Garry Monk said Leeds United were ready to fight fire with fire at Nottingham Forest on Saturday as he praised his players for responding quickly to his recent attack on their “softness”.
Monk spoke out to criticise the mentality of his squad after a 2-1 defeat to Birmingham City a fortnight ago but Leeds will attempt to exit August with seven points from five matches by beating high-scoring Forest. The Nottingham club fought out 4-3 victories in both of their opening two league games at the City Ground, beating Burton Albion on the first day of the season and inflicting the same scoreline on Wigan Athletic last weekend, and Monk warned his defence to expect a close examination from Philippe Montanier’s side.
United’s head coach, however, said he wanted Leeds to “put our own game on the pitch” against a team whose flurry of goals has been countered by a flood of concessions at the back. Montanier, a manager who coached in France and Spain before coming to Forest last month, watched his team lose back-to-back away matches at Brighton and Brentford in between their eventful home wins.
Leeds, meanwhile, are aiming for a third straight win after beating Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday and coming through a League Cup second-round tie at Luton Town on Tuesday.
Monk, who could recall 11 players after mass changes against Luton, said: “We have to respect the fact that Forest are a good side with a very good manager. They’ve got good attacking options and they’re very dangerous.
“At home they’ll be expected to take the game to us and attack so we have to be ready defensively but we have to put our own game on the pitch. You’ve seen offensively what we can do and my job is about doing what we need to do first – impose ourselves on the opposition.
“We’ve had two clean sheets in the last two games. Albeit on Tuesday, Luton had a couple of chances they could have scored from late on but we deserved that. You don’t rely on luck. Hard work is where you get luck from.”
Leeds were on the verge of losing their first three Championship fixtures until striker Chris Wood produced an injury-time equaliser against Fulham last week and the club followed up that 1-1 draw with an impressive 2-0 win at Hillsborough.
The clash with Fulham followed a loss to Birmingham which provoked outspoken criticism from Monk. The United boss hit out at what he called “unacceptable softness” within his squad.
“In the past, the club have been criticised for having that,” Monk said. “At Swansea we were criticised for having a softness too - having good football but having a softness. To a certain point I agreed with that and when I came in (as manager at Swansea) I tried to add some toughness.
“I think I did that well, as well as having good football and attacking football. It’s part of my character and part of how I want my teams to be. You’ve seen an improvement in that area here.
“For my liking, we’re still not quite there but when you strive for perfection, you’ll reach higher levels than we’re at right now.”
Monk said he was anxious to head into the season’s first international break with the confidence of another victory behind his side but said he would not use United’s haul of points to gauge their performance in the first month.
“If we finish this run with a win or a good result then we take confidence from that,” he said. “But I’m not judging it like that.
“I’ve not got a points tally that we have to get each month or a total. Some managers do that but I don’t. I just focus on each game. The only thing I’ll be satisfied by is us putting 100 per cent into this game.”