Leeds United are on the verge of ending a long 16-year wait for top-flight football at Elland Road, but with the current football season on pause for the time being, it’ll be a little longer before it is confirmed.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side are sat top of the table with a seven-point cushion to the playoff positions, so they will only have themselves to blame for promotion failure – should the season get back underway.
The Argentine will be left with some dilemmas this summer, irrespective of the division they’ll be competing in, none more so than his centre-back positions.
Brighton loan star Ben White is due back at his parent club, Gaetano Berardi’s contract is expiring while Liam Cooper just can’t stay fit.
Earlier this week, Phil Hay revealed that Bielsa has only ever fallen out with one player – ex-defender Pontus Jansson. Could they have done with him this season? Might they have needed his services next term, too?
Here are the thoughts of some of our writers…
“It’s tough to say whether or not he made the right decision here as we don’t really know what went on behind closed doors that saw Bielsa grow sick of Jansson.
“However I’m of the view that there isn’t a single individual at the club more important than the Argentine, and if he felt that his relationship with Jansson was past the point of no return he’s made the right decision.
“Let’s be honest, if there’s anything we’re going to criticise Leeds for this season it’s not their defence, they have the best defensive record in the division, and you can’t really ask for more than that.
“Could Leeds have handled Jansson’s departure better? Definitely, £5.5m for a defender who had just made the Team of the Season is a poor bit of business, but they’ve not suffered for it on the pitch.”
“Marcelo Bielsa made a big call to get rid of Pontus Jansson in the summer and it risked worsening Leeds both in terms of ability and the leadership and character of the squad.
“However, his loss has not been felt at all since Leeds top the Championship table, and have conceded the least amount of goals of any side in the division.
“Added to that, Jansson could have potentially been a disruptive influence if Bielsa’s patience with him was already wearing thin, and such a factor has the potential to derail a promotion campaign.
“Team morale can be crucial to overcoming results like the Whites have in recent weeks, and if Leeds to pick up their form and achieve promotion then getting rid of Jansson will prove to be a genius Bielsa decision.”
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“This was obviously the right decision. While Pontus Jansson earned a place in the TOTY last season, Ben White has been a pillar of solidity in the Leeds backline and has taken to the Championship like a duck to water. The defender is now being chased by the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal while claims have even been made that he’s already better than Manchester City’s John Stones.
“White is a rock, winning 2.8 aerial duels, but his ball-playing ability is what makes him so highly rated in the modern era. He has registered a pass success rate of 85.3% and is dispossessed just 0.2 games per match. The only flaw with the deal to sell Jansson were the finances. He moved away for just £5.5m when other players in the division were leaving for colossal fees – take Adam Webster for example. Nowhere near the Team of the Year, he moved to Brighton for £20m. Victor Orta should have pushed harder for a higher fee.”
“On the face of it, Leeds’ decision to sell Jansson was a smart one as they hold the best defensive record in the Championship but they are now going into next season looking considerably weaker.
“No Ben White and no Gaetano Berardi makes for a major worry in terms of central defensive options, so they probably could have done with the Brentford man sticking around. Jansson is actually managing more clearances and blocks per game than White, too.
“The £5.5m fee looks more of a steal on the Bees’ part too.
AND in other news, Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa admired Louis van Gaal