Head coach Thomas Christiansen welcomed the target of a top-six finish set by Leeds United’s owner and insisted he was ready for the pressure of the “most competitive league in the world” ahead of the start of the club’s Championship season.
Christiansen, who takes charge of his first competitive game at Bolton Wanderers tomorrow, said he was happy with the expectation surrounding him at Elland Road and shared the club’s ambition of securing a play-off place following a narrow miss in the Championship last term.
Leeds finished seventh under Christiansen’s predecessor, Garry Monk, but chairman Andrea Radrizzani, who secured a full takeover of United in May, laid out his demands for the nine months ahead this week by saying: “At the end, our target is the play-offs.”
Christiansen – a surprise choice as head coach after Monk resigned from the job – is new to English football but said his knowledge of the Championship had left him confident that Leeds, who have already signed nine players this summer, would be one of more than 12 clubs with a chance of making the top six.
“I believe that if you’re ambitious, you want to do better,” he said. “It’s the signal I want to give to the team – that we have to do better.
“Last year we finished seventh so to be in the play-offs would be good. After that we’ll see if we can bring something more. We can put a lot of
pressure on ourselves and I like pressure, that’s not a problem. For the people around who say ‘it has to be like this’ (a top-six finish) I will do my best to prepare everyone for it.
“But we know which league we’re in. This is probably the most competitive league in the world. We have 12 or 14 teams who can end up in the top six. Here, anything is possible. In other leagues it is not. It’s what makes this league special.
“Everything is new for the club and for me but the way the club is handling the situation, they are ambitious and they want to achieve things in a short future.”
Centre-back Pontus Jansson will be the only player missing at newly-promoted Bolton tomorrow as he serves out the final two games of a three-match ban imposed on him in April.
Leeds have been active in the transfer market and look set to take their signings into double figures with a deal to sign young Manchester United left-back Cameron Borthwick-Jackson on loan.
Christiansen declared himself satisfied with his squad and set his first goal as avoiding the weak start which left United with only four points after six league games under Monk last season.
“I have an idea of what I can expect from the league and with that, my conclusion is that I should be happy with what I have now (in his squad) to compete,” Christiansen said. “But you can never be sure. Last year it was not a good start to the season. We hope to change that.”
Tomorrow’s fixture, which is being televised live by Sky Sports, handed Christiansen’s side a meeting with the club who finished second in League One last term.
“It will be a very difficult game,” Christiansen said. “They have their first game at home and will want a good performance. We know what we can expect there and what we have to deliver if we want to win.”