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Leeds United: Christiansen’s future and time for a ‘Plan F’ in defence - Talking Points

WORRYING: Leeds United centre-back Pontus Jansson is stretchered off. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
WORRYING: Leeds United centre-back Pontus Jansson is stretchered off. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.
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AFTER seeing Leeds United fall to a fifth defeat from their last seven games, Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points from Saturday’s extremely disappointing 4-1 loss at home to Cardiff City.

Will Andrea Radrizzani keep the faith with Thomas Christiansen?

Unquestionably the biggest talking point arising from Saturday’s latest defeat concerns the future of United’s head coach.

Unlike his predecessor Massimo Cellino, Whites chairman Andrea Radrizzani is known to favour a more patient approach and the Italian is to be commended for taking that view.

It should also be remembered that Christiansen is without a whole host of players through injury and suspension.

But the sides selected over United’s last six league games should have been capable of far better than a measly return of two points out of a last possible 18 which leaves United seven points off the play-offs.

An honest Christiansen readily admitted in his post-match press conference that his job was dependent on results and said of Radrizzani and director of football Victor Orta: “If it’s their decision that they want to find somebody better then I cannot do anything about that.”

Interestingly, and perhaps tellingly, Whites managing director Angus Kinnear had said in Saturday’s programme notes that “we still firmly believe (the squad) is strong enough to secure a play-off place”.

Not everyone shares that view.

But even though the suspensions and injuries are clearly making life difficult, United can ill afford to drop any further off the pace and it is always a bad sign when the crowd turn on a head coach, as was the case when Christiansen took off Pierre-Michel Lasogga in the second half, a change greeted by chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Christiansen basically argued that he made the change as he wanted to use Roofe’s pace upfront.

It is up to Radrizzani what Leeds do next and the fact that Steve McClaren was in the stands has naturally got tongues wagging.

Opinion seems divided on whether Radrizzani should stick of twist.

Gaetano Berardi’s red card

Leeds have now picked up a staggering four red cards in their last five games and unfortunately Berardi can have few complaints about his dismissal for two bookings.

Both late challenges appeared to merit yellow cards and while Christiansen says he has continually spoken to his squad about the importance of discipline, the spate of red cards is continuing.

Christiansen is correct in saying that whatever he says, it is a player themselves who then makes those challenges and decisions but whatever way you look at it, the club’s disciplinary record is not acceptable and Berardi will now face a two-game ban, missing crucial games at Sheffield United and against Bristol City at Elland Road.

With Liam Cooper still suspended for those games and Pontus Jansson very likely injured for them, not to mention Luke Ayling and Conor Shaughessy also injured, Berardi would have been the pick to partner Matthew Pennington at centre-back assuming Leeds lined up with four at the back.

Now United will need a plan F which could well involve Adam Forshaw at centre-back, or even three at the back.

Pontus Jansson’s injury

Jansson was stretchered off in the first half after a challenge by Sol Bamba of all people and the instant impression was that the Swede’s injury did not look good.

It is rare for Christiansen to say immediately after a game following an injury that a player will definitely miss the next one but the Dane confirmed straight away that Jansson would miss next Saturday’s clash at Bramall Lane and that the Swede had taken an injury to his ankle.

Jansson is clearly essential to United’s cause and it is only hoped that his injury is not as serious as feared.

Leeds already have one key player out for the season with an ankle injury in Ayling and they need another like a hole in the head.

Time for a change out wide?

Christiansen’s team in his favoured 4-2-3-1 system more or less picked itself on Saturday given the injuries and suspensions but the two slots out wide looked the main ones up for grabs.

As it was, Christiansen opted to play natural no 10 Pablo Hernandez on the left wing with Roofe and Alioski keeping their places in the side with Alioski on the right and Roofe at no 10.

That meant Stuart Dallas again staying on the bench with Hadi Sacko the other wing option among the substitutes with Pawel Cibicki strangely absent.

But Roofe and Alioski again fell short of the standard required and in any case surely Hernandez should be playing at no 10 in the continued absence of Samu Saiz who is still banned for the next two games.

Dallas is the obvious shout regards a change on the wing yet unless Christiansen opts to play Vurnon Anita there, the versatile Northern Ireland international will probably find himself playing at right back at Bramall Lane given that Berardi is banned leaving Sacko and Cibicki as the other alternatives for the wing slots, assuming Hernandez reverts to playing at no 10.

Unless, of course, United change their formation altogether and there are plenty of shouts for Leeds to line up with three at the back.

Leeds will at least have Kalvin Phillips and Eunan O’Kane back from their bans and assuming Forshaw plays at centre back, at least one of that duo will come into centre midfield.

It is also hoped that deadline day striker Tyler Roberts will be ready to make his debut.