In the first edition of his weekly column, Tom takes a look at the happenings at Leeds United, his local team.
The Whites found themselves on the end of a defeat to fellow play-off rivals Reading at the Madejski over the weekend, which was followed by a dismal 2-0 loss at Brentford last night, making it only the second back to back defeats of the season for the club.
They were performances that won’t inspire confidence that Garry Monk’s men can finally end the club’s near decade and a half wait for Premier League football.
The build up to the Reading game was memorable if only for the jibes directed towards Leeds from manager, Jaap Stam, and striker, Yann Kermorgant. If it was a ploy aimed at disrupting Leeds, then it worked. Stam said Monk’s tactics weren’t his ‘cup of tea’, and after Saturday’s performance, the feeling is probably mutual.
Leeds looked uncharacteristically under-cooked, and some sloppy defending was punished by chief winder-upper Kermorgant, who during the week claimed Leeds lacked a ‘plan B’. He rifled the ball into the top corner to score the winner on 21 minutes. Leeds looked devoid of ideas as they chased the rest of the game.
Sweden international Pontus Jansson has been a talismanic figure at the club this season and a rock in central defence but his future at the club is in doubt after he was mysteriously left out of the squad against Reading.
Garry Monk was coy and pointed towards a tight hamstring, but with rumblings of interest from Premier League outfit Southampton, Leeds United fans are naturally paranoid when it comes to keeping hold of their star players.
To compound the shortcomings at the back, centre-back Liam Cooper has been charged for stamping on Reading’s Reece Oxford. So whether Jansson was missing from the side due to injury or something more sinister, Monk was forced to bring him back into the fold at Brentford due to the sheer paucity of options at the back. Has the damage been done though? The partnership of Kyle Bartley and Jannson, which has arguably been the most successful in the Championship this season, looked leaky last night.
The F.A. statement on Cooper’s stamp will make grim reading for the Leeds boss. It reads: “The player was involved in an incident in or around the 74th minute which was not seen by the match officials at the time but caught on video. “Furthermore, the FA has submitted a claim that the standard punishment that would otherwise apply for the misconduct committed by the Leeds defender is ‘clearly insufficient’.”
Today he received a hefty six match ban. Part joking, the familiar murmurings of an FA conspiracy against the club have been floated on social media.
Good news came this week in the form of a Championship Player of the Month nomination for Chris Wood. The New Zealand hitman has scored 24 goals in the league this season and has been nothing short of a revelation. After a so-so first season last year, where many fans had written him off as not being up to scratch in the Championship, his success has been one of the most pleasing aspects of a very impressive season on the whole for the club.
However, as it stands with just six fixtures of the season remaining, Leeds are playing as if they were between a rock and a hard place; automatic promotion now out of reach, and a minimum of sixth place close to being sealed. Monk will hope his team starts performing consistently again soon because he will be well aware that when it comes to the playoffs – it’s never the most out of form team that wins at Wembley.