The memory from Tuesday nights game will not be one of Bielsa sat on his famous bucket but of him slumped in the corridor outside the changing room, head down, dejected after a disappointing loss. The narrative over the last few weeks has been that our destiny is in our own hands but having lost our game in hand it’s clear Leeds United have problems. In the last two games against the two worst teams in the division this calendar year we have scraped one win and lost the other to a team with only one point in 2019 before yesterday.
That’s not normal for a team aiming for promotion, that’s not a blip, when was our last truly comfortable performance? Derby? We've played seven games since then beating only the teams in 22nd, 23rd and 14th, we bottled the top of the table clash vs Norwich, were extremely poor against Stoke a side that hadn't won in the four games before or the six games since and on Tuesday night we managed to lose to a side with one point in 2019, one flaming point!
Our season isn’t over yet, of course it isn’t, keep the faith and all the usual clichés, but dear god something has gone very wrong. On Friday we play West Bromwich Albion, the best away side in the league, a team who gave us a real pasting last time round. If we lose on Friday one point will separate us from fourth. With our current form do we really look like taking points of Bristol City, Sheffield United, or even Birmingham, Preston or Brentford?
It seems inconceivable we could drop out of the playoffs but the way we are playing it really is a possibility. If we struggle against sides in poor form such as Stoke, QPR and Bolton how will we cope with sides full of confidence? Had we won on Tuesday night we would have been restored to the top of the table eagerly awaiting Friday’s important game against West Brom full of confidence and a change to get our recenge. But now the confidence has been sapped, Leeds fans and Bielsa look concerned.
We have only kept two clean sheets since the 15th of December, we aren’t letting in loads of goals but we don’t score enough to keep giving away soft goals. We have only won by more than one goal twice since the end of November. We don’t look as fit or slick or organised as we did and we are slower in transition from defence to attack. Only once on Tuesday did we show the class we are capable of with a slick passing move, the sort of move that was common place early in the season. But in typical Leeds fashion we squandered the chance.
But what can Marcelo Bielsa do, rotate? Who with? We have a tiny squad. The under23s are certainly a talented bunch but are they ready for the pressure cooker of a Championship run in?
On Tuesday we needed creativity and a goal threat but Bielsa turned to Dallas and Douglas. We love him and he is loyal to his players but is this his biggest weakness? Loyalty is a stubborn trait of Bielsa's and is one that has possibly hindered us at times. Bielsa has loyally stuck with a lot of the squad but has impacted our transfers? He analysed our squad before taking over and deemed it good enough. But this season has been our best chance in years to gain promotion and the club chose not to strengthen in January. In many ways the squad got weaker.
Bielsa may be loyal but no manager wants their squad weakened, he publicly called for "players" (plural) better then what we had, so in that sense the club did let him down. While they may not have been able to stop Saiz leaving did Bielsa really not want a player he praised as "unique" replacing? There will be nowhere to hide for Radrizzani if we fail to win promotion this season. Not getting the players his manager wanted at such a crucial time was very poor and reminiscent of his first transfer window when Monk was in charge.
It begs the question did we really have the funds to get players "better than what we had" like Bielsa asked for? If Phil Hay is correct then no, which may explain the Dan James saga, was he the only player Bielsa wanted or was he the only potential bargain the club could find? Was James all Bielsa wanted or did he comprise, the same as he did over selling Vieira to bring in Bamford. Maybe we simply didn’t have the money to bring in a replacement for Saiz plus the winger Bielsa had wanted since the summer.
Failing to get promotion now would be a massive failure. Forget pre-season expectations, top at Christmas, playoffs all season, in the top for most of it, we should not be messing this up and there would be no excuses under any circumstances now. Not getting top two would also be poor given we have been there most of the season. But what does Bielsa do? Something has to change and fast. How does he get us back to that slick, exciting passing machine of earlier on?
Can he? Have we been found out? Or has the lack of natural individual talent in key areas started to show? Bielsa has coached and performed miracles but can coaching make up for natural talent for a whole season? That’s not to say we don’t have some above average players talent wise, Pablo Hernandez is a genius, but overall the squad is average and Bielsa has had quite a few of them performing above expectation. He has squeezed everything he can out of them, is that starting to show?
Are we seeing natural regression into the mid table side most people thought we would be with our squad? That was the general consensus pre-season in the footballing world, media, pundits and our rival fans. It’s very frustrating. We need out mojo back and we need it back quick.
Content by Cjay from our We've got problems discussion thread.
Do Leeds United have real problems?