AFTER seeing Leeds United impress during Saturday’s 2-0 success at Sheffield Wednesday, Lee Sobot looks at a few key talking points arising from the derby day triumph at Hillsborough.
How high can Leeds finish under Garry Monk?
One swallow does not make a summer and even in light of Saturday’s superb victory, Leeds United are still only 19th in the table and only outside of the dropzone on goal difference.
But no team has picked up four wins out of four, with Huddersfield Town top on ten points and four teams - Brighton, Wolves, Norwich City and Fulham - second to fifth respectively on eight points.
With QPR next on six points, it means United are only two points off the play-offs despite their disappointing start to the campaign which yielded just one point out of a possible nine.
Monk is reluctant to set precise targets - insisting his primary focus is on seeing his Whites team improve on a weekly basis but there is no denying that the Hillsborough success was very pleasing on the eye.
Wednesday may have been disappointing but they are still seventh favourites to win the actual division and United should have little to fear if replicating their weekend performance on a weekly basis. There is no reason why they won’t and if Monk is given the time he deserves then, as far as the top six goes, there is no reason why Leeds should not dare to dream, especially if the club can further strengthen before the close of the summer transfer window.
What are new signing Pontus Jansson’s prospects at Leeds?
Centre-back Jansson arrived on loan from Torino last week with a decent reputation and Monk admitted the defender was fully in contention to play a part in Saturday’s derby at Hillsborough. But the head coach kept the faith with Liam Cooper and Kyle Bartley at centre-back and the duo helped United produce their best defensive performance in ages and ultimately a clean sheet. Swedish international Jansson, meanwhile, failed to make the bench with club captain Sol Bamba named as the replacement centre-back option among the substitutes.
After Saturday’s display, there is no reason at all for Monk to shuffle his defensive line up and it would be a major surprise should the head coach not name an unchanged line up for the club’s next Championship game at Nottingham Forest on Saturday. Perhaps Tuesday night’s EFL Cup clash at Luton Town will offer Jansson an opportunity and whenever his first outing presents itself he will need to grasp the opportunity with both hands. It will also be interesting to see how Pablo Hernandez fares in his next outing after being dropped to the bench on Saturday. He has looked a class act at times but the shape and balance of United’s midfield/front six looked excellent on Saturday.
Is Souleymane Doukara back in the fray?
Monk has already confirmed that players who are struggling to make United’s match day squad will likely be heading out of Elland Road and Doukara began the season out of the picture and failed to make the bench for United’s first three games, against QPR, Fleetwood and Birmingham City. But an appearance among the substitutes for the mid-week draw against Fulham indicated that he was still in Monk’s thinking and the striker was then introduced in the 69th minute at Hillsborough - and did rather well. There’s a general feeling that if United need to bring in one more key player before the summer transfer window closes then - unless it’s a left back replacement for Charlie Taylor - it really ought to be a striker. After all, before Doukara’s return to prominence, Chris Wood, Antonsson and Hadi Sacko looked like Monk’s only three real options. But perhaps Doukara still has a long term future at Leeds and he too is another player likely to get another chance at Luton Town.
How good is Hadi Sacko?
This is quite an obvious point and one that needs little explaining but it would be impossible to reflect on Saturday’s success without highlighting Sacko who was most people’s idea of man of the match.
The winger terrorised Wednesday’s back line, showing pace, trickery and endeavour throughout and he will become an even better player if showing a bit more composure at times. Sacko, on loan from Sporting Lisbon, is still only 22 and he could become a seriously important player for Leeds if continuing to progress. At this rate, it’s a battle between Alex Mowatt, Kemar Roofe and Stuart Dallas for a spot on the other flank and Leeds suddenly look like they have a little bit of strength in depth.
At right back, Luke Ayling is also continuing to look like a gem of a signing while the influence of Liam Bridcutt undoubtedly brought out the best in Ronaldo Vieira, who, it should not be forgotten, is still only 18 years old and will not turn 19 until next July.
With Chris Wood also knuckling down and starting to produce the goods upfront, things are definitely looking up.