Welcome to Marching on Together

19 Aug 2018 03:14pm, by Shields53

Marcelo Bielsa is like Leeds United’s sensei. A picture of zen-like calm sat on his bucket, his thoughts telepathically transmitted to his generals who shout and gesticulate to the players around him. His mastery of the high press has already seen off the young pretenders of Gary Rowett and Frank Lampard. Football fans around the country stare in awe at videos of his Leeds United team passing their rivals off the park.

But it’s not only his tactics on the field that demonstrate he operates at a higher level but also his press conferences and interviews. The press ask their usual divisive questions about whether to play Roofe or Bamford... ‘Surely you can let a 7 million man warm the bench?’ Or ‘Do you have enough cover if players get injured?’ Or ‘Will you be getting loan players in before the end of August?’ Or the equally inane ‘Will you win the league?’ after only three games.

Bielsa has a smile and a titter to himself and gives a reply that is completely delightful and unexpected. You get the feeling that he is some sort of University Don bringing enlightenment to a stupid student, and the reporter is left feeling embarrassed and inadequate for ever having asked such a question in the first place.

He will not be not be drawn into the mealy mouthed, evasive statements that you usually get from football managers. He inhabits another world of philosophy and the art of war. He is a combination of ancient Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu and the Argentinian poet Jorge Luis Borges who though being blind was director of the National Public Library and professor of English Literature at the University of Buenos Aires.

Now it takes someone special who is blind to oversee a library full of books. That takes a special skill that mere mortals can never understand, and so it is with reporters, they expect to trap him with their weasley words, and the replies he gives are as mystifying as quotes from One Hundred years of Solitude by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez.

He is a scholar and a gentleman... something you rarely see from English football managers whose replies are on the level of jerseys for goalposts variety. We have a mystical treasure on our hands... I would not be in the least surprised if the Pope hails him as the patron Saint of football.

From a post by rab_rant, view the topic here.

13 Aug 2018 09:59pm, by Shields53

We all know what the Bielsa philosophy means now. We will see his Leeds United team pressing high, a quick transition between phases, vertical passing to cut out the maximum number of defenders, playing the ball out from the back, inverted wingbacks and always trying to maintain a one man advantage over the opposition whatever the phase of play. We’ve seen it in action already and so far it has been extremely exciting and extremely effective.

In action it looks complicated but Bielsa breaks down his squad into small groups in training to ensure everyone is aware of their responsibilities and what their positioning needs to be during each phase. The system only really gives one player any freedom, the playmaker, in our case Samu Saiz. Revelling in this role Saiz is back to being a world beater and his skills and passing have unlocked many opportunities already. He’s even stopped rolling around on the floor and is tracking back.

For the other nine outfield players on the pitch it’s about attitude, work rate and their willingness to buy into the system. Bielsa requires an incredible high work rate from his players. Wingbacks are expected to overlap, wingers required to cut in, midfielders break into the box and cover defensive responsibilities and everyone presses high, tracks back and breaks quickly during transition. It’s no wonder Leeds are top in the stats ratings.

It’s a system that doesn’t rely on the individuals reputation too much but is all about the collective, everyone working for each other, everyone supporting each other. It’s why a group of nine players who looked like they didn’t know each other last year look like world beaters this year. It’s why Jamie Shackleton can come on as a sub on Saturday and look like he’s played football at the top of the Championship all his life.

It’s also why our most expensive signing since Robbie Fowler and the highly rated Jack Harrison have been starting on the bench so far. Those who have bought into the system and have had time to adapt to it will always get the nod from Bielsa. The likes of Douglas, Ayling, Klich, Phillips, Alioski have run their socks off in the first two games, truly box to box.

The high intensity of the system is its main benefit but can also be it’s downfall. Keeping this up for the whole season will be difficult. It’s important that every signing we make buys into the system, why the philosophy, and we finally have one as a club, is taught right through the youth levels. Bamford, Harrison and co may not have been given the nod so far this year but they will play a big par this season as will the likes of Shackleton and Edmondson.

Tuesday nights game will be a useful chance for Bielsa to give some of the starting eleven a breather and a good opportunity for us to see how the whole squad is adapting to the new system. Because ultimately this season it’s the collective that will matter, not the individual.