PONTUS JANSSON believes Leeds United, under head coach Marcelo Bielsa, are a different breed to the Whites side that has crumbled in the last two seasons with the Swedish defender optimistic 2019 is “our year”.
Jansson’s first season at Elland Road looked like ending in glory under Garry Monk yet an eight-point buffer with eight games to go was quickly eroded and Leeds agonisingly missed out on the Championship’s play-offs by finishing seventh.
Top after seven games the following term under Thomas Christiansen, Jansson’s second full season saw an even bigger capitulation with United slumping down to 13th with Christiansen fired and replaced by Paul Heckingbottom.
This season, says Jansson, feels different with the defender full of belief that 2019 is United’s year and the defender is backing Bielsa’s much-improved Whites side to gain promotion without the need for the play-offs.
“There is a huge difference with this team compared to last year and two years ago,” said Jansson.
“There’s how much fitter we are, the football we play is much better and, like myself, the staff like to look at statistics and things like that and we are at the top of almost everything – creating chances, not conceding chances and expecting goals, and things which gives you more confidence to really believe in what we are doing. I trust Marcelo a lot and if we just keep on doing the same that we have done for the 30 games so far it’s going to be good.”
Jansson added: “We’ve been at the top for almost the whole season and it feels a little like people think, ‘okay, this is the year’. We also think this is the year we go up, but there’s going to be more and more pressure the closer we get.”
Leeds sit second with 15 games left, starting with tonight’s visit of Swansea City at Elland Road.
United have won just two of their last seven league games, leading to Bielsa’s man being knocked off top spot by Norwich City, who won 3-1 at Elland Road earlier this month and sit two points clear. Jansson, though, says United will be naturally boosted by their 101st-minute equaliser in Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Middlesbrough.
“You have to be one of the top two teams,” said Jansson. “I don’t care if we come second after the season is over. I think it’s going to be a race until the last game. Norwich are good now. We’ve come from, not a bad run but from a run where we could do better so the late goal was important for us. Hopefully it gives us extra energy.
“It’s still 15 games to go and this league is competitive. The only thing you can do is focus on the next game, which is Swansea for us. It’s a really important game. If we win that then the league will look good again.”
Last six games: Leeds LWLWLD Swansea WDWDLW.
Referee: D Webb (Lancashire).
Last time: Leeds United 2 Swansea City 1; Championship; February 10, 2010.