Last season Marcelo Bielsa almost completed a miracle at Elland Road, by taking a team that had finished 13th the season before into the play-offs, just falling short in a calamitous collapse against Derby. Although there was a feeling of disappointment surrounding the club, there was the potential for the club to build on what they had last season and finally get back to the promised land of the Premier League. However, this summer the club has seemingly moved backwards, and this is showcased by the sale of defender Pontus Jansson to fellow play-off hopefuls Brentford for £4m. The club have inadvertently strengthened a rival while further weakening an already wafer-thin defence, and if Leeds do not replace Jansson, it could reflect on the club’s performance next season.
The Yorkshire club placed an over-reliance on their first-choice partnership of Jansson and Liam Cooper to their detriment last season because once injuries and suspensions hit, it left them shoehorning a variety of players into the heart of the defence. Injuries and suspensions left the Leeds defence so threadbare last season that right-back Gaetano Berardi and holding midfielder Kalvin Phillips saw regular football at the back. These are massive red flags towards the lack of depth that the club currently have in the centre back position. With the club then selling Jansson as well as one of their top academy defenders Aapo Halme to Barnsley, it seems like Bielsa is incredibly naive towards the state of the squad.
Another incredibly surprising outcome of Jansson’s transfer is the fee; it is reported that the Swedish international moved to the London club for £5.5m. That sort of price is ridiculously low for a defender with over 120 appearances in the Championship as well as 20 appearances for the Swedish national team. The fee seems like an undervaluation of the player, but the Yorkshire club seems to want rid of the defender following reported attitude issues. The only problem is it leaves the club limited options in terms of replacing the player with someone of similar quality, with the current transfer market seeing players such as Tyrone Mings move for upwards of £20m.
Upon the sale of Jansson, the club needs significant investment from their owners to replace the Swede and build further on their lack of defensive depth, or they run the risk of being a one-season-wonder team that fell short of the Premier League dream. Leeds also need to make sure they keep hold of their other top talents like Kalvin Phillips and Kemar Roofe, with interest in the pair high this summer it would be a catastrophe to expect Bielsa to achieve anything with a barebones squad.