From the minute that Marcelo Bielsa was linked as a potential candidate for the vacant head coach role at Leeds United there was a great deal of excitement and anticipation in the air. His appointment is a bit of a coup d'état and potentially the most exciting appointment the club have ever made. It’s not just Leeds fans that were excited either, it seemed sometimes that the whole footballing world was salivating at the prospect of Bielsa managing in England and potentially reviving one of football’s sleeping giants.
When your new coach is touted as ‘one the most influential football minds of his generation’ and the likes of Pep Guardiola have described him in the past as ‘the best manager in the world’ it is difficult not to get excited. As much of a surprise Bielsa’s appointment was, in some ways it feels like a very ‘Leeds United’ appointment. Bielsa, like Leeds United, is something of an under achiever. For all the brilliance and promise he has never quite achieved the success in terms of trophies many think he deserves. He’s also prone to moments of self-destruction such as quitting Lazio after just two days.
So with the excitement come the questions; Will Bielsa be effective in the Championship? Will the players be able to adapt to the new system? Can the intensity of Bielsa’s style last a long hard English season? Leeds fans aren’t naïve enough to ignore these questions, we know his history, we know the baggage he comes with but there is only one man who can answer these questions… and answer them he has. At east the first two anyway.
In Stoke and Derby we have put two of the contenders for the Championship title to the sword emphatically. Bielsa’s style clearly works in the Championship the high press and work rate of the players had both our opponents so far on the back foot with little chance to impose themselves on the game. Just as last season though the challenge will come when teams sit back and match our work rate. So far so good though.
With nine of the eleven players to start this seasons first two games the same as those that finished last season we are seeing a remarkable difference on the pitch. The players have clearly bought into the system, their work rate, attitude and support for each other both on and off the ball has been fantastic. Mateusz Klich is a revelation, Kemar Roofe has built on everything he offered last season (Two man of the match awards so far) and Saiz looks back to his glorious best, though so far he seems to have cut out the rolling around on the floor.
We are closing teams down and winning the ball back high up the pitch, we are breaking quickly and in numbers and playing the ball out from the back. It’s exciting, really exciting and it doesn’t just seem to be Leeds fans who are getting excited about it. Looking back at history though, both last season tailing off for Leeds and Bielsa’s own history the big question is can it last? Can the players keep this intensity up or will they be exhausted come January? I don’t know the answer, only Bielsa and the players can answer that but it’s going to be genuinely thrilling finding out.
Bielsa reign off to thrilling start