Tag Archives: Garry Monk

Why Leeds United Should Rescue Arsene Wenger from Ungrateful Arsenal – by Rob Atkinson

Arsene

If Arsenal turn their backs on Arsène – should Leeds pounce?

Let me say straight away that I hold Arsenal in the very highest esteem; after my beloved Whites, this is the club whose results I look for first. And, before I go on to extol the virtues of a Leeds United move to employ Arsène Wenger if his relationship with the Gunners does break down irretrievably, let me confirm that I feel we already have the right man for the job of United manager. Garry Monk is the man, he’s the right age, the right type, he’s proved his worth, and his position at Elland Road should be unassailable.

But still, Arsène Wenger would be a magnificent capture for Leeds. It would be, in transatlantic parlance, a no-brainer. If The Professor became available, he’d be just the man for a club like Leeds. And Wenger, at this stage of the game, might find that a project such as Leeds United would the very thing to bring down the curtain upon a glittering career. Because the role I see for Wenger at Leeds would be one that taps into his immense knowledge of the global game and of uncut diamonds in youth teams everywhere. It would be to work as a resource for a young manager developing in Wenger’s own image, a man who wants to play football the right way, someone that the old master Arsène could help develop into a world class coach and man manager.

I would consider that, after Arsenal, Wenger might be looking for something other than a front-line position as he seeks to remain involved in football. He’s been in North London, shaping and developing the capital’s premier football club, for two decades, encompassing some glorious success and producing football at times of breathtaking beauty. The challenge at Leeds would, initially at least, be different – and yet the aims would be comparable. It would be an ideal project for Wenger, something whereby he could wield his influence over the whole culture of a football club, without having to be involved in the nitty-gritty of day to day first team matters. Sure, he might expect to have an input, and Garry Monk is far too wise a man not to avail himself of such knowledge and experience. But there can be only one boss, and Monk is the right man for a long time to come. Still, some of the best of managers have benefited from that elder statesman, that éminence grise behind the scenes. Malcolm Allison had his Joe Mercer, Brian Clough his Peter Taylor. Neither of those two legends were quite so effective as a solo act, both needed that wise presence behind them to find true success.  After Arsenal, that kind of role would be a respectable and dignified option for Arsène at Elland Road – and he could just be the difference for Garry Monk between being a very good manager – and a great one.

And what, we have to ask ourselves, of Arsenal FC? Do they ideally want to keep Wenger, or are they considering a further year’s contract for their greatest ever boss merely as an obvious stop-gap until the real target becomes available? The truth is that the relationship between Wenger and many of the Arsenal fans is verging on the toxic. It’s a distressing situation for a great football man who genuinely loves his club; it’s a shoddy way to be winding down a stellar career. So, perhaps, for the sake of all concerned, a clean break between Arsenal and Arsène would be for the best. And, in that case – though I doubt it would actually happen – an opportunistic Leeds United should pounce. They should do whatever it takes to import the wisdom and status of one of the world’s foremost football people, someone who would have the class to respect boundaries and exercise his influence from a more detached position.

Leeds United’s gain would most definitely be Arsenal’s loss – but perhaps the situation for Wenger at the Emirates, with the Spurs-loving media pack slavering for blood, is already beyond recall. So Arsenal might appear ungrateful in dispensing with Arsène, if that’s what ends up happening – but it may just be their best option, even if results and performances were to dip in the short term.

But that’s not Leeds United’s concern – they, for their part, should be looking at what Wenger could bring to the Elland Road table, without unduly rocking the boat, if I might be permitted a mix of metaphors. The answer to that question is: plenty. Wenger has presided over a revolution at Arsenal, and in the wider English game as a whole. His ideas about diet, nutrition, the maintenance of the human machine, were revolutionary but demonstrably sound. He’s the kind of influence any forward-thinking club could do with, quietly influencing the whole setup with improvement and the maximisation of potential in mind. As somebody to stand behind Garry Monk, outside of the immediate first-team picture but always available as a consultant, his value to a club on the way up, a true giant of the game like Leeds, looking to re-establish itself as a major force, could be immeasurable.

So when I say “Wenger for Leeds”, I’m not joking, I’m deadly serious. As ever, I’d be interested in the views of others – but don’t be too quick, please, to leap into a dismissive posture. Consider. The question is – if a man like Wenger were to appear on the market and prepared to accept a different role – could we really afford to overlook him?

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Leeds and The Pontus Mystery: Was Jansson Believing His Own Publicity? – by Rob Atkinson

jansson-and-co

After such a very impressive result as Leeds United earned against Brighton yesterday, it’s quite perplexing to see quite so many virtual furrowed brows across social media today. The reason, of course, is The Mystery of the Missing Pontus – why, oh why was Jansson benched?

In a way, it’s an irrelevant question – Leeds won, so all is well. The margins between victory and defeat, though, are narrow – and we were only a slip or two from what might have turned into a full scale post mortem, had Rob Green not saved Liam Cooper from a spectacular own goal, for example. Or had Brighton capitalised on a couple of other defensive wobbles, and emerged winners. They say that being a lucky manager is at least as important as being a good manager. Garry Monk has shown over this season that he is arguably both – and it was certainly vital for United to do well and win, after what was, to say the least, a bold decision to drop his talismanic defender.

All we were told was that the decision made was the “best for the group”. That’s pretty much in line with what we are coming to know and love as the Monk Mantra; everything is done for the good of the team, the good of the group, the good of the club. The issues underlying this particular decision were not gone into – Garry is inviting us to accept that he knows what’s best and can be relied upon to act for the good of Leeds United. But still, we can speculate.

I’ve been as impressed as anyone by the startling effect, the galvanising influence Pontus Jansson has had on Leeds United since his arrival in the first team. He’s been a colossus, endlessly effective at both ends of the field, a giant unit of a bloke fit to fill that famous shirt. But, as a relatively young man (for a central defender), and as a mere mortal besides, Jansson is prey to human failings just as anyone else. And the truth is that there have been signs lately of the guy starting to believe his own publicity; buying into, perhaps, the “legend” status accorded him by so many, so soon. There have been times when Jansson has made challenges when perhaps he could have backed off, times when he’s dived in and then been found out of position and unable to recover. Huddersfield away springs to mind. All in all, the more recent Pontus performances have not been quite of the same vintage as those that went before, and it’s difficult not to wonder whether the lad’s got a bit carried away with that early success, to the detriment of his finer judgement.

Leeds can be a difficult place to perform; for players of doubtful character, it can be a veritable snakepit. Once the crowd gets on a player’s back, you can sometimes see that player shrink and shrivel – and you know that the player will then have the devil’s own job restoring the fans’ faith in him. But, on the other side of the coin, the adulation of our crowd can have its downside too. Such a very vociferous set of fans we are, that – when we take a player to our hearts – it’s a real production number. The player is levitated to hero status, then rapidly proceeds to be worshiped almost as a god. Jansson has had this treatment, since his amazing early impact and given his undeniable rapport with the crowd. He’s had his own song, he’s enjoyed his own one-on-thousands encounters with delirious fans in the wake of victories he’s helped win. Perhaps – just perhaps – he’s started to believe that he really could head that brick back. Perhaps the time had come to get the boy’s feet back on the ground.

Some say he failed to acknowledge the fans yesterday, a very un-Pontus-like thing to do. But we don’t know what’s been said to him. In the ultra-professional, hyper-focused environment of Garry Monk’s Leeds United, maybe Pontus has been told to cool off the love affair with the fans, stop believing in his own legend, concentrate on doing the simple things well, and get his mind set on the team and the three points up for grabs. That seems likely to me, and appropriate, given the recent slightly diminished level of the Swede’s performances.

There’s also the issue of a forthcoming suspension for Jansson, depending upon further bookings ahead of an approaching deadline. From a pragmatic point of view, that might justify taking the lad out of the firing line in order to avoid losing him for a couple of games later on. But a vital match against the second in the league seems an odd time to be quite that pragmatic – and so I tend to favour the view that Pontus is being, in a reasonably gentle and fatherly way, taken down a peg or two.

I hope it works, and I hope that Jansson can come back stronger and wiser, fiercely focused on the team and its aims. Because, on his day, and along with fellow juggernaut Kyle Bartley, he’s by far and away the best this league has to offer at centre-back. Liam Cooper did well yesterday, being slightly lucky to be saved from a calamitous misfortune by his own keeper. It’s starting to look as though, with Ayling and Jansson to return, we have a decent four from six perm for our back line, with Coyle and Denton showing potential to raise that six to eight. Not bad for a “paper-thin squad”.

Jansson will be back, we will all sincerely hope, as good and commanding as ever. But, for the time being, if he learns that he’s not utterly indispensable – if he can absorb the truly legendary Billy Bremner‘s maxim of “Side before self, every time” – then this will be a lesson well learned, and we’ll be getting back a better and more grounded hero. 

Monk Nails Wagner for Lacking Class as Huddersfield Edge Out Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

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Wagner – a technical breach

When the prizes are handed out at the end of this Championship campaign, it may well be that this feisty – for want of a better word – encounter between Huddersfield and Leeds United will be the one to look back on and say “that’s when the season turned”. Not so much for the result – because I fully expect United to finish above Town despite the Terriers’ success today. The significant factors to come out of this game will be the effort and emotion that Town poured into edging the contest – and the bonding effect on Leeds United of the little contretemps that followed a fortuitous winner for the home side.

I feel that United will now kick on. Burning with irritation at their opponents’ classless triumphalism and a perceived lack of respect, the Leeds players and coaching team will find a new level of togetherness. The scenes towards the end of this derby showed a “cut one of us and we all bleed” attitude that has always served Leeds teams well. The players reacted like tigers when Town coach David Wagner topped off his ill-advised pitch invasion by encroaching on the Leeds technical area. Garry Monk stood his ground, and his players piled in. Great stuff. Its something to draw on for the rest of the season, and I fully expect that to happen. I’d give a lot to be a fly on the wall at Thorp Arch when the players reconvene this week. Feisty will be the least of it.

As for Town, they could well become victims of what I have in the past termed “post-Cup Final Syndrome”. It affected supposed big boys Newcastle in the aftermath of their Elland Road win, and one glance at Huddersfield’s next six fixtures shows that there is potential for the kind of falling-away that I’ve often noticed in smaller teams after managing to win against Leeds. If this sounds arrogant, then I’m sorry. It’s borne out by verifiable facts, so there you go.

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Classless, sick dog-botherers

The lack of class embodied by the Town coach was sadly not confined to the touchline. In the stands as well, Terriers fans, hyped beyond all taste and reason, flourished a Turkish flag in a deliberately gloating gesture designed to rankle with Leeds fans still haunted by the murders in Istanbul 17 years ago. On the taste scale it was way down towards the Millwall and man united end of things. You expect more of fellow Yorkshire clubs, but clearly Huddersfield, as we’ve long known deep down, is a taste-free zone. The media make nothing of this sort of thing, but it’s among the worst aspects of our game today – and one can only feel sympathy for the bereaved families when they see yet another example of idiots taking some sort of sick, perverted pleasure in the deaths of innocent football fans.

The upshot of this afternoon will turn out to be one result that doesn’t change much, and two off-field factors that could affect things greatly. Watch for Huddersfield to fade away and see how Leeds now pick up. There’s a long way to go, and much can yet happen. 

And should these two clubs chance to meet again in the play-offs, do you think that Leeds will now lack for incentive and motivation? Not a chance. Be afraid, Town. Be very afraid.

Jansson to Leeds for £3.5m is, Quoting Mr. Revie, “Robbery With Violence”   –   by Rob Atkinson

Pontus Jansson, Superstar

It’s difficult to overplay the impact this season of Pontus Jansson on Leeds United. Since a relatively low-key debut at Luton in the EFL Cup, the big Swedish defender has barely put a foot wrong, becoming a talisman for the Whites. He’s been almost equally effective at either end of the field, and his headed clearances have formed the basis of a highly effective central defensive partnership with Kyle Bartley. Those clearances are paid ample tribute in Jansson’s very own song, the United support having waxed creative in a witty ditty featuring magic hats and hurled bricks. It’s a hymn of praise that could hardly be better deserved.

When legendary United manager Don Revie signed John Giles from a smallish club near Manchester in 1963, for a paltry £33,000, he was exultant enough to describe the deal as “robbery with violence”. The selling manager, one Matthew Busby, later described the sale of Giles, who went on to fashion an unparalleled midfield partnership with Billy Bremner, as his “greatest mistake”. This coup of capturing Jansson for maybe 25% of his actual value, puts you in mind of that earlier robbery. I don’t know who mans the central defence for Torino – but they must be bloody good players. 

As long as Jansson doesn’t now go all Lubo Michalik on us, Leeds have pulled of one hell of a capture here. We currently have a defence that looks rock solid, and that sort of thing has proved the foundation for many a promotion charge. And both Bartley and Jansson offer so much more than defensive excellence. Organising and cajoling the back line, motivating and inspiring all over the park and still finding time to create havoc in attacking set pieces, they both influence the game positively more or less the full 95 minutes. That’s invaluable for any team with pretensions to success. 

Robbery with violence sums it up nicely. May we also mug Swansea with a similar deal for Bartley. Both players have what it takes to be United legends for several seasons to come. 

Welcome to the ranks of the greatest club in the world, Pontus, and all the very best as you go on to confirm legend status by helping us back to the top. 

Leeds United Will Ignore Manager Monk’s Warning Tone At Their Peril   –   by Rob Atkinson

Garry-Monk

Monk: time for the club to support him

As the January transfer window draws inexorably to a close, Leeds United‘s highly-rated young manager Garry Monk has delivered himself of a cleverly-loaded quote – one that his employers would do well not to ignore.

On the same day that academy graduate Alex Mowatt finally moved on to Barnsley (despite assurances that nobody in and around the first team would be sold) Monk has reacted thus: “I can only assume that the players the club have talked about will come through the door as soon as possible. I am excited. We need to strengthen.”

It’s a statement loaded with subtextual significance. Reading between the lines, the manager’s “excitement” sounds more like the onset of frustration. When he says “I can only assume” in reaction to Mowatt’s departure, it sounds very much as though the sale was not entirely desirable from his point of view – unless there are incoming reinforcements due. The unsaid addendum to “I can only assume” is “because otherwise, the club is messing me about and not supporting me as promised”.

Time is running out, fast. There is 4th Round FA Cup business to attend to this weekend, a potential banana skin of a game at Sutton Utd in which, ironically, Mowatt might have been expected to play a prominent role. But, beyond that, there will then be mere hours to provide the couple of players that Monk has continually said he needs. It would not do to frustrate and stymie a manager who has made this season so much more memorable, and for all the right reasons, than the past few have been. Garry Monk has done wonders for Leeds United, and the club is honour-bound to back up his efforts with quality recruits to give his squad the best chance of success.

Furthermore, if Leeds are once more to disappoint their fan base as well as their manager, with yet another window in which expectations have been merely managed and not met, then it really does make no sense to lose Mowatt now, with so many potentially vital games left to play. The mercurial midfielder with that wand of a left foot may not be the kind of player to build a team or a promotion challenge around but, on his day, he could be a game changer with his undoubted potential to grab a spectacular goal like a bolt from the blue. You need that kind of unexpected element in a squad. With Mowatt gone, and even Murphy and Diagouraga too, the first team pool is markedly weaker than it was at the start of January – when the aim surely had to have been to strengthen.

Make no mistake, Garry Monk is putting the pressure on his employers to deliver, and rightly so. He’s saying that, with Mowatt sold, it would make no sense for there not to be incomings over the next few days. It would be against all logic, it would be foolish and it would be a betrayal. It’s all there. That one quote says it all, quite subtly, but nevertheless unmistakably. Garry Monk expects and requires action, not just words. If the club lets him down, they will potentially risk losing the best thing to happen to them in a long, long while.

Leeds United must listen to their manager, and they must heed his between the lines warning. It’s high time for the club to put its money where its mouth is.

Leeds Taste Derby Day Defeat at Rampant Barnsley – by Rob Atkinson

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Mike Dean – doubly incompetent

In football, as in life, timing is everything. And it was the timing of two rather poor Mike Dean penalty decisions during Leeds United‘s tumultuous defeat at Oakwell this evening that may well have been the factor upon which the outcome of the game ultimately depended. Had Leeds gone in at half-time 2-0 up, with a penalty to add to Chris Wood’s bundled opener after Kyle Bartley got a Barnsley hand in his face at a corner, there could have been few complaints from a home side that looked to be under the cosh at the time. But, in the final analysis, the fragility of a 1-0 lead was exposed by a late first half smash and grab goal from the hosts – and you sensed then that the tide had turned decisively.

In the second half, Barnsley came out like a pack of ravenous hounds and punctured United’s rearguard twice in quick time in a dominant spell. Two great finishes left Leeds with what, in the end, proved to be too much to do. This always looked to be the case, even after Dean’s second shoddy call of the match, awarding Leeds a penalty from a good forty yards behind play, for a handball offence that was clearly miles outside the box. Chris Wood duly converted but, even with their hopes so fortunately boosted, United never really escaped the stranglehold Barnsley had put on them from the time of the equaliser. In the end, the injustices evened themselves out, allowing the better side over 95 minutes to enjoy a deserved victory. 

What might have transpired had the hapless Dean got his calls the right way around is anybody’s guess – though it’s tempting to suppose a Leeds side two goals to the good would have taken some pegging back. As things were, there can be few complaints, and both sets of fans will be in agreement that Mr. Dean should go back to Premier League football and practice his dubious skills there.

For Leeds, defeat might just be a timely wake-up call and a reminder that the squad still needs a bit more strength in depth. It’s to be hoped that this will be addressed in the coming days, along with the pressing need to get back to winning ways on Wednesday against a Nottingham Forest side that should be ripe for the beating. United manager Garry Monk will be focusing already on that game, and the Whites should see it as a chance to start off on another positive run. 

Lastly, it has to be said that Barnsley’s grit and attitude were as commendable as the quality of the goals they scored. Everyone knows how much beating Leeds means to the Tykes, and those victory celebrations will be sweet indeed. With Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday also flying high in the Championship, it’s turning out to be a good season for Yorkshire clubs. None of which is any comfort in defeat – but Leeds know there is stiff competition out there and it’s up to our heroes to step up to the plate now and reassert their authority. 

That process can and must start on Wednesday. After a great run since December, we now expect nothing less.

Garry Monk is Creating a Bubble of Sanity Within Leeds United   –   by Rob Atkinson


Leeds United 2, Burton Albion 0

Little by little, bit by bit, things are looking up at Elland Road, as Leeds United manager Garry Monk appears to be insulating the football side of the club from the madness that has dogged the West Yorkshire giants over the past decade or so. Thus protected, and focused on the business of actually kicking a ball about, the men in All White appear to be quietly thriving. That focus, that separation from the bigger picture of court cases and ownership wrangles – that is what has elevated the level of performance achieved by Monk’s team above and beyond the efforts made under previous managers. 

It’s a factor that will be instrumental in any success United may enjoy this season and – incredibly – football’s craziest club does appear to be poised for success, as things currently stand. Ninth in the table, just a point outside the playoffs, and EFL Cup quarter finalists with a TV date against Liverpool at Anfield to come, damn your eyes. It seems almost too good to be true. Success is all relative, but for the current vintage of Leeds, this is as close to that elusive commodity as we could reasonably imagine. Is better yet to come? Well, you never know.

I’ve thought for a while that, the longer certain non-football personnel within the club can stay out of the limelight, the better the chances will be for the club to succeed where it matters, on the park. In previous seasons, things have been going reasonably well – but there’s been this tendency for those of us who love the club to twitch nervously, all too well aware that something would probably happen to derail us. And then it would happen – a loco rant from the boardroom in the local press, an inexplicable sacking or two – and it’d be as if the players’ heads went down and they were thinking “what kind of Fred Karno’s army outfit are we playing for here?”

This season, that dreaded twitch has been noticeable by its absence. We’ve had our bad times, and even Monk himself has been guilty of the odd gaffe. But overall, his stewardship of the football club has been characterised by a serenity, and a steadfast determination to get on with business, that has permitted no distractions to interfere with the steady progress being made.

It’s progress that has been solid if unspectacular, but Monk has made a point of commenting that the players are a group growing in togetherness and unity of purpose. Within that insulating bubble the manager has created, the squad seems happier and much better able to function as professional footballers. The difference this has made to the angst and anarchy of previous seasons is difficult to over-stress. But you only have to look at the results and performances to see that it is so.

There is still chaos and uncertainty abroad at the higher levels of the club, there’s no point in beating about the bush on that one. As we’ve seen in previous years, it’s the kind of thing that can spread throughout the whole place and negatively affect playing matters. In a highly professional and competitive environment, tiny differences can have a vast effect on relative performance – and United have thus been at a disadvantage compared to calmer, better-run clubs. The credit due to Monk for creating a vacuum between the footballing aspect of the club, and the nuttiness elsewhere around Elland Road, must be immense. It’s Monk we have to thank for the fact that we don’t look as daft nowadays on the field as we still frequently do off it. 

Today, against Burton Albion, Leeds got the job done without having to be particularly brilliant. Hard work, concentration and commitment proved to be sufficient unto the day, and two late goals from Wood and Doukara saw off determined and tough opposition before whom last season’s United might well have wilted. It was an object lesson in earning the right to win – and then pouncing just in time. 

Monk seems to be building a team and an ethos upon traditional lines; work hard, don’t accept defeat, show grit and determination, keep going to the end. That will get you a hell of a long way against most teams in this league, as was evident against Clough Junior’s men today, and also our frequent nemesis Norwich City in midweek. The foundations are being laid in blood, sweat and tears; the brilliance can and will come later.

So, it’s onwards and upwards for United on the field – and long may that continue. And, as long as Garry Monk is allowed to get on with doing his job, his way, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be at least guardedly optimistic for the future. Monk has an air of confidence about him that inspires faith and belief, in players and fans alike. He seems to expect to succeed, and there’s a determination about him to keep that vital separation of football matters from everything else. 

Winning is what matters. All else is secondary and subordinate to that. Such seems to be the Monk Mantra. Let’s hope that everybody connected to the club understands and accepts it. 

Lost: Teddy (Thrown Out of Cot). Leeds Utd Colours. Please Return to Garry Monk   –   by Rob Atkinson

Monk: my teddy went thataway


Professional football is a game of lines. Touchlines, goal-lines, defensive lines. Add to that: lines you do not cross. Mark that last one well, especially if you are a Leeds United manager under pressure (and is there any other sort?)

There are also things you can afford to lose, within reason. Football matches. Arguments with the owner (that’s probably the tactful thing to do). And there are things you cannot afford to lose, at any price. The respect and support of the fans. The respect and support of the local press who cover all aspects of the club.

In a car-crash of a radio interview with Adam Pope after today’s 0-1 home defeat to Huddersfield, Leeds manager Garry Monk crossed the line that separates professionalism from imprudent petulance. He is now in perilous territory, in danger of being turned upon by local press and fans alike. After what was really an abysmal interview performance, Garry Monk is bang to rights on a charge of lacking respect and professional calm. It’s a mistake that will not soon be forgotten, and one that will bear no repetition.

It’s easy to point at the fact that Monk is under pressure. But he is well paid to cope with that – and, not incidentally, to produce performances many times more convincing than his Leeds United team has been serving up. You can understand some early teething troubles from a new group of players. But to dismiss so contemptuously the worries and concerns outside the professional bubble of the football club – that passes understanding. It’s neither reasonable nor acceptable. 

With Cellino’s criminal record of revolving-door recruitment, the last thing I want to do is advocate hasty change. But when your manager loses the plot like that, with a respected local journalist too, then you scratch your head and wonder how Steve Evans might do with this squad. On the basis of today’s post-match demeanour, I’m really not sure that Monk is fit for purpose. I’d be delighted to be proved wrong, naturally. 

Things have to change at Elland Road, or another bleak – possibly disastrous – season beckons. At this juncture, the question is not whether there be change, but how far-reaching that change should be. On the evidence of today, as well as the obvious need to get rid of and replace the owner, there may also be a need to review the coaching situation. 

Being Leeds United manager is a tough ask. Many are found wanting. It may be that Garry Monk is showing signs that he’ll be just another who can’t cut it at Elland Road. 

Leeds Boss Monk Upset That Conceding Goals Can Mean Defeat   –   by Rob Atkinson

Kal Phillips

Kal Phillips – Leeds lone goalscorer at Nottingham Forest


This article also appears in Shoot – The Voice of Football

Events at the City Ground, Nottingham appear to have borne in on Leeds United manager Garry Monk that conceding goals can have an adverse effect on a team’s results. This may not be exactly shocking to many in the game, but Monk – a defender in his playing days – seemed resentful if not outraged in his post-match reaction that the mere act of politely letting the ball enter your own net has the unfortunate outcome of failing to win games. “If not for the goals we conceded we would have won the game, definitely,” lamented our leader after the 3-1 defeat to Nottingham Forest.

It’s difficult to argue with that summary, as we did after all manage to score a goal through young Kal Phillips‘ well-taken free-kick from all of thirty yards. But, sadly, Forest got three – and that’s the way of the world and the rules of the game. We may even have to consider tightening up in defence if we want to avoid harsh realities like the other team rudely presuming to score against us. Only then will we prevail – as we did against Sheffield Wednesday, who had the good taste to somehow avoid notching against our porous back line.

I’m being a little disingenuous, of course. I have no doubt at all that, in reality, Garry Monk is all too aware of the defensive problems we have. Those problems were still evident during two clean-sheet displays at Sheffield and then at Luton Town in midweek – but at least we had new boy Pontus Jansson at Kenilworth Road, tall, commanding and looking as though he would make a good fist of heading away a cruise missile if he had to. Reverting to a central partnership of Bartley and Cooper was a brave call, to put it kindly, after such a convincing display from the Swedish international and, in retrospect, it might not have been the wisest of decisions with a team that reacts like a rabbit caught in the headlights when facing a corner.

If Leeds United need to address defensive frailties, than perhaps their still-new manager could think about trying to sound a little less defensive after defeat. It doesn’t go down too well among the Twitterati, as was clear from the reaction of virtual Leeds fans yesterday, some of whom felt that Monk’s comments had left us open to ridicule. On the other hand, we have to remember that the circumstances prevailing at Leeds United mean any Whites manager is working under more than the usual amount of pressure – and maybe this is what manifested itself in Garry’s post-match interview.

Either way, improvement is essential and soon. It’s perhaps fortunate that we now have an international break in which to regroup and reorganise – though I do recall using similar phrases at this time of the season over the past few years. Hopefully, this time, the desired improvement will occur. It should, because this squad has a lot going for it. That situation might improve again, should talk of further recruitment materialise into something firmer before the transfer window closes this coming week.

Next up, after Mike Bassett’s England have taken and departed centre stage, it’s our old friends with the chip on their shoulders from Huddersfield Town. They’re currently perched incongruously atop the Championship, and it’s our clear duty to put a stop to such nonsense and set about redressing the balance. Huddersfield haven’t finished ahead of Leeds United for well over half a century – and that is one record that certainly should be maintained at the end of this season. In fact – by some distance – that is the very least we Leeds fans expect and demand.

Promise of Better Things to Come, Despite Leeds’ Poor Start   –   by Rob Atkinson

Two matches, two distinctly average opponents, two defeats. On the face of it, Leeds United’s start to the Championship season 2016/17 could hardly have been worse. There are obvious deficiencies in the squad, readily apparent areas of the team that require strengthening or replacing. And yet, all is not doom and gloom. Even given our pointless start, there are some promising signs that, given time, a pattern may well emerge that will be pleasing to the eye as well as effective on the park.

The problem with a radical change in approach, alongside wholesale squad additions, is that it takes a while to bed in, just as the new personnel have to be given the chance to find their feet in unfamiliar surroundings. These factors can explain, if not completely excuse, negative early-season results. But it must be remembered that this is a new Leeds. There’s a new manager with new ideas, there’s a new plan and new players in every department. More than likely, the recruitment is not finished. We can expect some departures too. 

One departure that could be expected to cause tearing of hair and rending of garments would be that of want-away tyro left-back Charlie Taylor. Not so long back, I begged leave to doubt that the boy Charlie actually had his heart set on a move at all. I felt that, perhaps, we were being spun a line, as has undoubtedly happened before.

The thing is, though, Taylor’s performances have not been those of a lad whose heart is currently pumping yellow, white and blue. And, while it may well sound all grimly determined and steely-eyed to say we’d rather lose him for nowt when his deal runs down, than sell him for millions now, those are not the kind of principles, or indeed the real-life economics, we can afford to follow. If Taylor’s heart is elsewhere, then let him follow it through the exit door while there’s some cash to be made and (maybe) reinvested. It’d would be foolish to act or argue otherwise, in this blog’s view.

Elsewhere, the picture does look more promising, with glimpses of real promise showing fro the likes of Roofe, Antonsson, Sacko and our own product Ronaldo Vieira. The problem seems to be that many of these players cannot yet function to their potential because the shape and effectiveness of the team as a whole are being negatively affected by the lack of a ball-winning, holding, defensive midfielder. If the signings of Bridcutt and/or Osman ever get over the line, I would expect the whole to start looking like more than the sum of the parts. Up to now, it’s looked rather less. 

It sounds like an odd thing to say, but I do feel there is much excitement and the prospect of some spectacular performances in the offing – once the groundwork has been done and some proper foundations are in place. Preparations in the early part of the close season were hindered by some needless shilly-shallying over the future of former manager Steve Evans. Whatever the rights and wrongs of this, it wasn’t ideal in terms of getting ready for the season ahead and, in certain respects, we are still suffering from that two defeats into the season. The important thing now is that certain fingers should stay well away from the panic button. Yet another early season brainfart from our unstable owner is the last thing we need now that we have committed to the Monk style of football and recruited our playing staff accordingly.

No, we must aim to steer a straight and careful course if we’re to avoid sinking. If the club can show some faith and belief in the squad so far assembled, then there may well be better times ahead than two losses in two opening games might seem to suggest. If not – well, then storm clouds will inevitably gather and we could well go down as SS Laughing Stock.

As things stand, we’re not alone in our misery. Runaway title favourites Newcastle also sit on zero points from two games – but they will still be there or thereabouts when the season reaches its climax. Maybe – just maybe – Leeds United can be, too. 

It’s time for owner, players and fans alike to keep the faith. Whatever our differences, and however bleak things might look this evening after a second reverse in our opening two games, there’s rarely been a more important time to be Marching On Together. And that is precisely what we must now do.