If Leeds United are indeed to enjoy an annus mirabilis to follow the annus horribilis we’ve all just experienced, then a few changes will have to be made. One is underway; we’re currently gasping our way through the information vacuum between the termination of the hapless Hecky and the inevitable appointment of The Best Coach In The World™. Other changes are afoot too, with the acquisition of a striker recently valued at £20 million a distinct possibility for the princely sum of nowt. The snag is that Hull City‘s loss and our gain (and remember, we’ve already got one Hernandez) will require wages commensurate with his undoubted ability, failing which he might decide to join a Premier League relegation struggle at Wolves or Newcastle.
Still, these things are being dealt with, and some hard news will surely emerge shortly. But there are other areas of difficulty as well as coaching and the strike force: namely, goalkeeper, defence and a bit of steel in midfield – although the arrival of Forshaw has allayed some of the engine room anxiety, particularly if he can strike up partnerships with Messrs. Ideguchi and Klich. The goalkeeping problem is less taxing with the emergence of young Bailey Peacock-Farrell, though a more experienced keeper could well be added.
Which leaves us with defence, and the curious case of Pontus Jansson. There’s absolutely no doubt that Pontus, at his best, is exactly the sort of guy you would wish at the back, heading balls away to the halfway line, sliding in with murderous intent upon encroaching opposition forwards, and generally throwing himself about the park in the cause of Leeds United. That’s the Pontus we all remember, very fondly, from the majority of the season before last. The season just gone, though, was nothing like as impressive from Jansson. Deprived of a rock solid centre-back partner in Kyle Bartley, Pontus played through the recent campaign like a pale shadow of his former self, diffident, injury-prone, seemingly unable to get going when the going got tough. He occasionally got caught fannying about at the back instead of, as used to be his preferred method, clearing both ball and opponent far, fast and often. It was all most disappointing, and it sort of summed up our season, which flared briefly and then rapidly petered out into damp squib territory.
Now, Pontus is upset at the way certain recent remarks of his have been poorly translated, or misinterpreted, or taken out of context, or something. These utterances appeared to some fans capable of being seen as a “come and get me plea”, the implication being that Mr Jansson might be interested in various offers he might have been aware of, that would allow him to remain in England as he would wish, with just the hint that he’d ideally like to play in the Premier League. Seemingly, Pontus is irate at the way things have been lost in translation, claiming that he would “never talk bad about my club”. Doubtless, there is some inconsistency between the original quotes attributed to Jansson, and his more recent clarifications. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.
For me, though, the important thing is that, in hotly denying that he was angling for a move, Pontus showed a bit of fiery passion. Any central defender worth having should have this nasty streak in him, a part of his character that says, needle me at your peril. And it’s that irascibility, the flash of temper clearly apparent in the early days, that seemed to be missing in the season just past. Maybe it was the loss of Bartley, with the subsequent chopping and changing of defensive partnerships, or maybe it was just “second season syndrome”. But there was undoubtedly a difference, you didn’t have to be an ex-pro pundit to see that.
Now that he has, to some extent, nailed his colours to the mast, reaffirming his commitment and gratitude to Leeds United as the club that “saved his career”, maybe we can expect better things in the season to come – particularly if a certain Mr Bartley were to be lured back. We understand that Agent Ayling is on the case even as we speak. That better performance, though, is even more likely to come about if Pontus can harness some of that anger and attitude, the sort of thing he’s just displayed verbally, but that was sadly lacking in his on-field performances over the past year. A bit of anger might help restore that missing mojo.
Still, there’s a World Cup being held in the meantime, and Pontus will be hoping for more than a passing involvement in the colours of Sweden. And, if he happens to have a good tournament, then (at the risk of upsetting him) it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Pontus Jansson sidling towards the Elland Road exit door before August. I’ll just hope I’m wrong, and that instead, we’ll see Angry Pontus marshalling our defence as we challenge for promotion in 2019.
What happens to centre backs at Leeds! We had the same cheap lightbulb scenario with Sol Bamba: brilliant at first then as dim as a Toc H lamp.
I know – it’s enough to make you worry about what version of Kyle Bartley we might get next season…
Sorry folks he is lying I am afraid.
We definitely need Pontus to reproduce his first season’s performances and attitude minus the silly and avoidable yellow cards he stacked up which caused him to spend too many games sitting in the stand at the business end of the season when we belatedly nosedived out of the play off berths.
Perhaps his efforts to avoid chalking up so many yellow cards combined with the other factors you mention resulted in a dip in form, consistency and ultimately confidence last season.
“IF” we do manage to secure the services and talent of “the best coach in the world” Rob then I agree that our defence needs significant surgery. El Loco prefers to play a 3 man defence and has a self confessed “obsession” to play attacking football. Hallelujah may be the response of all the long suffering Leeds United supporters, but am I alone in not wanting Cooper to be one of those 3 defenders standing in the way of our opponents playing on the break and certainly not wearing the captain’s armband which appeared to slow him down even more?
If we get Bartley back alongside Pontus and Ayling would that be a decent enough defence with sufficient balance, guile and pace? Obviously, the 3 midfielders would have to include wingbacks to provide balance and width to the defence when we are out of possession.
Finally, now that we have dispensed with our dead ball “expert” I suspect that we will not even miss him and probably score and avoid more “dead ball” type goals with Bartley restored alongside Pontus and in the absence of Captain calamity.
Ah Pontus and his tragic hat.
See you later pal. Cooper has his faults but not once have I ever doubted his desire to play for our club.
PAHTH falls down needing to be stretcherd off or subbed when the going gets tough. Cardiff @ ER? Preston away? Two prime examples. Sorry but I’ve had enough of the guy. If he stays I hope to god he proves me wrong but if he goes I shan’t be crying over it.
I’d like to know why so many who appear to be flops at Leeds go on to other clubs and shine – such as Bamba and Sharp. What is it about the Leeds setup that makes them go off the boil? Is it rubbish managers, lying owners, dashed expectations of imminent return to the Premiership, pressure/aggro from the fans? What is it? This is a worry when we seem to be about to appoint the ‘Carlsberg coach’.
As you mentioned him, how’s the ailing Ayling doing in his recovery? We missed him badly last season.
He looked good when he came back against QPR at home, restored some balance to the team 👍