PONTUS JANSSON IS BACK!
The chants can be heard from Leeds all the way to my office across the Atlantic.
Such is the excitement when Pontus Jansson makes his return from suspension tonight against Nottingham Forest. Anthony Linley made his return to the blog yesterday with a full preview of the match, but I’m going to look at three players that need to stand out tonight, and yes, the Magic Hat wearer is one of them.
If there is one thing that Garry Monk learned about his Leeds side in their shock loss to Burnsley, it was that his defensive line just isn’t the same without Jansson.
While the dam might have burst on Saturday, the Whites still have an outstanding defensive record at home. Leeds United have kept a clean sheet for their last five Championship matches at Elland Road.
The loss against Burnsley should serve as a warning to Monk that these “expected” wins do not come free. Teams at the bottom end of the table, as Forest is, will have a little extra to give a team in Leeds position.
So who can the supporters count on in the Leeds lineup to help us get back on track? You know number one...
1. Pontus Jansson
Welcome back, friend. We have missed you dearly.
While we’re all excited to have him back, I doubt there will be anyone more happy to see Jansson return then Kyle Bartley. Defense is all about confidence and chemistry. Bartley will be better doing his job knowing Jansson can take care of his responsibilities.
Monk will be hoping that the return of Jansson will give a morale boost to his side and will also allow his midfield to play more freely. And we’ll all be hoping that he plays without rust, well-rested, on his return to action.
With Jansson back in the lineup, Leeds are automatically taken a notch up in defensive ability. Now if we could only get a certain left-back recovered from injury…
On the other side:
Britt Assombalonga will be the attacker of choice for Forest.
Assombalonga has scored six goals so far this season, but none of those goals have come since November. There is little doubt that he is in the midst of a goal drought and not playing with a ton of confidence. This will make the Leeds defense happy, but hopefully it does not cause complacency.
A goal drought can end with one shot so let's not sleep on this attacker just yet.
2. Kemar Roofe
Roofe, like many others, will not be happy about his own performance against Barnsley.
After picking up a yellow card, he was not the creative attacking force he has the ability to be. Monk will need him to attack the right flank and take on the Forest defense. It is from these key attacking positions where Roofe can create for players such as Wood.
The porous Forest defense will have plenty of lapses in judgment; that’s when Roofe will need to pounce and use his trademark pace to make the difference.
On the other side:
Michael Mancienne has been a consistent force for Forest in the defensive midfield role.
Mancienne is strong in the air and can turn the 50/50 battle in favor of Forest. He also has the ability to hold the ball and start quality attacking moves from his deep position so Leeds will have to be on their toes to not give him too much space to operate.
3. Chris Wood
One of the hardest things about creating this list every match is thinking of an attacking player to include not named Chris Wood.
How can someone expect me to realistically not select him when he is the sole source of goals for an entire team?
The fact is that Wood is the only true finisher in a team of defenders and creators.
It’s as if the side was full of Vincent Van Gogh’s and Pablo Picasso's who are producing works of art that would only sell for a dollar on the market if there wasn’t a certain dealer named Wood to cash in.
The equation is simple. Wood will keep scoring. Wood will stay on this list.
With the tally only one away from 20, you can expect an extra burst of effort to hit that number from Wood.
On the other side:
Jack Hobbs will be the defender that is tasked with keeping Wood quiet.
Hobbs has the style of play to frustrate Wood and make life difficult in the air. Wood has a lot of his goal scoring chances come from the air, so Hobbs will be keen to clear those dangerous passes as soon as they come in.
Unlike other defensive players, Hobbs is extremely disciplined, so Leeds might have to look for other channels to score goals outside of their usual cross and finish approach.
Following that uncharacteristic defensive showing, the Leeds back four will be looking to shore things up and keep a clean sheet. The return of Pontus will make that much more likely.
Monk will also be aware that Forest actually have an impressive record of their own against Leeds. Forest have not lost against Leeds in their last 8 matches across all competitions. This will give this struggling Forest side that bit of confidence that could make this match a little less straightforward.
We will all be watching in anticipation of a clean and routine win. Supporters know that another loss could begin a dreaded descent down the table, but that won't happen... right?
Who do you see shining in this match? Let us know in the comments below, and we’ll interact with you throughout the day. MOT.