Gaetano Berardi has given a frank appraisal of his suitability for the left-back role at Leeds United, admitting the club “need a better player than me” but vowing to continue in the position for as long as Thomas Christiansen asks.
The popular right-back acknowledged the issues on the left side of Christiansen’s defence this season after repeated attempts to find a regular starter in a role thrown open by Charlie Taylor’s transfer to Burnley in July.
Berardi played at left-back during the second half of last season after Taylor suffered an Achilles injury and the Switzerland international has operated there at previous stages of his career at Elland Road, but Taylor’s switch to Turf Moor created a gap which Christiansen has so far struggled to fill.
Vurnon Anita, another right-footed player, started the season as United’s first-choice left-back, but Berardi replaced him towards the end of September. Cameron Borthwick-Jackson – the only out-and-out left-back in Christiansen’s senior squad – has failed to make any impact since joining Leeds on a season-long loan from Manchester United. Leeds could look to the transfer market for another recognised option when the January window opens in two weeks’ time and Berardi held his hands up to the demands of playing out of his preferred role.
“It’s not my normal position but like every year I try to do my best – every week and every session,” Berardi said.
“I know probably this team needs a better player than me but I just want to play and do my best every Saturday.”
The imbalance on the left side of United’s line-up has been a point of weakness at stages of the Championship term but the club’s last six matches have yielded 13 points and they will climb into the division’s top six if they beat Hull City at Elland Road on Saturday
Berardi’s aggressive style has helped to enhance his reputation in Leeds but he played down the idea that United needed more players of that ilk, saying: “I try to be aggressive. I try to stay a little bit calmer through the week but I keep my aggression for the Saturday.
“Maybe some players have other qualities. They have to use them. I use my qualities to be aggressive, to be tough on the pitch. Maybe not everyone needs to be like me.”
A tight 1-0 win over Norwich City last weekend edged Leeds to within a point of sixth-placed Sheffield United and Leeds are gradually regaining the momentum which took them to the top of the Championship in September.
“Maybe we’re not playing so well like we were in the first games but after losing a lot of games we were looking for our confidence and our mentality,” Berardi said. “In the last few months we lost it. It was important to find it again.
“It’s good to be there [close to the top six] and it’s good to know that the other teams have, not to be scared of us, but to know we are a good team.
“We didn’t play so good against Norwich but it was important to win the game. We need to kick on in this way. It’s the right way to play the game, with the right mentality.”