THOMAS CHRISTIANSEN admitted that the discipline of senior players was letting him down but defended Leeds United’s decision not to sign a centre-back after a 4-1 defeat to Cardiff City cost him the services of two more players.
The United head coach voiced frustration with Gaetano Berardi’s dismissal after the full-back incurred a two-match ban for a first-half red card at Elland Road yesterday.
Berardi, who had already been booked for a foul on Gary Madine, lunged into a challenge on the Cardiff striker shortly before half-time, earning a second yellow card from referee Graham Scott.
The 29-year-old was the fourth United player to be sent off in five games, confounding Christiansen after a sustained effort by the Leeds boss to bring his squad’s disciplinary record under control.
Christiansen was already short of defensive resources and Leeds are anxiously assessing Pontus Jansson’s fitness after he was stretchered off with an ankle injury after 30 minutes of yesterday’s loss.
Leeds had fallen 2-0 behind by the time Berardi felled Madine with a tackle 35 yards from United’s goal. Both the Switzerland international and club captain Liam Cooper have been dismissed twice this season, accounting for four of the six red cards shown to United players.
Christiansen said: “I’m responsible for the team so I will gladly take my responsibilities but it’s difficult to show them how not to take a red card.
“I cannot be in their minds in the moment that they go to the ground and we are talking about players with experience.
“It’s not a young player from the Under-23s who you can say ‘he hasn’t been in this business so long so he doesn’t know what he’s doing’.
“We’re speaking about experienced players and with Berra this is his second red card this season, Liam has two red cards this season, and so on.
“It’s a problem we’re having lately and it’s difficult to deal with. When we speak about the emotions and the passion that Berra puts into the game, we know that all the tackles he goes into 100 per cent but we need to be intelligent.
“It’s a situation where he already had one yellow card and when you go to the ground it must be because you are 100 per cent sure to take the ball.”
Cooper was banned for four games after being sent off in Leeds’ 4-3 defeat to Millwall on January 20 and while midfielders Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips have completed three and two-match bans respectively, Berardi, Cooper and Samuel Saiz are all suspended until Leeds play Derby County on February 20.
Cooper’s absence has contributed to a crisis at centre-back, intensified by recent injuries to Jansson, Conor Shaughnessy and Matthew Pennington.
I’m responsible for the team so I will gladly take my responsibilities but it’s difficult to show them how not to take a red card. I cannot be in their minds in the moment that they go to the ground and we are talking about players with experience.Leeds United head coach, Thomas Christiansen
Leeds allowed Wednesday’s January transfer deadline to pass without recruiting another central defender and decided against recalling right-back Lewie Coyle from a season-long loan at Fleetwood Town.
Asked if he regretted the failure to bring in a centre-back, Christiansen said: “No. I spoke about the situation and what was possible but there was nothing possible.”
Coyle has played regularly for Fleetwood since moving there last summer and Leeds chose not to activate a January recall clause amid concerns that a return to Elland Road would deprive him of game time.
Christiansen said: “The problem is that if we bring somebody it has to be somebody who has to play in the first XI in all the games and I cannot guarantee that.”
Christiansen, meanwhile does not expect Jansson to recover in time for this weekend’s derby at Sheffield United.
“He had an injury in the ankle and I don’t believe he will be ready for the next game,” Christiansen said.