If there is one complaint I have about Marcelo Bielsa...

04 Oct 2020 09:20 am, by YorkshireSquare

If there is one complaint I have about Marcelo Bielsa it’s that he has given me hope and made me care about Leeds United. That’s been in pretty short supply as a Leeds fan over the past 16 years. Aside from that promising Simon Grayson side, dismantled from under him by Ken Bates, there has been little to shout about. It’s difficult to get too worked up about a Neil Warnock or Steve Evans team. But now I care, care more than I have done for a long time, over this past two years Marcelo Bielsa has given me hope and that’s what made the first twenty-five minutes of Saturday’s game so excruciatingly painful to watch.

Many fans had declared the Man City game a “free hit” but I can’t say it felt like that to me. As De Bruyne hit the post and Raheem Sterling turned Luke Ayling inside out it felt like we could be in for a long afternoon. When Sterling cut inside again and nestled the ball in the bottom right hand corner of the net it seemed like a question of how many City would score. But I have hope because with Marcelo Bielsa at the helm there is every right to be hopeful and Leeds got themselves back in the game. Luke Aylings wonderful ball in to Alsioski, who headed over, was a sign that we were more than capable of creating opportunities and Leeds would have equally good chances from Stuart Dallas and Ayling himself before half time.

Kalvin Phillips, who had three men on him most of the time, grew into the game and largely kept Kevin De Bruyne quiet whilst Mateusz Klich worked himself into the ground to retain the foothold Leeds had carved out for themselves. It was the second half substitutes that took Leeds to the next Level though. Ian Poveda, on for Alioski, had Benjamin Mendy on strings. Nutmegging Raheem Sterling before beating the French left back for pace. On the rare occasion Mendy did catch up with Poveda, he simply stopped, put his foot on the ball and passed inside. I don’t think he stuck his tongue of and said “Na na na na na” but he would have been well within his rights.

Record signing Rodrigo was introduced just before the hour and it didn’t take him long to prove Gary Neville wrong, having dropped Rodrigo in his time as Valencia manager, much Martin Tyler's delight! Latching on to Klich’s ball he streaked into the box before unleashing a left footed shot which Ederson tipped onto the bat and out for a corner. Cities keeper was not quite so reliable for the resulting Kalvin Phillips, fumbling the ball for Rodrigo to tuck away to draw the scores level. The Brazillian did redeem himself in the space of ten minutes though as he tipped Rodrigo’s goal bound header onto the bar. Pace, skill, a left foot like a cannon and goals too, what isn’t to love about Rodrigo?

The introduction of Fernandinho with thirteen minutes to go steadied the ship for Pep Guardiola, City regained control of the midfield with Klich out on his feet. But Leeds kept the team from across the Pennines at bay, swarming in number and limiting them to long range efforts for the most part. Cooper, bar the early mistake, and particularly Koch were superb in defence and Meslier is as cool as they come, looking completely unshaken whilst grapping the ball from the feet of Raheem Sterling. There were times when it felt like Liverpool all over again, but Leeds held firm and secured a deserved point, there were even moments when they might have nicked all three.

As with the Liverpool game Leeds edged possession against one of the best footballing teams in Europe, they made more passes with a better pass completion rate, made more tackles and had more big chances. Whilst City had twice as many shots, they only had one on target with Leeds troubling Ederson on seven occasions. Had it not been for the Brazilian, Leeds could have recorded a famous victory. It was a game City should probably have put to bed in the first twenty minutes but in the end, it was a fair result. Leeds held their own against another top team and had the best chances.

They may make me fear cardiac arrest at times but I’m right to have hope in this team, I’m so incredibly proud of that performance and they all should be too. I’m just not sure I can manage fifteen days without seeing them play again!

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1964white wrote on 04 Oct 2020 08:32 pm

Excellent article Adam

rab_rant wrote on 04 Oct 2020 03:01 pm

Ropey Wyla wrote: Sun Oct 04, 2020 11:09 am is this not a song by george ezra? if not why not?
More like Ezra Pound i would say.

John in Louisiana wrote on 04 Oct 2020 02:10 pm

Looked up the definition of "teamwork" in the dictionary: "the combined action of a group of people, especially when effective and efficient."

Underneath it was a picture of Leeds United.

How can you not love these guys? The whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts.

Bielsa is amazing. He could so easily have cashed in for himself, but by all accounts his demands of the club for an additional year on the contract were about everything other than himself. Side before self every time, from the top on down.

Good heavens I love this team.

Velotrax wrote on 04 Oct 2020 12:15 pm

Chilli D wrote: Sun Oct 04, 2020 9:34 am The first 20 minutes were frightening and I must admit I feared a hiding. We just couldn't get near the ball. De Bruyne and Foden swarmed all over Kalvin. But, for me the turning point came when Alioski got in front of Walker but headed over when he should have done better. It seemed to give the players belief though as if they suddenly thought "we can get at them here".
From then on it was a much more even game and for the first 30 minutes of the second half, we were the better side.
The last 15 they got back on top but I think that was down to some of our players being out on their feet. Stuart Dallas looked like he could hardly move.
But we hung on for a well deserved point and I am so proud of them this morning.
And fair play to Pep Guardiola who said a draw was a fair result unlike the classless Wilder last week.
Spot on mate

Dundalis wrote on 04 Oct 2020 12:14 pm

weasel wrote: Sun Oct 04, 2020 10:33 am Great piece again YS. As the saying goes it is the hope that kills you. I remember well how brilliant that Simon Grayson side were int he first half of our promotion season. Ultra solid at the back and with Beckford and Becchio always capable of scoring. Add the trickery of Snodgrass and we had a great team, a team that I felt could go to Old Trafford in the Cup and win - so much so I paid a fortune for a ticket in the Man U end. Then as is usual with Leeds it just fell apart so quickly, we wobbled over the promotion line, the awesome defence started leaking like a worn out sieve and the team started to get dismantled with the fans turning against SG borne out of frustration.

Even the Wilko title winning team quickly turned from great joy into a laughing stock, finishing the season 17th and failing to win an away game all season conceding 2 goals in injury time in 1 match to snatch a draw when our away hoodoo seemed like being ended. To make matters worse we gifted Man U Eric Cantona and he was the catalyst for their reign of domination.

The O'Leary side followed the similar pattern. Who can forget the feeling of amazement when we paid £18m for Ferdinand. We were suddenly a big team again. The European glory nights and the swashbuckling team. Oh how quickly the flame on that candle was snuffed out and not just snuffed out but completely extinguished as we went from European semi finals to relegation in the blink of an eye.

So now here we are with Bielsa in charge and a team that isn't afraid of anyone. A team that plays football in a way that is not only a joy to watch but in a way that sees us dominate against teams that we have no right to. Even when we were dazzling under O'Leary we still seemed a million miles away from producing the sort of football Arsenal played. O'Leary's side had desire, determiantion and skill but as a team Bielsa's side is so much more than the product of the individual parts. O'Leary tried to change the way we played, bringing Brian Kidd in as coach, Terry Venables tried to do likewise but neither of them came anywhere close to being able to change the way a side plays like Bielsa has done - and they had great players to work with.

We are truly blessed to have Bielsa, truly lucky to be able to watch this side play this way I can only hope that Bielsa sticks with us long enough that we don't just end up with fond memories and thoughts of what might have been.
Can only imagine what Bielsa would have done with attacking talent like Kewell, Viduka, Bridges, Bowyer etc, particularly before injuries and other issues cut them down. Have a feeling they might have developed a lot better on and off the pitch and fulfilled their potential under him too rather than flaming out like they all eventually did in one way or another. Kewell and Viduka had legitimate world class ability and could have been the best in the world at their positions with the right development, and Bridges was like a young Sheringham before he was destroyed by injuries, while Bowyer looked on track to be what Lampard eventually became. We had some incredibly talented defensive players too, but those in particular feel like massive what could have been's. It's actually incredible to see how many of the super talented O'Leary side had their careers cut down by injuries. With a manager anywhere close to Ferguson's level, this could have been a team of elite home grown talent that could have been the backbone of a team like United dominated with in the 90's.