Let's '˜box clever' on play-off talk says Leeds United's Pontus Jansson
PONTUS JANSSON was not afraid to air his views on where Leeds United should have been aiming last term.
As fans up and down the country reached for the calculators to configure how many points would mathematically guarantee a play-off place, Jansson had other ideas.
“The teams at the top, Newcastle and Brighton, have begun to slump a little,” said Jansson in March.
“As long as there is a theoretical possibility, we need to aim for the top two.”
The defender stuck to his views as United’s push for a play-off place became desperate at the end of April.
“We talked like we need so many points to be in the play offs,” he reasoned.
“But if I’m being honest then after the Brighton game we should reach for the top two instead – don’t talk how many points we need for being in the play offs.”
United failed to reach the top six, pipped at the post by Fulham after their own slump in form at the worst possible time.
Four months on, Leeds are handsomely inside the top six in third and just one point off an automatic promotion place.
But Jansson is keen to take a different approach in his second season at United with the Swede determined to take matters one game at a time and not become transfixed on the Championship table.
Jansson is one of several Whites players currently away on international duty and the 26-year-old was due in action representing Sweden last night in a European World Cup qualifier in Belarus.
The centre-back will resume club duty come next Saturday’s home clash with Burton Albion in which a victory could well send third-placed Leeds into the top two.
Jansson admitted on a few occasions last season that the Whites needed to be aiming for an automatic promotion spot rather than worry about how many points would be needed to finish in the play-offs.
But the Swede admits it was only natural for United’s players to take a continued look at the table with an eye to making sure it was mathematically impossible to finish outside of the top six. That, though, in the belief of Jansson led to United’s downfall and the popular Swede is determined for his side to take a smarter approach to the current campaign under Whites head coach Thomas Christiansen.
The defender told the YEP: “I think last year the biggest mistake was when we started talking about the play-offs and promotion and how many points we needed to be in the play-offs.
“It is a dangerous mistake to do that and I think this year we have to be clever. We have to work game by game, and three points in the next game is the only focus we should have.
“I think that was the biggest mistake when I look back at last season.
“I remember after the Brighton game we had too much focus on how many points we are going to need to be in the play-offs.
“Everybody said 75 points is going to be enough and it wasn’t so I think this year we have to be a bit more clever to take it game by game.”
Jansson is four games into his second season at Leeds having missed the first two games of the season through a three-match suspension for picking up 15 yellow cards last term.
The Swede has also partnered both Liam Cooper and new emerging talent Conor Shaughnessy in the heart of the defence with Shaughnessy getting the surprise call when Cooper was injured for the recent home clash with Fulham.
That led to Jansson switching from being the right-sided centre-back to the left, but the defender is equally happy on either side and has also been very impressed with Shaughnessy,
“It doesn’t matter for me – I am happy when I play,” said Jansson.
“In the Fulham game I was playing with Conor and I tried to help him and he felt better on the right side so for me it’s no problem.”
Equally, the Swede has absolutely no problems about not taking over the United captaincy following the sale of last season’s skipper Liam Bridcutt to Nottingham Forest.
The defender was a popular choice with the club’s fans to take the armband but Cooper has effectively stepped into the role with Luke Ayling having also skippered the side in United’s two Carabao Cup ties. But Jansson has revealed that he had talks with head coach Christiansen about the captaincy and explained he could effectively perform the role without actually donning the armband.
“I have talked to him a couple of times about it,” said Jansson.
“Like I said to him and I can say it now, I don’t need the thing on my arm to be a captain, I can be a captain without it also.
“I would not change myself because I am a captain, I would play in the same way anyway.
“So for me it’s not so important to be honest.”
More important for the defender was the events of this summer with the Swede getting married to his partner Asa Thornell.
“It was fantastic,” said Jansson.
“The Friday to Sunday [of the wedding] were the best days of my life.
“All the friends, all of my family and all of the people close to me, all of them were there only for me and my wife.
“I just want to turn back the time and feel it again. It was amazing.”
Reflecting on married life, Jansson reasoned: “It hasn’t changed things so much.
“But I feel a bit calmer as a person, a bit more of an adult than before. It feels nice to have her by my side.”