View from the Opposition: Garry Monk getting the most out of thin Leeds squad
- Credit: PA
Leeds United fan Richard Holton is feeling more confident about his club's future ahead of today's Carrow Road encounter.
What has been the key to Leeds' upturn in form recently?
One of the main points is the apparent lack of input of the owner Massimo Cellino over the last few months. His absence has been very welcome and long may it continue. In Garry Monk we have an excellent young manager who has been given time to input his philosophy after a difficult start. Leeds are stronger at the back than they have been for years and in Pontus Jansson and Kyle Bartley we have a very good pairing at the centre of defence. Pontus especially is already something of a cult hero with his attitude and very strong but fair challenges.
Will Garry Monk be confident , following the EFL Cup game?
Monk strikes me as the kind of manager who is always confident but will also spend a lot of time trying to find ways in which the team can improve. I can't imagine he would have been impressed with the first half performance in the cup game but then again, both sides made a lot of changes for that game. Overall, we are third in the form table so he should be pretty confident.
Which players have impressed the most?
The aforementioned centre-half pairing of Jansson and Bartley have been excellent. Going forward, Hadi Sacko will cause the Norwich defence problems. Certainly in recent weeks against Ipswich and Burton at home, the opposition full-backs were terrified of his pace and on the other wing Kemar Roofe is starting to show why we paid £3million for him. If Norwich allow them to get at the full-backs and the excellent Pablo Hernandez time on the ball to dictate the play, then Chris Wood up top could have a fruitful afternoon.
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How is former Canaries keeper Rob Green getting on?
He had a bit of a shaky start but I like Rob Green. He has a far more calming influence on the back four than the rather more chaotic Silvestri. Silvestri is a decent shot-stopper – as shown last week – but this is something of a minimum requirement for a keeper. Green's experience and command of his area makes a nice change from the rather more manic performances of Silvestri seen in the previous two seasons.
Is the squad capable of pushing for the play-offs?
The first team maybe but not the squad at the moment. Other than in central midfield where we have many options such as Kalvin Phillips, Euan O'Kane, Liam Bridcutt, Alex Mowatt and the wonderfully named Ronaldo Vieira, the squad looks very thin. There isn't a quality replacement for Jansson or Bartley if we lost them for a period. The same can be said for someone to replace Chris Wood or Pablo Hernandez. Marcus Antonsson has looked pretty decent and Souleymane Doukara scored last week but I wouldn't be confident that either would get the goals consistently that Wood has managed this season and there isn't anyone in the side who can make the link between the midfield and the striker like Hernandez can. I think we'll finish just outside the play-offs.
Have Leeds fans finally come to terms with not supporting a top-flight club?
The last few years especially have been rough and all the off-field nonsense with the owner has been embarrassing and has not been indicative of the behaviour of a top-flight club. For me, Cellino sucked some of the life out of the club and going to Elland Road in recent years has not been much fun until now. Apathy definitely set-in and we hadn't really had a decent run before this since pre-Christmas 2013. I don't think any Leeds fan has particularly enjoyed the last few years but no-one would ever admit that Leeds are not a top-flight club in terms of history, fan-base etc.
Have you been surprised by Norwich's dip in form?
I must confess that I hadn't really noticed until the Brighton game! Obviously the Newcastle result wasn't ideal but Newcastle should really walk this league. Dips in form happen in this league and I'm guessing you guys are missing Jonny Howson but Norwich are still fourth. The squad is very impressive and I'd say that Norwich will still comfortably make the play-offs at least this season.
Which of the Canaries players will Leeds be most wary of?
Well you haven't got Robert Snodgrass and Luciano Becchio anymore and Howson is injured so that leaves them out. I really liked Steven Naismith when he was at Everton and Wes Hoolahan is a class act at this level. Alex Pritchard was very good in the first half against Leeds so I'd be very wary of him again. I do think that we can get at the Norwich defence though and after Russell Martin's very honest interview last week, it will be interesting to see if Norwich are up for it.
Which teams do you think will be promoted?
Newcastle are pretty much up as far as I'm concerned. Huddersfield will fall away now but I do think that there's more to come from Sheffield Wednesday. I'd fancy Norwich to still go up and if by some miracle everyone stays fit and Leeds do make the play-offs then I don't think anyone will want to come to a packed Elland Road. If pushed though I'd say Newcastle, Norwich and the very impressive Brighton.
And finally, what's your prediction for today's match?
I think it will be tight. If we can get at Norwich early then I think we'll be in with a chance, especially after Norwich's recent few games. We won't give much away but even with the injuries, Norwich do have an impressive squad and Leeds' record at Carrow Road isn't good. You can tell that the Leeds squad is very confident at the moment though and the feel-good factor around the club is coming back as is exemplified by the fact that the Newcastle game is sold-out already. I think we'll edge it 1-0.