The painful loss against Derby County Tuesday night at Elland Road created a lot of reactions among Leeds United fans. While some fans were disappointed and saddened by the loss, other fans were angry and looked for a scapegoat. For many, that scapegoat is none other than the manager, Thomas Christiansen.
While a majority of Leeds fans do not believe, at least at this point, that Christiansen should be sacked, the fact that people are putting out Twitter polls about it and the fact that it’s being discussed is telling. Have the results been unacceptable lately? Absolutely. However, there are a few problems with the logic that sacking the manager would make the problems go away.
The first problem with sacking Christiansen would be that any new manager that comes in would face the same selection issues that Christiansen has faced this year. The defence has been a problem the past few matches. There were a lot of questions about the defence before the season started, as the team seemed to be relying on Liam Cooper and Matthew Pennington to fill in for the departed Kyle Bartley. And for awhile, it looked as if Cooper had somehow become Paolo Maldini, the longer the season has wore on, the more human the captain has looked. Everton loanee Matthew Pennington was also supposed to come highly regarded, but he has looked shaky at times and has also been injured.
Pontus Jansson hasn’t been his old self this season, so much so that many people are wondering if him holding back his emotions to avoid silly disciplinary issues has somehow robbed him of his ability to defend. It hasn’t, of course, but Jansson is showing that part of the reason he was so good last season was because of the steady performance of his partner in central defence, Bartley. Swansea City didn’t seem especially interested in selling Bartley last summer, and the fee that was rumored for him was, well, kind of insane. However, given the shuffling deck of defenders that have been used this season, would it really have been too much to pay?
The other decision about the backline was the failure to replace Charlie Taylor. Yes, Gaetano Berardi can fill in at left-back and does a decent job. However, between his injury and suspension, Berardi hasn’t had a very long run of games at left-back, forcing Vurnon Anita to play out of position. The club brought in highly regarded Cameron Borthwick-Jackson on loan from Manchester United to be a starter at left-back, but he’s looked the same as he didat Wolverhampton, and surely has no future at Leeds.
The replacements for Bartley and Taylor have turned out to be not up for the task, something that the team’s performance in August, before the closing of the window, did not immediately show. It’s hard to fault Christiansen for the revolving door at central defence, where a good, consistent partnership can bring out the best in both defenders, something that Leeds had last year, but have been unable to have this year. Christiansen has played five different players at left back this season in all competitions, and the fact that experienced winger Stuart Dallas has looked the best should tell you all you need to know about the status of the position.
The other flaw in the logic about sacking Christiansen is the lack of available options at this time of year. Leeds fans have seen in the recent past what happens when an owner or a board churn through managers: it’s hard to find new ones, and it’s even harder to find GOOD new ones. Sacking a manager about a third of the way into the season seems harsh, even if the club has had a poor run of form. The club is still 7th in the table (at least for now) and while it might get worse, there is no guarantee bringing in someone like Simon Grayson, who was recently sacked by Sunderland, would produce any better results. It would be disappointing to not finish in the top six this year, but there is still plenty of time for Christiansen to correct the team’s run of form, and another transfer window to try and bring in some new players and let some ones that haven’t worked out go. Leeds didn’t panic buy after selling Chris Wood to Burnley, and there is no reason to panic now. If the club continues to limp along for a few months, looking as listless as they have for a few matches now, then it might be time to press the panic button, but until then, Christiansen shouldn’t be let go.
I hear all your disappointment for the negative results but tonight I feel proud to be @LUFC we played well and deserved much more 1/1— Andrea Radrizzani (@andrearadri) October 31, 2017
You can all watch the footage and make your judgement. It s time to support even more. We are building a solid project I believe in my team— Andrea Radrizzani (@andrearadri) October 31, 2017
Additionally, Andrea Radrizzani is a new owner of a football club, and he doesn’t need to get a reputation of having a hair trigger when it comes to sacking managers. It’s hard enough to find good managers, and giving someone like Christiansen a chance was a great idea. Sacking him and bringing in a retread like Sam Allardyce or Alan Pardew would do him no favours in the future. Watford may have stumbled into a good manager in Marco Silva, but if they had been relegated, it would have been very difficult for them to find someone to put themselves into the meat-grinder that is the hot-seat at that club.
With the international nature of football, there are literally thousands of jobs out there for managers to go for, and treating managers with respect means that you will always be able to attract talented managers to come to your club. Shoving them out the door after 15 games will only give Radrizzani the reputation of being impatient and unreasonable, and Leeds can’t afford to just splash out the cash like Chelsea or Real Madrid can to make the job attractive enough. Put it this way: For all of the managers that Cellino or Maurizio Zamparini at Palermo have sacked, the results at the clubs haven’t been any better than clubs that stuck with their managers through poor stretches.
Sacking Christiansen right now would be a huge mistake, and one that would only serve to plunge the club into an absolute crisis. Let’s hope that Radrizzani and Victor Orta have a little more patience than the previous owner did.