Richard Sutcliffe: Axed Christiansen not helped by poor moves in market by Leeds United

Axed: Thomas Christiansen.
Axed: Thomas Christiansen.
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THE beginning of the end for Thomas Christiansen’s reign at Leeds United came with the FA Cup exit at Newport County.

Losing to a League Two club was bad enough. But the lifeless manner of the performance – the Welsh outfit fully deserved their victory on the day – pointed to the wider problem of a malaise that had descended on the Elland Road squad.

Leeds under the Dane had become one-dimensional in terms of both tactics and style, Christiansen plainly not having the answer to the questions posed by a physical Newport who had been beaten 5-1 by his side in the League Cup just four months earlier.

The defeat at then bottom club Birmingham City a week earlier had been similarly poor to leave the board, who firmly believe this is a squad capable of finishing in the play-offs, demanding improvements and fast.

Instead, defeats to Ipswich Town, Millwall and Cardiff City, plus a rather fortuitous goalless draw at Hull City, suggested little was going to change.

Couple that with a disciplinary record that, rightly or wrongly, points to a squad wilfully ignoring the head coach and it was no surprise the axe fell on Sunday.

Leeds under the Dane had become one-dimensional in terms of both tactics and style, Christiansen plainly not having the answer to the questions posed by a physical Newport who had been beaten 5-1 by his side in the League Cup just four months earlier.

Richard Sutcliffe

Is, however, the amiable Christiansen solely to blame for this season going so awry? Hardly. Recruitment at Elland Road simply has not been good enough.

United are palpably weaker as a team than a year ago, when a spine of Robert Green, Kyle Bartley and Chris Wood brought a backbone that has not been evident this time around.

Wood, of course, was always going to leave for the Premier League after netting 29 league goals last term. Bartley, too, is now a regular in the top flight with Swansea City.

But the replacements brought in by director of football Victor Orta have been way below the standard required.

Sure, Samuel Saiz has lit up the Championship at times this season with his cunning and skills. He has proved an astute buy and a bargain at £3.1m, albeit one that is currently serving a six-game ban for spitting in that Cup defeat at Newport.

But who else from the summer influx of 15 new faces has genuinely made a big impact in a white shirt this season? Not many, meaning Christiansen – even allowing for the blistering start that brought 17 points and top spot from the opening seven games – was always going to struggle to deliver on the pre-season demand of a top-six spot.