THOMAS CHRISTIANSEN insisted that Leeds United have the quality needed to involve themselves in the fight for automatic promotion despite falling further adrift of the Championship’s top two after a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield United.
The Leeds head coach warned before Friday’s Yorkshire derby at Elland Road that his side could not afford to slip seven points behind the Blades, whose 2-1 win took them to the top of the table, but he reacted to the result by saying the season is “at an early stage” and denying that the margin to the top two is a concern.
Christiansen and United owner Andrea Radrizzani set a top-six finish as the club’s target when the former was appointed as head coach in June and tasked with the job of improving on seventh place under Garry Monk last season.
Christiansen was vocal in his criticism of his players after Friday’s defeat – a fifth in seven league games – and accused them of lacking focus but he played down their worsening position in the Championship.
United lie fifth in the table after 14 matches, six points off second place.
“It’s at an early stage,” Christiansen said. “We’ve played only 14 games. There’s a lot still to come.
“If you take these five defeats away you can also say how many wins we had before that but we cannot be happy with the situation and we have to find a way to come back. We will work hard on that.”
Leeds have a quick opportunity to address Friday’s defeat when they host Derby County at Elland Road tomorrow.
Derby climbed to seventh on Saturday, a point behind Leeds, after a win at Norwich City.
Christiansen’s captain, Liam Cooper, limped out the defeat to Sheffield United with a dead leg in the second half while midfielder Kalvin Phillips will serve a one-match ban tomorrow after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season for a foul on Sheffield United right-back George Baldock.
Left-back Gaetano Berardi, meanwhile, has one game of his three-match suspension remaining.
Christiansen was frustrated by Leeds’ failure to implement his plan against Sheffield United.
He said: “Their formation they played was exactly what we thought and we worked on that – where the spaces were, where to attack, what to do.
“That is my problem, that we didn’t do it and we didn’t play with patience.
“There will be time enough to analyse the game before the next one, and it’s good it’s on Tuesday.”