GARRY Monk has faith in Leeds United’s defence in the absence of Pontus Jansson –hailing a “natural successor” in Liam Cooper who will partner Kyle Bartley at centre-back at Rotherham United.
Six-foot-five Swedish international Jansson has been a revelation since arriving on a season-long loan from Torino but the 25-year-old is suspended for Saturday’s Championship clash in South Yorkshire.
Jansson picked up a fifth booking of the season before the end of November cut off point in Sunday’s 2-0 loss at home to Newcastle United and Leeds now face their first league game without the Swede since August’s 3-1 loss at Nottingham Forest.
With Jansson partnering Bartley at centre back, United have lost only four league games from their next 12 since with all but one of those defeats coming via a single goal and Leeds keeping four clean sheets in those games.
But Monk has again hailed the ability to call upon “three really good top centre-backs” as United prepare for Saturday’s trip to bottom of the table Rotherham who are eight points adrift at the foot of the league.
“Coops is obviously the natural successor there so we have been working this week,” said Monk.
“Pontus is out for a game and it’s disappointing with that situation but this is football.
“It happens – and you have to be ready for it which we are – we try to prepare as best as possible for all sorts of situations.
“And the key is that the players know what is expected of them so they go out there with the confidence to put that on the pitch.
“I have said it before, I have got three really good top centre- backs, especially for this level.
“That’s good for me and it’s good for them in terms of the competition and how competitive it is.
“The good thing with the group is that they support each other.
“Of course it’s always difficult when you are not playing as many games and there’s frustration which is normal – that’s what you want to see.
“But in terms of attitude and application to what we are doing, Liam is doing that to a good level – all the group are doing that to a good level.
“We understand that we are all in it together and that they are all going to play their part this season which they have already and that it’s a team effort.
“It’s a squad effort and that’s the environment that we have tried to create here.”
Jansson’s fifth booking of the season came just two games short of the end of November cut off date and the Swede’s last two cautions were both dubious but also avoidable.
The centre-back was booked for jumping into the Leeds away end when celebrating his first goal in a Whites shirt in the win at Norwich and the defender was then cautioned for protesting to referee Graham Scott in last weekend’s 2-0 loss at home to Newcastle when the official failed to award Leeds a penalty for handball.
“It’s not rocket science and of course you want to try and avoid silly cheap bookings as much as possible,” said Monk.
“Pontus knows that as well as anyone – he’s experienced and I’m sure that we won’t be making those mistakes again.
“But there’s no big problem.
“It’s not an ideal situation picking up cheap yellows –from anyone – and we talk about that as well as part of what we need.
“But unfortunately football is an emotional game and it can happen.
“What we have to do is be ready to deal with any situation or any scenario which we are so we go into this game just focused on that rather than anything else.”