in the Championship.
The size of the club makes them a force to be reckoned with and they have decent financial backing too. It won’t be easy but there’s no reason why Leeds can’t make an appearance in the Europa League within your first five years at the helm.
You’ll have to buy smart and invest in youth but qualifying for continental football could be on the horizon. Don’t forget either, the Carabao Cup and FA Cup also offer a spot each for the Europa League.
Full Leeds United Player Ratings
|Kiko Casilla||32||GK||SK||Support||3.5 star||135/160|
|Luke Ayling||27||D/WB (R)||WB||Defend||3 star||127/134|
|Ben White||21||D (C)||BPD||Support||3.5 star||131/148|
|Liam Cooper||27||D (C)||CD||Defend||3 star||128/129|
|Barry Douglas||29||D/WB (L)||FB||Defend||3 star||121/129|
|Kalvin Philips||23||DM, M (C)||BBM||Support||3.5 star||140/149|
|Mateusz Klich||29||M/AM (C)||DLP||Support||3.5 star||129/131|
|Adam Forshaw||27||DM, M (C)||DLP||Defend||3 star||122/129|
|Pablo Hernandez||34||AM (RLC)||AP||Support||4 star||137/156|
|Helder Costa||25||AM (RL)||WB||Attack||3.5 star||133/145|
|Patrick Bamford||25||AM (RC), ST||DLF||Support||3 star||125/140|
|Substitutes & Reserves|
|Illan Meslier||19||GK||G||Defend||2.5 star||117/120-150|
|Ezgjan Alioski||27||D/WB (L), M/AM (RL)||WB||Support||3 star||126/139|
|Jean-Kevin Augustin||22||ST||AF||Attack||3 star||127/145|
|Jack Harrison||22||M (R), AM (RL)||WB||Support||3 star||124/141|
|Stuart Dallas||28||D (R), M/AM (RL)||DW||Support||3 star||128/129|
|Tyler Roberts||20||AM (RLC), ST||AF||Attack||3 star||120/138|
|Mateusz Bogusz||17||M/AM (C)||MEZ||Support||2.5 star||109/130-160|
|Gaetano Berardi||30||D (RLC)||NFB||Defend||3 star||123/126|
|Robbie Gotts||19||D/M (R)||W||Support||2 star||108/110-140|
|Alfie McCalmont||19||DM, M (C)||DLP||Support||2.5 star||111/130-160|
|Jamie Shackleton||19||M (C)||AP||Attack||2.5 star||119/130-160|
|Ouasim Bouy||26||D (C), DM, M (C)||DLP||Support||2 star||93/109|