Marcelo Bielsa is a footballing romantic, a deep thinker whose ideas have helped shape modern football. The amount of highly successful managers who use ideas invented and shaped by Bielsa is well known. Bielsa believes deeply in his ideas, he believes that a side should be more than the sum of its parts because of them. He believes this so much that he thinks nothing of playing a defensive midfielder at centre back, a right winger at right back or a striker at right wing. In Marcelo Bielsa's mind it shouldn't matter because the overall style should help cover any possible individual limitations.
Last season we saw the best of this and the worst. At its best he can take less illustrious teams like Bilbao to European and Domestic finals, he can take previously mid table Championship sides to the brink of automatic promotion. But the elephant in the room is the lack of silverware in Bielsa's locker. In context Marcelo Bielsa did a great job last season, he did a great job at Marseille he did a great job first season at Bilbao. But in terms of the history books and achievements he has nothing to show for any of that.
As effective as Marcelo Bielsa’s style is, do his romantic notions of how the game should be played have a limit? Every style has a limit, and in that sense the limit comes with the individual parts. Pep Guardiola is a superb coach, but as we saw in his first season at Manchester City, that isn’t enough unless the individual parts fit the style or the style fits the parts. Guardiola knew this and went out and corrected it, Simeone did similar at Madrid likewise Pochettino at Spurs.
All of Marcelo Bielsa's students have at times changed the style to fit the individual parts or slowly bought in the individual players to fit the style. Bielsa is different, he will continue to use Phillips and Ayling as centre backs if he needs to, or Dallas as a full back. They aren’t ideally suited individually but the sum of its parts should cover the limitations. What Bielsa is revered for is perhaps partially responsible for his underachievement in terms of silverware, as good a defensive midfielder as Javi Martinez is was it really better to use him in an unfamiliar role at Bilbao?
He believes so staunchly in his ideals as searches for perfection in his style but has this belief cost him trophies? For all the lack of silverware in Bielsa’s trophy cabinet compared to his students it is El Loco who we should admire the most. You can respect Pep Guardiola, and admire his tactics, he's found a system of tactics that prove very very successful but in order to carry them out it requires an infinite money, because they only truly work effectively with the best footballers money can buy.
Bielsa is much the same in this regard. His tactics may well prove unbeatable with the best players at his disposal but the clubs he has managed don't have those kinds of resources, and as we've seen, he is held in high enough esteem by the football world to be able to manage at a high level, and at teams with more money than ourselves. So why is he here when he could have a better chance of trophies and command a higher wage?
It's not the desire for silverware that led him to the Championship. It's simply that he's famously very picky about the projects he takes on. He values a club's fans and culture far more than available funds, because that's what he believes football is all about. He shows this with the humility he displays, the way he immerses himself in the local geography and lifestyle and the way he always takes the time to engage with fans on the street.
Yes, he is an idealist but he backs up all his decisions with statistics and observations. Numbers may not tell the whole story but they don't lie either, and Bielsa's methodical, even obsessive approach is all aimed at maximising the chances of success because absolute certainty is impossible to achieve, so that's all you can do.
Bielsa is an idealist, maybe even a purist but it's not without reason. He believes that this system is capable of beating anything and anyone, if we had our pick of the Championship's players we would steamroll the league. But those are the only circumstances under which we could. Until then we'll just have to sit tight and ride this rollercoaster and remember that we've never had a better shot at getting promoted to the Premier League than with this man.
Content by Cjay and mothbanquet from the MB Is An Idealist thread in our messageboards.
Marcelo Bielsa, A Footballing Romantic