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.
Bielsa's Philosophy - The Collective is Key