Leeds United coach facing test of resolve

Thomas Christiansen.
Thomas Christiansen.

It is fair to say that Thomas Christiansen’s honeymoon period as Leeds United boss is well and truly over.

After a brilliant start to life in England it is suddenly looking tougher for the head coach following three defeats in four games going into the latest international break.

By his own admission he has work to do to get his team playing the way he wants and work needs doing on a defence that has suffered probably from not being settled in recent weeks with Pontus Jansson, Liam Cooper, Matthew Pennington, Luke Ayling and Conor Shaughnessy all spending time at centre-back and four players having a go at left-back in the last month.

A run of six clean sheets has given way to nine goals being conceded in four matches so it easy to see why the points have been thinning out.

The position could remain unsettled on the resumption of play as Jansson could be sidelined after being carried off at Sheffield Wednesday following a collision with team-mate Kalvin Phillips. The extent to his injury is not yet known, but the problem must put him in doubt for joining up with Sweden for their World Cup qualifying games.

Captain Liam Cooper will be available again after his suspension following a dumb sending-off in the previous 3-1 defeat at Cardiff so Christiansen has one senior player he can call on, but whether he should walk straight back into the team is open to debate.

Elsewhere the head coach has problems sprouting in just about every area.

While playmaker Samuel Saiz could be excused criticism as he did not play at Cardiff and was by far the best Leeds player on show at Hillsborough and to some extent striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga was in the same boat the rest of the positions in the team must be up for grabs.

In midfield Ronaldo Vieira must be beginning to wonder what he has done wrong not to have started a single league game yet under Christiansen.

Some of that had been down to the partnership and form of Eunan O’Kane and Kalvin Phillips, but they must be under pressure for their place now.

O’Kane took to Twitter to apologise for his mistake that led to Sheffield Wednesday’s third goal and the display of the team – honesty that will be much appreciated by fans, but has not seen him escape criticism for his disappointing display.

While the midfield area has been relatively settled who occupies the wide positions has not been solved with none of the players yet to put a marker down that they are undroppable even if they have shown flashes of their ability.

The biggest problem facing Christiansen could yet turn out to be in goal where Felix Wiedwald, brought in during the summer at the expense of Robert Green and Marco Silvestri, who have now left the club, is yet to convince doubters.

The German has kept plenty of clean sheets, but so dominant at times were the Whites early in the season that he did not have many real saves to make.

He was the subject of big criticism on social media after his display at Hillsborough, particularly his hesitancy in coming for the ball on the opening goal, although he did make some decent saves in the second half that were not acknowledged.

In the after match press conference that followed last Sunday’s game Christiansen was questioned on the form of his goalkeeper and said: “This is something that I want to speak about and analyse, but not here.

“When we win we all win and when we lose we all lose. I don’t want, especially here, to complain about one of my players.”