Expectation is high on Leeds United in Marcelo Bielsa’s second year in charge after they fell agonisingly short of promotion last season.
Pressure will be on the Whites to seal a return to the Premier League after their 15-year absence this season but it is a task they must face without centre-back Pontus Jansson.
Here FLW writer Ned Holmes examines the situation surrounding Jansson’s exit and his potential replacement, or lack of…
Firstly, why did they sell Jansson?
“It is difficult to say for certain as there have been some differing reports.
“Executive director Paul Bell claimed a few days ago that the sale was due to issues that the club had in meeting financial fair play regulations.
“However, Football Insider have reported that Bielsa wanted the defender gone because he believed he was a disruptive presence behind the scenes and had attitude problems.”
Will they miss him?
“Absolutely. Jansson was an integral part of Bielsa’s side last season, making 41 appearances and finishing as the third-highest rated defender in the Championship, according to Whoscored.
“The Swede led the Leeds squad in average blocks and clearances per game and was second in the squad in terms of average tackles and interceptions per game (Whoscored).
Do they have a ready-made replacement?
“Ben White joined on loan from Brighton earlier this summer and the club seem to believe that he is ready to step up.
“According to respected journalist Phil Hay, the 21-year-old will partner Liam Cooper at the centre of the Leeds defence this season.
“It is a huge call from the Argentine coach as White’s only experience of senior football, outside two appearances, for Brighton is a season on loan with League Two side Newport County and a six-month spell with Peterborough United in League One.”
Are they eyeing up a move for anyone from the transfer market?
“At the moment it doesn’t seem like they have anyone lined up.
“Director of football Victor Orta said the club are “always open in the market” when asked about a potential replacement but Hay has suggested there is currently “no sign” of anyone incoming to fill the Swede’s shoes.”
What other options do they have?
“There are other capable centre-backs at the club but I don’t see any of them as a viable option.
“Swiss defender Gaetano Berardi is an experienced Championship player but his dismal showing in the play-off semi-final against Derby County surely indicates he is not good enough to be first-choice.
“Bielsa’s treatment of Jack Clarke is evidence that he is not scared of throwing young players into the first team and he has a few options in the under-23s. 19-year-old Leif Davis stepped up last season when required, making four appearances for the Whites, while fellow teenager Pascal Struijk played an important role for the under-23s and could be ready to step up.
“The Argentine coach could also choose to utilise the versatility of Luke Ayling or Kalvin Phillips, both of whom are capable of filling at centre-back, but that doesn’t seem like a reasonable long term option.”
Finally, are Leeds making a mistake by not bringing a new centre-back in?
“In my mind, yes.
“The club may fancy that White can step into Jansson’s shoes this season but they are huge shoes to fill, especially for a player who is unproven at Championship level.
“Leeds have done some excellent business this summer, particularly the addition of Helder Costa, and appear well set for a promotion push, so it seems crazy to risk that all on the ability of a relatively untested 21-year-old.”