Leeds United: Jansson at heart of an ‘awesome foursome’

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LEEDS United’s improvement since the arrival of Pontus Jansson is well documented.

A side sitting second-bottom in August now find themselves in the division’s play-offs.

Pontus Jansson celebrates his goal at Norwich.

Pontus Jansson celebrates his goal at Norwich.

Five clean sheets from the last nine league games has been key to that progress, with United’s defence now a different beast with the addition of six-foot-five Jansson.

But ‘it takes two to tango’ where a central defensive pair is concerned – with Jansson indebted to ‘partner-in-crime’ Kyle Bartley and beaming: “I am good for him and he is good for me.”

Fellow defensive colleagues Luke Ayling and Charlie Taylor have also impressed the Swede, who says United’s improved defensive showings are also down to the stellar efforts of United’s men in midfield and even up front.

Swedish international Jansson has helped transform United’s fortunes since arriving on a season-long loan from Torino and the 25-year-old again excelled in Saturday’s 3-2 success at Norwich City.

The six-foot-five defender even shone offensively with the former Malmo player heading home a 57th-minute Pablo Hernandez corner to register the first goal of his Leeds career in his 12th outing.

Leeds have the option to purchase the Swede in January once he has played 20 games, but the Whites are unlikely to be the only club interested in securing his services on a long-term deal.

Jansson has already expressed his desire to sign a permanent contract.

And sitting alongside the Swede is another loan star in Bartley, whose impact may have been less heralded than the Swede’s but whose presence has been no less important.

Bartley – on a season-long loan from Swansea City – has started United’s last 11 league games alongside Jansson in defence, and Jansson admitted: “We have a good partnership.

“He is really good for me and I think that I am good for him.

“He’s strong and we are actually quite similar players – he is also good with the ball, he’s big but also fast. He’s a really good player.

“But also Luke and Chaz are players that we have to talk about and when we talk about the defence I think we have to talk about the whole team.

“It is not only our four at the back. It is also the midfielders and the strikers; they run a lot to make it easier for us.”

United had one of the division’s favourites for promotion on the run at Carrow Road on Saturday as a 3-2 victory sent Leeds sixth in the table and only one point and one place below the Canaries.

The game will sit long in the memory of Jansson, who launched himself into the away end in celebration of his goal, typical of the Swede’s passion, commitment and desire.

They are attributes that have led to United’s faithful creating a chant about how the defender is capable of heading bricks – and also how the Swede wears a magic hat.

“I was searching for a hat in the stands to put one on but I didn’t find one!” laughed Jansson.

“Celebrating the goal was crazy. The fans mean so much to me – it’s part of the football so it was a special feeling.

“And then they had to let me back to the pitch because they were holding me! It was a special feeling.”

The celebration did, however, earn Jansson a booking – his fourth of the season – and a fifth before the end of November will mean a one-game ban.

“That was stupid,” admitted Jansson, rueful of picking up a fourth caution of the season on Saturday. “But I heard that after some games they cancel out so I have to be calm against Newcastle. But that’s not easy!”

Defending, though, is something that Jansson is making look easy.

Yet even basking in the aftermath of a fine victory at Carrow Road, United’s Torino loanee admitted he was disappointed that United leaked in two goals – the first time Leeds have conceded two in a league game with Jansson in the team.

Norwich looked on course for victory when an unmarked Robbie Brady – who is only five-foot-nine – headed home Alex Pritchard’s 24th-minute corner.

Jansson’s header then levelled matters three minutes before the hour.

But after Chris Wood’s 74th-minute strike had put Leeds 2-1 up, United looked to have thrown away a potential victory when Kyle Lafferty fired home two minutes from time with Pablo Hernandez on the ground injured.

Thankfully for United, Ronaldo Vieira had the last laugh when blasting in a brilliant 91st-minute winner from 25 yards. But, for Jansson, the concession of two goals still grates.

“Their first one was a corner and I didn’t know what happened,” admitted Janssson.

“Someone lost their match with a small guy who is like 1.50m so that’s not good!

“And the second goal – I thought it was offside and I saw that Pablo Hernandez was laying down.

“There was not so much we could have done with the second but definitely the first.

“But overall we played really good football – the football that we believe in – to play from the back and with all of the players involved in our play.”

Few have been more involved than Jansson, whose attention now turns to international duty with Sweden and then United’s Elland-Road clash with Newcastle United – a game for which tickets have already sold out.

Elland Road is preparing for its first full house in six years – and some key members of Jansson’s family will be in the crowd.

“The Newcastle game is going to be fantastic,” said the defender.

“My family is coming over, my friends, my brothers and my wife. My wife is already here but my brothers and friends are coming over. But now I have to focus on the international team and I can focus on the Newcastle game when I come back.

“It’s going to be fantastic.”

Just so long as someone in the crowd brings Pontus Jansson his magic hat.