AFTER seeing Leeds United return to winning ways with an impressive 3-0 success at Bristol City, Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points from Saturday’s triumph at Ashton Gate.
United’s new-look midfield and why Ronaldo Vieira must start
The need for an improved physical presence in United’s centre midfield was obvious and the introduction of teenage star Ronaldo Vieira worked the oracle at Ashton Gate, especially with Kalvin Phillips playing the no 10 role.
With the tough-tackling Phillips also tracking back to help out Vieira and fellow centre-midfielder Eunan O’Kane, United dominated the midfield battle against City, allowing Samu Saiz and Gjanni Alioski to make hay out wide with Saiz particularly menacing, especially in the first half.
Saiz might be recognised as a more natural no 10 than a winger but the Spaniard excelled on the left wing at Ashton Gate and should have scored a hat-trick.
In short, keeping Phillips to the new no 10 role ahead of O’Kane and Vieira and using Saiz as a winger looks the way to go.
Alioski also had a decent game on the opposite flank and on Saturday’s evidence should also be keeping his place in the side.
Vieira, meanwhile, many people’s idea of Saturday’s star of the show, must surely now be a guaranteed starter assuming there are no recurrences of his knee troubles.
When and how will Pontus Jansson get back in?
Whites head coach Thomas Christiansen caused another surprise on Saturday by dropping Jansson to the bench and opting to start Everton loanee Matthew Pennington alongside captain Liam Cooper at the heart of the defence.
A big call by the Dane but his decision was justified with United’s defence keeping a clean sheet at Ashton Gate.
Jansson had admitted in the run up to Saturday’s game in Bristol that his recent performances had been “sh*t” but few expected the powerful Swede to be dropped.
But after the displays of Cooper and Pennington, Jansson now faces a battle to win his place back in the side as it would be harsh to drop either Cooper or Pennington following their displays at Ashton Gate.
Likewise, former first choice ‘keeper Felix Wiedwald also faces a real task to shift new no 1 Andy Lonergan from the side after Lonergan produced another solid display on his second start in a row.
Gaetano Berardi’s headbutt
Impossible to have a post-Bristol City talking points without mentioning Berardi’s headbutt which earned the full back the fourth red card of his time with Leeds which has now taking in 90 games.
No nonsense hard-man Berardi is absolutely adored by his club’s fans and there was a deep irony about the 29-year-old getting sent off for headbutting Matty Taylor a matter of hours before performing the ring walk for Leeds fighter Josh Warrington’s bout against Dennis Ceylan at First Direct Arena.
Better still, City boss Lee Johnson had said before Saturday’s clash with Leeds that his Robins were yet to suffer a bloody nose in the new Championship campaign, such had been the effectiveness of their fine start.
Berardi changed that, quite literally.
It was no surprise the defender reacted to Taylor who angrily confronted him directly in his face after a challenge but ultimately Berardi will now find himself facing a three-game ban which he and Leeds could have done without.
That will likely bring Vurnon Anita into the left back role and if Anita performs well in Berardi’s absence then Berardi, like Jansson and Wiedwald, could face a different battle but this time to win his place back in the side.