The most improved players under Marcelo Bielsa | Part 1
29 Feb 2020 05:29 pm, by YorkshireSquare
Most people judge the success of managers on the number of trophies they win but if you judge success in terms of clubs transformed and players improved then Bielsa is one of the best in the world. Some star names sparkle in the list of players Bielsa has improved in the past; Gabriel Batistuta, Mauricio Pochettino, Diego Simeone, Alexis Sanchez and Benjamin Mendy to name but a few. He has achieved remarkable things yet again at Elland Road over the past to seasons. Most new managers would have demanded a clear out of a squad that finished mid-table the season before but not Marcelo Bielsa. He saw the potential in his players and to a man he has improved every single one of them. We name four of the players who have improved the most under Bielsa’s mentoring.
Jack Harrison re-joined Leeds United from Manchester City on loan for a second successive season this summer. Yet to play a game for the Manchester side and after a relatively unsuccessful loan at Middlesbrough his first real chance to impress in English football came last season at Leeds. Initially used off the bench Harrison became a regular in Marcelo Bielsa’s side. He made his debut during the opening game of the season against his hometown club Stoke City as an 89th minute substitute and made his first start for Leeds in the EFL Cup against Bolton, his first league start coming at the end of August deputising for the injured Pablo Hernandez against Middlesbrough.
It’s fair to say a large number of Leeds fans were not convinced by Harrison last season. He didn’t demonstrate an ability to beat a man in the way shown by Jack Clarke in his cameo performances and his choice and quality of final ball were often questioned. But he is a player who improved over the season and with a full year of Marcelo Bielsa’s tutelage under his belt he has really kicked on this year. With six assists to his name he is behind only Pablo Hernandez and with five goals he is joint third in the scorer’s table for Leeds this season. On his day he is almost unplayable and with Costa on the opposite wing they are surely the most feared combination in the league.
It wasn’t long ago that Kalvin Phillips faced an uncertain future at Leeds United. Failing to hold down a regular position in the Leeds United line-up he was considered behind his cohorts from academy. The likes of Lewis Cook, Charlie Taylor and Sam Byram were all rated more highly that Phillips but now it looks as though he could outshine them all. The arrival of Marcelo Bielsa at Elland Road and departure of Ronaldo Vieira were what Phillips needed to revitalise his career. Marcelo Bielsa moved Phillips into a new role and the 24-year-old has improved beyond all recognition under his tutelage into one of the best defensive midfielders in England.
Whilst Pablo Hernandez may take on the role of creative talisman for Leeds United, there is no doubting that Kalvin Phillips is the conductor of the orchestra. The maestro in defensive midfield, setting the tempo of the game, ensuring all the performers in Marcelo Bielsa’s concerto follow the same metrical rhythm. Be it his short passing game or the long balls, Phillips has been a master at guiding the ensemble around the pitch. Winning the ball back, dictating play, directing the symphony to the joy of an admiring crowd.
The nickname of ‘The Yorkshire Pirlo’ may be slightly tongue in cheek but it is not so far from the truth, his vision, creativity and passing ability are key to directing Leeds United’s promotion campaigns over the past two seasons. Phillips was missed greatly during his suspension and it’s no coincidence his return has coincided with a turn around in Leeds United’s results. Now with Gareth Southgate keeping tabs on Phillips a first England call up could be on the cards, and who knows maybe even a place at this summer’s Euro 2020 tournament.
Read Part 2 | Stuart Dallas & Mateusz Klich >>