Uwe Rosler set time aside for more conditioning work this week – the staple diet of squads who train under him – but the priority for Leeds United’s head coach was to prevent the spread of any complacency at Thorp Arch.
The 46-year-old looked forward to the first international break of the season and, having dealt with a fixture list which angered him last month, knew that his players would need a rest but a break in their campaign seemed less appealing after a 2-1 win at Derby County on Saturday.
Tom Adeyemi, the midfielder who scored in that victory, told the YEP that he’d have liked another flurry of games this week, even though he saw the value of time to recuperate. It is that sort of confidence which Rosler wants to nurture without allowing United to get ahead of themselves.
Leeds reached the international break with seven points from five games and an unbeaten record in the Championship.
Only four sides in the division are yet to lose a match, including early leaders Brighton.
Leeds sit a point behind sixth-placed Middlesbrough with the season due to resume at home to Brentford next weekend.
Rosler said that league position was “where we wanted to be” after a tricky first month in which Leeds played four times away from home but he warned that a good start can work “two ways”.
“It can make you complacent,” Rosler said, “and it’s my job to make sure we don’t get complacent. Or it can give you confidence.
“If we’d got a draw (at Derby) then I don’t know how people would have looked at our results but I think we’ve had a very good start to the season.
“Mentally after winning at a place like Derby I’d have liked to have kept that momentum going.
“But I’m really pleased that we’ve gone into a period where we can improve tactically and physically, so that we’re ready for the next run of games.
“From a coaching point of view, it gives you the chance to reinforce things. The last few weeks we’ve just been playing and resting and playing and resting.
“But our fitness is excellent and we’re having another block of conditioning this week. If our fitness wasn’t good, we wouldn’t be in the top 10. We wouldn’t have come through four games in nine days unbeaten.”
The majority of Rosler’s players are being given an extended weekend off, ahead of the start of their preparation for next Saturday’s clash with Brentford at Elland Road.
A few, however, are away on international duty and Stuart Dallas and Lewis Cook could be both play tonight after receiving call-ups last week.
Dallas is part of the Northern Ireland squad for European qualifiers against the Faroe Islands and Hungary and Cook was taken abroad with England’s Under-19s for fixtures against Germany and Croatia.
England’s youngsters meet Germany in Bergisch Gladbach this evening before flying to Zagreb for another friendly on Monday.
New signing Jordan Botaka – recruited from Dutch club Excelsior prior to Tuesday’s transfer deadline – has also been missing from Thorp Arch and will be involved in qualifying for the African Cup of Nations with Congo over the weekend.
Cook’s first season as a senior player at Leeds was ended early in March by an ankle injury sustained during an appearance for England’s Under-19s.
But speaking in an interview with the Football Association, the 18-year-old midfielder said: “It was great to get that call for the higher age group. I really enjoyed it and got a good game in.
“It’s a shame I got injured but it was good to mix in with the lads. I was glad I could experience a bit of that.”
Cook was the star of Leeds’ performance at Derby, returning from a three-match ban to run the midfield and help United to their first win of the season.
“Four draws and a win sounds a lot better than four draws and a loss so last Saturday was big for us,” Cook said. “We’ve started the season quite well.”
Rosler heaped praise onto Cook at the end of the game at Pride Park, saying: “He has dynamism and the ability to run at people, to be good one-against-one.
“He showed great decision-making – progress in the way he made the game quick when we needed him to do that.
“He stepped on the ball land kept on the ball. The boy has a very good future.”