Since arriving on loan three years ago the Swedish defender has been a cult hero amongst Leeds United fans. All you need to be a hero in the eyes of the Leeds United fans is a little bit of talent and a lot of passion, and Jansson has plenty of passion. Be it his fist pumps to the crowd, his exuberant celebrations or honest post-match interviews Jansson has always ‘got it’, what it feels like to be a Leeds United fan and what it means to play for this great club. In return the fans have loved him too, magic hat and all.
A fiery and dominant defender his qualities are undeniable. Football League awards team of the season in his first season and PFA team of the year last season, he is undoubtedly one of the top defenders in the league. Last season he was top for average tackles per game (2.61), second for duels won (9.3), third for interceptions (2.48) and fifth for accurate passes (53). No disrespect to Cooper, Berardi and Ben White but Jansson is our best defender by a way, he is on a different level.
But Pontus is a difficult character, at times it does feel like we are watching the Pontus Jansson show and that may annoy our mercurial Argentinian coach. His sweary rant live on TV after the Brentford game which lead to a ban, going against Bielsa’s orders to let Aston Villa score the equaliser, sitting on his own against the advertising hoardings after the play-off second leg defeat. Moments which proved his passion but perhaps did not show a team player. What was it Billy Bremner said? ‘Side before self. Every time!’
It was clear from the off that Bielsa did not hold Jansson in as high regard as the fans, preferring Cooper and Berardi initially, Jansson only returning once Berardi got injured. On paper a ball playing defender fits Bielsa’s style perfectly so you being to wonder if there is something else at play. Rumours of a fall-out have been rife this summer with Jansson reportedly told not to report back to Thorp Arch until the 12th July, after everyone else has departed for Australia. As such he has found himself training with Malmo.
Highlights video from FocusOnLeeds
Yesterday afternoon the prospect of a move to Brentford for £5.5m emerged which seems an odd one in every possible way. With three years left on his contract £5.5m seems like a fairly low fee for an international defender. Perhaps the opening offer in what could turn into a bidding war? A move to another Championship club seems strange too, surely clubs towards the end of the Premiership would be interested, why sell to a potential rival? Perhaps though other clubs have the same concerns as Bielsa, if he were worth more wouldn’t teams be snapping our hands off to sign him up?
Whatever the real reason for this situation sometimes someone just doesn't fit in no matter how good they are. When you have a team where the biggest strength is the team spirit and them all working for each other, one player not fitting in can destroy that. It would seem Jansson is regarded as a ‘bad apple’ by Bielsa and as such is perhaps best moved on. Marcelo Bielsa is the single most important individual to the club right now and if this is his decision I trust his judgement. But if Jansson does leave, which seems inevitable now, he needs replacing.
Bielsa preferred a partnership of Cooper and Berardi at the start of last season and we did ok without him. With Jansson (39 games) we averaged 1.56 points a game and conceded 1.18 goals per game. Without him (12 games) we averaged 2.17 points per game and conceded 1 goal per game. But as much as Cooper improved last season he is not at the same level as Jansson and is prone to the odd error as the play-off second leg showed and for all Jansson’s discipline is brought into question Berardi has an even shorter fuse.
The signing of Ben White on loan from Brighton seemed like a good move to strengthen our defensive options but if he has been brought in as a direct replacement for Jansson this would seem to be a backward step. White’s league experience amounts to 42 games in League Two for Newport and 15 League One appearances for Peterborough. He may be a great prospect, Newport boss Mike Flynn predicted he will play for England one day, but he is not experienced enough to step straight into a team challenging for promotion.
This summer should be about consolidating on last seasons result and making the marginal improvements to see us over the line this season. The signing of Costa was a big statement but if Jansson is allowed to leave with no experienced replacement brought in we will be going into the season defensively weaker than last season. I’m sad it has come to this, I will miss Pontus but in Bielsa I trust. I just hope the club get this one right, so far they don’t seem to have handled it very well.
Stats from @LUFCData and @lufcstats, content contributed by Cjay and weasel from the Sell our Swede on the cheap thread on our forums.