Leeds United’s 3-0 victory over Bristol City was a giant sigh of relief. The club finally has the momentum to restart a campaign to the top of the league table, but things are not perfect by any means. In today’s roundtable, Chris, Jack, Pete, and Mike talk about who should be the starting pair of centre-backs moving forward. Agree or disagree with us? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter @ThruItAllLUFC
Christian Lawley: I'd like to see Jansson and Pennington together. Although I've not seen much of Pennington, the bits I have were enough to show that he definitely has the quality that is needed at the top of the Championship. As mentioned in the podcast, we're getting to a point where we need to see a settled defence and although they haven't played together much they still have plenty of time to form a partnership that we will need to carry us through the season. Hopefully, they can steer clear of suspensions and injuries and get a run of games together.
Jack Robshaw: For the purposes of this I will assume we are keeping a back 4, as I put in my article the other day I would switch to a system with 3 centre-backs and play Cooper, Pennington, and Jansson. In a back 4, the centre-back pairing I would choose is Jansson and Pennington. It is tough on Cooper who (Cardiff aside) hasn't done much wrong this season, but I think in terms of pure defending and footballing ability they are our best 2 central defenders. I also think that if we are going to keep trying to play from the back we should play these two as I think their passing ability is better than Cooper's. From the bits we have seen from Pennington, he seems to read the game really well and I think by the end of the season he will establish himself as one of the better defenders in the league. Conor Shaughnessy is an able back-up but I think it is far too soon for him to be starting every week. Although I think that if we are still in the Championship next season, he will then start as he will have moved past Cooper and Pennington will return to Everton.
Pete Schlenker: I would go with a pairing of Pontus Jansson and Matthew Pennington. Pennington has shown flashes of brilliance in the few opportunities that he has gotten in the team. He was unlucky to not get a run in the team early in the season after suffering an injury against Bolton Wanderers in the opening match. He's gotten a few chances to shine, including coming in and looking good against Cardiff City. Pontus Jansson hasn't been as "shit" as he thinks he has been, so he deserves to start as well. The big Swede is incredibly dominant in the air, and the team often looks lost at set pieces without him in the side. Jansson has gotten free for a few touches the past few matches from corners that have gone wide, and if he puts those in the narrative of the Leeds season might be extremely different. He's earned a chance to play through whatever "dip" he's suffering through right now. The lack of a midweek match should help him regain full fitness as well after a nice long international break for him.
Mike Stehlik: I think we’re lucky as a club that we have three legitimate starting centre-backs, with another one who is a year off from getting legitimate minutes. I still believe that Pontus Jansson and Liam Cooper should be paired up in the starting XI. As said above, I think it’s important that Leeds have a consistent back four, and it starts with the two guys in the middle. Pontus and Liam have played 10 games together this year, have won six, and have drawn and lost two. Pontus and Matthew Pennington have lost two games when playing together, and Pontus and Conor Shaughnessy have drawn and lost a game (all stats from transfermarkt.com). Liam Cooper is a great presence and a leader. Yea, he’s fiery, but we need it. We have a great core. Suspensions, injuries, bad form will happen. It wouldn’t at all surprise me if the same thing that happened over the course of the Golden State Warriors 2014 season would happen this year for Leeds. That year, power forward David Lee was an everyday lock in the Warriors starting lineup. That is, until he got injured. With his injury opened up a starting spot for Draymond Green, who only became the cornerstone in the Warriors dominance of the NBA. I wouldn’t at all surprised if Liam got a prolonged suspension and in his absence, Pennington shone. But for now, I think Coops and the Swede are our starters.