In Bielsa We Trust? It’s become a bit of a catchphrase. No matter what happens, good or bad, this gets said and he has done an incredible job with the tools he has been given so far.
When you looked at our fixtures ahead of the season we had the hardest start in the league, Stoke, the pre-season favourites, with their "talented young coach", packed full of experienced Premier League players and internationals, spending lots of money too. Derby, beaten play-off semi-finalists, experienced players like Scott Carson, David Nugent, Curtis Davies, Richard Keogh, Joe Ledley, Tom Huddlestone, Bradley Johnson and talented youngsters like Mason Mount, Harry Wilson, Tom Lawrence and the unknown quantity of Frank Lampard. Rotherham, you never know how a promoted side will do, certainly can’t take them lightly, and finally Swansea. Another relegated club, highly rated manager, talented flair front three, proven Championship players and a striker along the same lines plus internationals like Leroy Fer and Jefferson Montero.
All four of those sides could have beaten us, three promotion favourites with expensively assembled squads, and a newly promoted side who would have been an unknown factor. But after those four games we sit top, we blew two of those teams, Stoke and Derby, away and we grinded it out vs Rotherham and in the end our quality showed. It has to be said we were second best all game vs Swansea, but we got a point, that’s what good sides do, that’s what winners do.
However, it doesn’t get easier, we still have to go to Millwall, Norwich, and welcome Preston and Middlesbrough to Elland Road, as starts go you couldn’t really ask for more difficult.
The man who masterminded this start, whose tactics have won us these points, who bravely took off an underperforming Kalvin Phillips midway through the first half, who hooked a similarly underperforming Gianni Alioski at half time. He has shown himself to be a brave coach, he doesn’t care what anyone thinks, fans, players, if he sees something it gets fixed if he doesn’t like it. He is as honest as you will get, calls out mistakes to the press, he doesn’t care, he says it as it is.
He has been superb, he has coached last seasons squad largely to play a totally different style in a matter of months, and they follow it to the letter, they pass out from the back, they don’t hoof, they keep plugging away, and they deserve great credit for that. He has shown great loyalty to the players to, if they win they start, end of story. Some of the football since he arrived has been fantastic, truly too good for this league.
But there is a flip side. A famously singled minded and stubborn coach, Bielsa will not budge on his beliefs, this is something that has seen him fall out with fans, players and the board in the past. He is only human, he is not the messiah, he gets things wrong, this is something we are yet to see, maybe we never will, but in all truth we probably will, it’s only a matter of when he makes his first mistake. And we may be seeing his first mistake now.
If Paul Heckingbottom was still here and had said "We don’t need another centre back, I am happy to play Berardi and Cooper", then there would have been outcry. Then if we then lost our only two recognised centre backs to injury, Liam Cooper and Pontus Jansson, and Paul had still said "I don’t want to sign a centre back", there would be much gnashing of teeth.
Our lack of height has now been highlighted on a few occasions, the stats from last season for 1, we concede a lot of headers and a lot from set pieces.
"In Bielsa we trust" is fine, but can we trust him totally blindly and go against what almost all fans have been saying for the last twelve months, we need a big, tall leader at the back? That being said, if Bielsa doesn’t want a centre back, then we shouldn't sign one, we can’t have Orta thrusting players on Bielsa, it’s not going to go down well.
Not signing a quality centre back, adding a bit of height to midfield and probably a bit more creativity out wide would cost us in the long run. Just because Bielsa is who he is doesn’t mean he is right about us not needing a centre back and defensive midfielder (If indeed we don’t sign anyone), he is only human, he makes mistakes, on this occasion he would be wrong.
However! At the end of the day he is the manager. He has taken a midtable team from the depths of despair under Heckingbottom, to the best footballing side in the division and the top team in the league as things stand. He has taken seven points off three of the pre-season favourites. He has not shied away from making big decisions. He has been very honest about our performances and has not tried to pull the wool over the fans eyes.
For those reasons, if he really doesn't want the signings a lot of us feel we need then that’s ok. He must be allowed to have the squad he.
From a post by Cjay, view the topic here.