Why Leeds aren’t missing Jansson

Leeds United defender Pontus Jansson has played down comments he made appearing to criticise manager Marcelo Bielsa.

Leeds United fans were furious when Pontus Jansson was sold to Brentford – but that anger was perhaps premature.

When the news broke that Leeds were set to sell Pontus Jansson to Brentford, the reaction from fans was one of deja vu – the team failed in its primary objective, the star player garnered interest, and the move was done.

Yet, from the off, something didn’t sit right about the Jansson deal – for the first time since Simon Grayson’s tenure at the beginning of the decade, Leeds fans attended games in an expectant mood, and genuinely enjoyed watching their team play.

With that in mind, it is safe to assume Marcelo Bielsa cultivated a healthy dressing room atmosphere, so why would players want to leave?

The destination was also odd. No disrespect, but a player of Jansson’s standing and stature would surely only be moving to the Premier League or one of the top European leagues.


Fans were puzzled. Selling to a club higher up the pyramid would have been begrudgingly accepted, but selling to a potential promotion rival seemed very peculiar. And that puzzlement transformed to sheer bewilderment when the fee was announced.


When you consider that James Justin – a full-back, who had never played higher than League One – left Luton to join Premier League side Leicester for £8million, it put things into perspective.

Leeds saw their talismanic defender, who boasted World Cup experience with Sweden, and had been a regular star performer for three seasons, depart the club in the bluntest, most unceremonious manner. Explanations had to be made.

Bielsa, the god-like figurehead of the club according to its passionate fan base, decided that Jansson’s personality did not fit into his ethos of collectivism.

The two did not see eye to eye and, despite the Argentine’s claims that Jansson was the best player, he decided for the greater good, it was time to wave him goodbye.

It was a move shrouded in risk – Leeds operated with a tiny squad last season, so any departures were likely to be felt.

Jansson was one of the older heads in the squad. Confident, bordering on cocky, he played the game in the way his 6ft 4in was designed for – domineering, brash, and powerful. His loss was supposed to be felt big, ahead of his quick return to Elland Road on Wednesday evening.

His replacement didn’t inspire great confidence – a scrawny, fresh-faced 21-year-old Brighton loanee by the name of Ben White came in to replace Jansson, despite only ever having played as high as League One.

Yet, if you look at Leeds so far this season, you would not have thought there was any lingering anguish surrounding the loss of the Swede.

White has coasted through his four games so far, with his elegance on the ball, positional sense and cool head drawing many plaudits despite his tender age.


Jansson had many attributes, but a cool head, it could be argued, was not one of them.

He drew the ire of Bielsa after initially disobeying his instruction to award Aston Villa a free goal after Leeds scored while a Villa player was down injured in April – perhaps the harbinger of the pair’s fallout.

Ultimately, that would be Bielsa’s biggest piece of evidence against Jansson – he ignored his boss’ instruction in favour of his own interests. He chose the individual over the collective.

In truth, he has been a ticking time bomb throughout his time at Leeds – Garry Monk dropped him after a training ground row in April 2017, he picked up a ban for swearing live on television during a post match interview, and, instead of joining his team mates in the dressing room after their disastrous play off semi-final loss to Derby, he stayed out on his own, in an act of heartbreaking dismay or indulgent self-pitying, depending on your outlook.

Time will tell how successful the move will be in the long run for Leeds, an injury to either White or captain Liam Cooper leaves them without a recognised senior replacement, and neither defender possesses the physical attributes Jansson brought.

But so far, it has gone swimmingly, and there is no longer the nagging doubt any more that one player could suddenly explode and land themselves in hot water.

Fans were incredulous at the time but, so far, it has gone on to prove the given narrative at Leeds – that Marcelo Bielsa knows exactly what he is doing.