GARRY MONK believes that meticulous training-ground attention to detail will serve Leeds United well for every eventuality between now and season’s end.
While several individuals may have lit up United’s head-turning charge up the Championship table – and subsequent consolidation – of a top-six position, the club’s unquenchable team ethic and organisation have been the outstanding factors which have ultimately shone through.
That was reinforced by events last time out in United’s superb televised victory and performance against Derby County, on a night when they were without influential defender Pontus Jansson and Luke Ayling moved into the centre of defence, with Lewie Coyle making a rare league start.
Head coach Monk is confident that Leeds will take other inevitable pieces of selection disruption firmly in their stride between now and May, with the fastidious and pain-staking work done with players at Thorp Arch over a number of months enabling them to cope with every eventuality in his view, with all players fully knowing their roles within the team structure.
Monk, whose side visit Barnsley later today and will again be without Jansson, who serves the second game of a two-match ban, said: “I do not think that (team disruption) it is something that ideally, you want to have to try and cope with. But you know as a manager and players know that there will be situations through a season when you have to face these type of situations.
“The key is preparation and to prepare the players, which we have been doing from the start of the season. What you see now is the work we have started to put in from day one in pre-season all the way through the rest of this season up to this point.
“We have tried to get on top of it and it is why I trust all my players. They are clear in what they have to deliver. The key is whether they can deliver the performance. It will never be a factor of they didn’t know what they were doing or didn’t know what they were supposed to be doing. It would be a factor of whether they could reach a performance level good enough to contribute in that position.
“At this moment, they are doing that.
“But I still believe there is more to come from all of them. They have to keep working in that way.”
United’s preparedness and organisation is never better exemplified than in their resounding defensive statistics so far in 2016-17, with their goals against tally of 24 being the joint fourth best in the Championship along with Sheffield Wednesday, with only the top two of Newcastle United and Brighton and Derby boasting better figures.
Leeds have registered 10 league clean sheets already this term, two more than last season and level with the number that they posted in 2013-14, 2012-13 and 2011-12.
United’s highest number of league shut-outs since returning to the second-tier is 13 – in 2014-15 – and they look likely to comfortably surpass that figure, with the hard yards in training since the start of pre-season again bearing fruit.
Monk added: “I focus on defence and offence, 50-50. But of course, when you first come to a club, the key is to build a foundation and that is defensively to have a clear idea and responsibility for the players and clear way of working in that situation.
“That is your foundation and on top of that, you move onto the offensive side of it which we work on, on a regular basis.
“But we keep a balance. I am very pleased with how the group and defending and attacking.
“Attacking is probably the hardest thing to constantly get right.
“But we are trying to improve the players in both areas.
“Having a clean sheet and foundation to build off is a key to all the successful teams you see through history, barring a few.”