Tag Archives: Pontus Jansson

An Angry Pontus Will be Better for Leeds United than the Meek Pontus of Last Season – by Rob Atkinson

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Bring on “Angry Pontus” for a Leeds promotion charge

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.

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Pontus Jansson Should Buckle Down at Leeds and Show Us Why We Used to Love Him – by Rob Atkinson

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Pontus as we knew and loved him

It’s been a love affair like so many others, waxing hot with passion and mutual desire in that early, devoted phase – then cooling off, with indifference where once was there was adoration. Harsh words are spoken, third party interest rears its opportunist head, and whatever the formerly enamoured couple might say only serves to emphasise the widening gap between them.

This is how things are now developing for those two erstwhile paramours, Pontus Jansson and the massed support of Leeds United. In the beginning, it looked like true love, with frequent, heartfelt declarations on both sides. Pontus said and did the right things, and the besotted Leeds crowd swooned accordingly. Pontus headed away every threat on our goal, and occasionally sallied forth upfield for attacking set pieces, nutting spectacular goals that roused the support to a fever pitch of ecstasy and adoration.

Surely, this was a love affair that would stand the test of time, with Jansson living up to the lyrics of his love ballad by demonstrating his willingness to head away footballs, opposing attackers, bricks, meteorites if need be. Pontus did it all, and communed with the support after the final whistle sounded and battle was done. Great was the love that cascaded down from the stands for our Swedish hero. Pontus was Leeds, and Leeds loved Pontus.

When the rot started to set in, it seemed scarcely believable – but, in reality, it was that age-old story of love and then loss being retold in the football idiom. Leeds fans didn’t want to believe their idol had feet of clay, and spent months in denial as Jansson’s form faded and the occasional lapses of fidelity became more frequent. Pontus started to show a tendency to bail out when the going got tough; only a few brave souls, at first, invited charges of heresy by pointing this out. The support en masse waited for signs that the beloved Pontus still loved them and would return to his brick-heading ways of those passionate early stages of mutual devotion.

But a few – a significant few – feared that the magic had gone, that the magic hat no longer fitted a swollen head, that Pontus had lost his desire and dedication. Time and again, when things were going against the team, Pontus sought the sanctuary of the changing rooms, nursing some apparent injury that would miraculously clear up when easier opponents were in the offing. It seemed as though our hero had a streak of yellow in what had seemed to be a warrior’s persona, and his adoring fans fretted at this evidence of fallibility in a man who, not so long before, had seemed to epitomise all that was good and heroic about Leeds United and its fanatical following.

Alas, the evidence against Pontus continued to pile up last season. Despite the occasional signs of defiance in defence, and the even more occasional evidence of lethal intent in attack, Pontus was, overall, the merest shadow of the Pontus we’d known and hailed as a defining hero the season before. Slowly, the truth was dawning on the Pontus fan club: here, just possibly, was yet another apparent idol who had flattered, only to deceive. We’ve seen enough of those before – but, with Pontus, it was supposed to be different.

Now, with his substandard contribution to Leeds United’s substandard season behind him, Jansson is away at the World Cup with his national team, and he’s making noises about his future that will not sound like sweet nothings to those who have worshipped him since those hearts and flowers early days. He wants to stay in England, we hear, but – despite the fact that he has a contract running until 2022, he’s not going to commit himself to seeing it out. He wants to aim for the Premier League, but if you read between the lines of his public utterances, he might rather achieve this through a transfer out of Leeds than soil his hands, feet and head by battling through another Championship muck and bullets campaign.

Maybe I’m doing Pontus a disservice, but perhaps I can be forgiven a slight bitterness. I loved Pontus too, as much as anyone, when he was doing it for Leeds and everybody was raving about this new juggernaut at Elland Road. And I’ve seen central defenders arrive on loan before, performing excellently and then, as soon as a permanent deal is signed, fading away to be the merest shadow of their former selves. It’s become depressingly regular – but I would have laughed at any suggestion of it being a route our Pontus might go down. And yet here we are, watching with horror as Jansson morphs before our eyes into just another Lubo Michalik. It’s just so sad to see a loved one end up this way.

Still, other relationships have hit rocky patches and still come through. It’s still possible for the Leeds support and their Pontus to rekindle some measure of the rapport that seemed to exist until comparatively recently. But it’s not for the injured party in these cases to make special efforts or resolutions. That’s for the one who strays, by word or deed – they’re the guilty element in the equation. It’s for them to renew their vows and attempt to rebuild bridges. Pontus needs to clear his mind, stop chelping about his club career until the World Cup is done with, and then settle down to win his admirers back by recalling the Jansson we used to know, possibly even – who knows? – with his partner of those heady early days, Kyle Bartley, once more by his side.

One more season of that partnership, together with improvement elsewhere in the squad, might enable Jansson to recapture his mojo, stop blaming others for his own failings and generally get back on the horse again and start heading away those bricks, to the left and to the right. If all that comes to pass, maybe Jansson will finally secure his passage to the Premier League. And it would taste all the sweeter, because he would have earned it. Along with, not incidentally, the renewed and restored adoration of his Elland Road fan club.

Pontus, you know it makes sense, and you know you owe us this – so make it happen. After all, every one of us wants the traditional happy ending.

Leeds Icon in Hammer Blow While Wonderkid Waits in the Wings – by Rob Atkinson

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Pontus – wants answers from United

Understandably, attention is switching away from Leeds United‘s slow-motion car crash of a season, as it fizzles out into yet another mid-table mediocrity outcome. But, Leeds being Leeds, there will always be something to talk about – even when the football itself is hardly worthy of mention. The past few days has exemplified this, with two contrasting stories – one rather worrying, the other a beacon of hope for the not too distant future.

On the debit side of the Leeds chat ledger is the perturbing suggestion that defensive colossus Pontus Jansson may be less than contented with the way things are going at Elland Road. It appears that the big Swedish international would like some assurances from the owners and board about plans for next season, with the clear implication that Pontus doesn’t fancy another campaign of under-achievement. And the worry can only increase with rumours that Jansson could be heading for the Elland Road exit door, with West Ham, of all clubs, being a possible destination. The believability of that particular whisper isn’t assisted by the laughable purchase price quoted, somewhere around £5.4 million, which would hardly cover a season’s loan fee and wages. West Ham, it might also be said, would be a strange destination for anybody worried about his current club’s situation; Pontus would probably be jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire if a move to the Hammers actually transpired.

A much more positive story is the impressive form of young Jack Clarke in the increasingly dominant Under-23 side, which has now won four on the spin. Clarke gave a breathtaking display in the most recent victory, a 3-0 dismissal of Cardiff City at Thorp Arch. Reports suggested that Clarke was beating his man at will, and – had more clear scoring chances been taken – could have ended up with half a dozen assists. It’s also reported that Jack is a wanted lad, by none other than runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City, no less. But our boy wonder appears to be indifferent to such a move, preferring to stay and learn his trade at Elland Road, which is music to the ears of any United fan feeling starved of good, positive news. It looks as though Jack Clarke could be competing for some first team involvement sooner rather than later, and the feeling is that United have a seriously hot prospect on their hands.

Sadly, the actual football will soon be taking our attention away from these more interesting matters once again, which is a bit of a pain. Leeds do seem set for a bumper crowd against Bolton at the weekend, though, with an attendance of well over 30,000 likely. This is quite extraordinary for a club whose prices aren’t the cheapest, who have been serving up uninspiring dross in their performances since early in the season, and who have been languishing outside the top flight for far too many years now. All of which goes to show that Leeds United are still Number One in terms of their fanatical support, for which much credit is owed to those long-suffering and dedicated Elland Road devotees.

In summary: if Pontus leaves for the Hammers, I shall eat my Leeds United bobble hat; I will also predict here and now a debut and goal for Jack Clarke before the end of this season – and we can still be extremely proud of our club, off the playing field at least.

Marching On Together.

Reading FC Expose Leeds’ Loss of Mojo & Jansson’s Missing Magic Hat – by Rob Atkinson

 

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Super League Champions Leeds Rhinos on their Elland Road lap of honour

Without wishing to seem wise after the event (I like to think that my wisdom is pretty much a permanent fixture) I just knew that Leeds United’s last-gasp penalty would not go in. There would be no salvaging of a late point for the home side at Elland Road; Reading FC would depart with the three points yesterday’s script demanded. And so it came to pass as I looked on with a jaundiced eye. I just bloody knew it.

It was not a good Saturday. Leeds were sluggish and out of sorts, the referee was fussily horrible – at one point he allowed Reading to take a free kick for offside ten yards inside the Leeds half – and there was a general feeling of malaise. To say this was a bad day at the office for Leeds seems hopelessly inadequate – David Brent himself had a better day, that time he was sacked by Wernham Hogg. The only bright spot (and not even this applied to everybody in the 33,900 attendance) was the sight of the victorious Leeds Rhinos players parading the Super League champions trophy around the pitch at half time. It was good to see United saluting the achievements of another Leeds sporting institution.

It seemed to many of the Leeds persuasion, and to some impartial observers too, that Pablo Hernandez had been fouled in the build-up to Reading’s winning goal, scored with poetic injustice by last season’s United loanee failure Modou Barrow. Post-match opinions were polarised: Reading manager Jaap Stam felt it hadn’t been a foul (and also that there was no foul for the Leeds penalty); Leeds boss Thomas Christiansen disagreed, but noted that “foreign coaches should not complain”. Even so, he’d made his views clear from pitch-side at the time – afterwards though, he simply shrugged and remarked “Well, you saw it”.

For United, it was a day to forget as swiftly as possible and move sharply on. Reading, arrayed in a day-glo orange and looking like a set of highlighter pens, came to do a job; they did it, however irritatingly, and now it’s history. Leeds will have to concentrate on regaining their mislaid mojo over the next few fixtures; they’re still handily-placed, even after three successive defeats, courtesy of that scorching start to the season. But losing can become a nasty habit, and it’s something that Christiansen and his troops need to nip in the bud before an annoying blip becomes a genuine crisis.

The Leeds boss was philosophical after this latest setback, whilst hinting that a change of system is not out of the question if he judges that’s what is necessary to turn things around. One notable factor in Reading’s success was their tactic of pressing high to stop United playing out from the back as has been the preferred approach all season. On the day, the home side simply weren’t good or confident enough to deal with the way Stam’s men set out their stall to contain, frustrate and hit on the break. It was a bad, bad day; as simple as that.

And it could even have been worse, but therein lies the one positive aspect of yesterday. At long last there was a change of ‘keeper for a league game, with Andy Lonergan taking his chance to impress. Lonners pulled off a few really good saves and generally looked less error-prone than Felix Wiedwald has done on many of his appearances this term. Afterwards, when asked about the change, Christiansen said that it was something he’d been thinking about. Lonergan did his future prospects no harm at all, and we must hope that his relatively unflappable air of security might spread to a United back four that has looked shaky of late. Pontus Jansson in particular looked tentative and even clumsy at times in the Reading game; part of United’s reduced effectiveness is probably down to Jansson’s magic hat being worn slightly askew as compared to last season. 

It’s still early days, and the situation as it stands is far from dire. But Leeds must do more than hope for better days ahead; they must be proactive, and take steps to ensure that a sharp improvement comes about – sooner rather than later.

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

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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. 

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. 

Last Gasp Bullet Header from Jansson Sees Leeds Win at Blackburn – by Rob Atkinson

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Jansson & Co – victorious at Blackburn

The Leeds United team tasked with laying the grisly ghost of FA Cup humiliation at Sutton last Sunday contained only one survivor of that sorry afternoon. And, fittingly, it was that one man, Stuart Dallas, who finally made the breakthrough after 74 minutes last night at Blackburn Rovers, as United made a belated start on making up to their fans for such an awful lapse. Latching onto a sumptuous cross-field ball from Liam Bridcutt, the Ulsterman took one touch on his chest before firing in left-footed from the left of the penalty area into the far right-hand corner of Rovers’ net.

What had gone before was a lot of huffing and puffing, with quality at a premium but no little effort. League strugglers Blackburn were earnest but incompetent, while high-flying Leeds threatened more but failed to deliver. A major feature of the match was the sight of the home team’s attacks being repelled time after time by United’s returning colossus Pontus Jansson. As it turned out, in making so many aerial clearances, Jansson was just warming up his forehead to deliver a late coup de grâce in typically emphatic and ebullient fashion.

It was a goal-laden final quarter of an hour to finish a match that had been mostly dour and scrappy. Once Leeds had taken the lead, you fancied them to hang on and see the evening out. Ten minutes after the Dallas opener, though, Leeds keeper Rob Green managed somehow to let a scrappy bobbling low shot slip past him at the foot of his left hand post, and it looked as though the hosts would salvage an unlikely point. In previous seasons, we might even have worried that such a late pegging-back of a hard-earned lead would result in United chucking even a draw away and ending up beaten. But this Leeds side is made of sterner stuff – and they showed the character and persistence to come storming back and seal a late, late victory.

The winner, when it came, had a familiar look about it. United have been quite lethal from corners lately, with the diminutive Spanish trickster Pablo Hernandez seemingly able to place his corner kicks precisely where he wants to. On this occasion, he floated the ball with quality and accuracy into exactly the right cubic foot of Ewood Park airspace, where the hurtling Jansson met it resoundingly to send his header flashing into the back of the net, before the massed ranks of the joyous, exultant travelling White Army. In almost the same last-gasp moment, miles away up on Tyneside, Newcastle conceded a comical own-goal equaliser to QPR, completing an instantaneous four-point swing in Leeds’ favour. As last minute bonuses go, even Carlsberg would be hard-pressed to do better.

So Leeds, after such a calamitous Cup capitulation (which may yet prove to be a blessing in disguise) march on in the league. Next stop is local rivals Huddersfield on Sunday, and Town themselves face a home clash with fellow contenders Brighton on Thursday evening, in a match Leeds fans will fervently be hoping that both teams can lose. For the moment, some measure of forgiveness can be extended to our heroes in white (who actually turned out at Blackburn in a decidedly natty yellow/blue/yellow ensemble). Such an ignominious exit from the FA Cup will take longer to forget than completely to forgive, yet any fan with yellow blue and white running through his or her veins will know that cups are merely tin-pot, compared to the holy grail nature of promotion.

The least welcome statistic of the evening was another yellow card for the redoubtable Jansson, but that sort of thing goes with the territory of his robust and committed approach to keeping the opposition at bay. As long as he can continue doing just that, with the occasional fringe benefit in the shape of decisive goals from crafty corners, then everybody who loves Leeds United will allow him some latitude in matters disciplinary.

Because, make no mistake, the iconic Jansson is set fair to become the biggest Leeds United hero since Gordon Strachan – and he may well soon emulate the diminutive Scot by leading the Whites back up where they belong.

Leeds Graduate With a 2:1 At Cambridge, But At a Price – by Rob Atkinson

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Mowatt – winner

When the story of this season is written, the worth of last night’s narrow squeak FA Cup victory at Cambridge United will be capable of objective assessment. As things stand right now, you’d have to say it’s unlikely to be of much if any intrinsic value; it may even be that the net effect upon our campaign will be decidedly negative.

On the credit side of the ledger, yet another fine second-half performance to paper over the cracks of yet another slow start, and this time it was the shadow squad that proved itself able to pick up its game. The downside is there for all to see; a tenth booking of the season for the iconic Pontus Jansson will deprive Leeds United of his services for two vital and rather tricky league games in Derby at home and Barnsley away. Jansson’s obvious deputy, Liam Cooper, also picked up an injury that may well see him sidelined for Friday. Given those painful drawbacks, the “reward” of a fourth round trip to past Cup opponents Wimbledon or Sutton United seems more of a booby prize than anything to exult over. Last night’s may have been a Pyrrhic victory – although at least it cut the rest of the footballing world off in mid-gloat.

The first half of any Leeds game is becoming a matter of some concern. Whatever team takes the field for United appears unable to come out of the blocks in full-on battle mode, and manager Garry Monk is having to do some sterling work in his half-time team talks. So far, that interval helping of bollockings/encouragement has more often than not done the trick; certainly last night Leeds were a different team in the second half and Cambridge were duly blown away after dominating the first 45 minutes. Some wags have suggested only half jokingly that Monk should deliver his half-time peroration before the team trots out at the start of the match, and you can sort of see why. But, looking at the positives of the manager’s input, it would seem he is adept at diagnosing the faults in a first-half performance and then remedying those faults, rather than deficient in his timing. The next step, presumably, is to eliminate the faults from the start – but that’s all part of the learning curve necessary for any “young group”.

In the event, goals from Stuart Dallas and Alex Mowatt saved United’s blushes, or at least postponed them till later in the competition. Now, with the serious business of accumulating more league points a priority, Leeds have to address the imminent problem of an in-form Derby County side managed by our bogeyman coach Schteve “Dutch” McClaren. In the certain absence of Jansson, whose weird pending permanent transfer has now been put back until perilously late in the window, and the probable absence of dead leg victim Cooper, it may be a case of asking Luke Ayling to slot in next to Kyle Bartley in central defence, with Coyle and/or Denton stepping up to one or both of the full-back berths. Not ideal against stiff opposition.

We will know more fully after the next two Pontus-less Championship games at what price this FA Cup progress has been secured, and we’ll just have to hope that it was a price worth paying. Four points out of Derby and Barnsley, two highly-motivated, Leeds-hating, chip-on-the-shoulder obstacles, and we’ll be able to breathe a sigh of relief and look forward to the next round for the fascination of revisiting Cup opponents past. Fingers crossed that last night’s damage really can be limited to the loss of a mere two points. 

Pontus the Impassable Can Be the Leeds United Season Saviour – by Rob Atkinson

Football - EFL Cup - 2nd Round - Luton Town v Leeds United

Pontus Jansson – new United hero

Pontus Sven Gustav Jansson has made the kind of start to his Leeds United career that has you taking out and polishing a few superlatives, safe in the knowledge they’ll be well-used over the course of this season – if the giant Swedish international can maintain the form he’s shown so far. Jansson has brought a hitherto unknown solidity to the United back line these past couple of games, helped in no small part, it must be said, by the efforts of Kyle Bartley alongside him. But today, at Cardiff City, Jansson was the stand-out performer by a country mile, with headed clearances, last-ditch tackles, interceptions – you name it, Pontus accomplished it with consummate skill, utter commitment and precious little regard for his own safety.

A presence such as Jansson’s in defence will gradually spread confidence throughout the whole team, that growing assurance of any ball heading towards our area being summarily dealt with. It’s the sort of security that can and will reap its rewards further forward – a tighter defence will, ultimately, give the midfield less to worry about behind them, enabling a more positive influence in attack. Pontus Jansson, in a very real sense, is the foundation upon which the rest of Leeds United’s play can be built.

Cardiff started out in resolute fashion after a dismal midweek defeat at Preston. Early on, they looked determined to exorcise that ghost, at the expense of a Leeds side fresh from a narrow victory over lowly Blackburn. But, as the game wore on, and despite various alarms arising out of the odd goalmouth scramble with Rob Green still looking less than settled, it became clear that, wherever Cardiff put the ball in and around Leeds’ defensive third, there would be Jansson to clear it. When he wasn’t clearing it, he was nipping in to steal possession, or sliding in to cut out possible half-chances. He was like a magnet for the ball – and you could see the Cardiff players wondering what they’d have to do to carve out anything approaching a clear cut chance, with this colossus marshaling things for the Whites.

So, as the story continued of Cardiff pressure being rebuffed by determined United resistance, the tide slowly turned. When Leeds were denied a penalty for holding in the area, manager Garry Monk was outraged – but, within a minute, a similar offence was punished with a spot-kick, calmly converted by Chris Wood. And then the pattern resumed of Cardiff banging their collective head hopelessly against the brick wall that is Pontus Jansson. The more they hammered it forward, the more he headed it away, and his proclamation as the latest Leeds legend is surely only a matter of time. Cardiff City, for sure, will be sick of the sight of him. It was difficult to argue with the impression that the Bluebirds could have pecked away at Leeds until the White Cliffs of Dover crumbled into the sea – and still, they wouldn’t have scored. When Pablo Hernandez, once more somewhat peripheral to the action, applied a truly world-class coup de grâce, bending a fine shot in off the far post, it was no more than a merciful release for the home side, put out of their misery at last.

It was that kind of day for Leeds United, one that could have gone against them had they not found a reliable hero to repel all attacks. Pontus Jansson was that man and he was just in that kind of mood where he wasn’t going to be beaten. It was an attitude that, in due course, inspired the whole team to raise their performance levels. Long may that continue, and may our Pontus have many, many more such days in the famous white shirt. He really does seem to be the real deal, with an attitude redolent of Elland Road‘s great days. He also seems to be an engaging sort of guy who “gets” what Leeds United is all about. A swift perusal of his post-match tweets is ample confirmation of that.

A Leeds United hero? It does seem quite possible. We’ll just have to hope that, if and when he pens a permanent deal, it isn’t the ruination of him as it has been for various of his predecessors. But that’s to be needlessly pessimistic. A 2-0 win at Cardiff, giving us back-to-back victories, should be cause for looking on the bright side. And with that in mind, this blog is ready to hail Pontus Jansson as the latest entry in the Leeds United pantheon of legends.  Well played, son – now, keep it up.