SIX weeks have passed since Marcelo Bielsa and Pontus Jansson went their separate ways.
In head coach Bielsa’s eyes, Jansson was Leeds United’s best player during the 2018-19 Championship campaign but he was sold to Brentford after a breakdown in relationship between head coach and defender.
Come tonight’s Elland Road Championship showdown between the Whites and the Bees, Jansson will have the chance to show his former employers what they are missing; to prove a point perhaps.
Respectful Bielsa, though, says Jansson’s football under his tenure spoke for itself with the head coach hoping the Swede is granted the positive reception he deserves upon his return to Elland Road.
Jansson ended just short of three years at Leeds when sealing a surprise move to Brentford on July 8 for a fee in the region of £5.5m plus add ons.
A breakdown in relations led to the defender’s exit though Jansson then insisted that United’s need to comply with Financial Fair Play also played a big part in his departure.
Speaking about the Swede’s departure for the first time when facing the media before the Championship opener at Bristol City, Bielsa agreed. “You have to take care of the club,” admitted Leeds United’s head coach.
Just short of three weeks later, Bielsa, Leeds and Jansson will meet again with United already back on top of the division with new Brighton loanee centre-back Ben White having so far seamlessly stepped into Jansson’s big shoes.
Bielsa, though, says that the Swedish international’s contribution to Leeds cannot be forgotten with United’s head coach now focused on preventing the 28-year-old from excelling on his return to Elland Road.
“He deserves to be received with the right reception for him,” said Bielsa of Jansson.
“He was the best player of the team last season.
“I cannot talk about the previous years because I wasn’t working with him but he did a high level last season.
“I appreciate what he gave to the team.
“I think that the fans are going to be fair and they are going to recognise what Jansson did here for the club.”
Jansson was swiftly handed the captain’s armband upon his switch to the Bees with the centre-back having played every minute of all three of Brentford’s league games so far this term.
For the Swede, life at Griffin Park began with a 1-0 defeat at home to Birmingham City but a solitary Ollie Watkins strike then gave the Bees a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough.
Thomas Frank’s side then had to settle for a 1-1 draw at home to Hull City on Saturday as part of an end-to-end contest in which the Bees trailed to a fierce Jarrod Bowen strike before equalising 12 minutes from time through Watkins.
Again showing their usual attacking swagger, Brentford then squandered chances to bag a winner and Bielsa has plenty of respect for a team who are rated as fourth favourites to win the title, albeit at much longer odds behind market leaders Leeds, Fulham and West Brom.
Brentford lost the services of some big talents during the summer with Neal Maupay moving to Brighton, Ezri Konsa signing for Aston Villa and Romaine Sawyers switching to West Brom as well as keeper Daniel Bentley leaving for Bristol City.
Jansson, though, was one of several recruits alongside the likes of France under-20s winger Bryan Mbeumo from Troyes and midfielders Mathias Jensen and Christian Norgaard from Celta Vigo and Fiorentina respectively.
“I know we are only going to get better and better and better this season,” said Bees boss Thomas Frank.
“It’s up to me to do it as quick as possible.
“I think the second-half performance at Middlesbrough fills me with confidence, the first half against Birmingham fills me with confidence, and the last 25 minutes against Hull fills me with confidence ahead of the Leeds tie.”
There were nine ins and 10 outs over the summer at Brentford and Bielsa also expects progression from Frank’s side.
“First of all Brentford is a different team,” said Bielsa.
“They have a different future that you cannot link with other teams in the Championship.
“They sold some very good players and at the same time they bought very good players too.
“Then they need time to watch how they are working this new squad.”
Asked if the Bees would present the toughest test yet of United’s new look defence – a defence minus Jansson – Bielsa was in agreement.
“This is a good reference. You are right,” said Bielsa.
Watkins, Sergi Canos and Mbuemo look likely to lead that attacking charge – and Jansson – whose main task will be keeping Patrick Bamford quiet but who will also likely prove just as much of a threat offensively at set pieces
“We know Jansson’s strengths,” said Bielsa.
“The end idea is to try to avoid the things that he usually does well, but this is normal in football. This is the game.
“You have to try to avoid the strengths of the other teams during games because this is the key of the game.
“But you are not going to make a difference just because you know the player very well.”