After an electric start to the season, Leeds have gone off the boil in recent weeks. An early win against Sunderland and a 5-0 drubbing of Burton Albion had fans dreaming of a first return to the Premier League in 14 years. But a run of three straight losses, including last week’s damaging home defeat to Reading, has seen the Peacocks slip to 6th in the Championship table as they cling on to that last coveted playoff spot. Have Thomas Christiansen’s men got what it takes to reverse their poor form?
Summer of Change
It had been a tumultuous reign for Leeds owner Massimo Cellino. After three years and a whopping 7 managers, the businessman handed the reins over to fellow Italian Andrea Radrizzani, much to the delight of a fan base that had endured a fraught relationship with the trigger-happy Cellino. After the surprise resignation of manager Gary Monk, Radrizzani wasted no time in appointing former Apoel Nicosia coach Thomas Christiansen.
What followed was a summer of spending as the new director of football Victor Orta splashed the cash on no less than 16 players. The zippy Samuel Saiz, a product of Real Madrid’s youth system, turned heads with a flurry of promising early displays including a stunning Carabao Cup hat-trick against Port Vale. Meanwhile the permanent addition of centre-back Pontus Jansson, after a successful spell on loan from Torino, looked to bring defensive steel to Leeds’ backline.
Loss of Chris Wood
The cost of recruitment was eased by the departure of fan favourite Chris Wood. After bagging 27 league goals last season, Wood moved to Burnley in a £15 million deal. And while new signing Pierre-Michel Lasogga impressed with three goals in his first four Championship appearances, Wood’s golden boots would always be hard to fill.
Speedy winger Kemar Roofe has shared the burden with Saiz, both contributing six league goals, while academy graduate Kalvin Philips has chipped in with four. But with just one goal in their last three matches, fans will need to think carefully when placing a bet at 888sport as Leeds will need their frontmen to be at their best for Saturday’s meeting with high flying Bristol City.
While goals have been hard to come by, it’s Leeds’ defence that is worrying fans most. Jansson’s performances last year earned him a spot in the Championship Team of the Season, but recent performances have been well below the Swede’s high standards. He’s won fewer aerial duels compared to last season and is showing less of his trademark brutality with not one booking to his name so far this term.
Injuries haven’t helped. Knocks to key personnel have seen Christiansen tinker with four centre-back pairings this season. Without the dependable partnership of Jansson and the departed Kyle Bartley, Leeds’ back four have looked suspect at points. However, the improved form of Liam Cooper should give fans some encouragement. If Christiansen can get the 26-year-old playing alongside Jansson more consistently, we might just see a return to the form that helped his side keep six clean sheets in their first seven games.
After Bristol on Saturday, the Peacocks face two tasty home games against Sheffield United and struggling Derby County. With Elland Road still behind him, Christiansen will be expecting his side to step up to the plate.