3 Conversation Points from Marcelo Bielsa’s Tenure At Leeds United

09 Nov 2021 08:48 pm, by YorkshireSquare

When you think about coaches that have become living legends of a sport, be it because of their illustrious title-ridden careers, or the impact they have caused on their sport, a few good men usually pop up right away. In basketball you have Phil Jackson, Pat Riley and Steve Kerr, in the NFL you of course have Bill Belichick, whose Tom Brady led Patriots teams would always be perennial Super Bowl odds favorites and in football, the list is as long as it is varied.

If you think of title cladded careers, Sir Alex Ferguson comes to mind, Fabio Capello, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola automatically take the stands. If you think of managerial prodigies, Jurgen Klopp, Julian Nagelsmann and Eric Ten Hag are a few good examples. But when you think of a coach that is respected and revered by all of the above and many more, Marcelo Bielsa is the man to call upon.

Seen by many as one of the most advanced coaches for our times, when Bielsa took on the Leeds United managerial job in June of 2018, it can easily be said that nobody in the institution was ready for what was to come. Now, three years after his tenure began, let’s look back at three conversation points from Marcelo Bielsa’s time at Leeds United.

There’s No Denying the Bielsa Effect

While his title winning pedigree might not read as a juggernaut list of trophies and accomplishments, Marcelo Bielsa has always been seen as one of the greatest masterminds in the sport of football. Some find his tactics a bit too ahead of times, while others criticize his brash coaching style, but if there’s one thing that’s true about “El Loco” is that whatever he does on the field with his teams, his players follow. Ever since joining Leeds United, Bielsa has turned this team into one of the most impactful and entertaining squads to watch in British football, and while results might not always be the best, there is no denying the “Bielsa Effect” in Leeds United.

Understanding Bielsa’s vision in football is trying to understand what complete football is all about. With man-to-man pressing combined with a speedy attacking strategy, Bielsa has managed to combine old-style football with modern zone marking ideals, where every man on the field knows exactly where they have to be and are not allowed to give up on a mark until the ball is out of play. This has led Leeds to become one of the most forward-thinking teams in the most competitive football league in the world, the English Premier League. For Bielsa, a team’s success does not lie on star power alone, but on what the squad as a whole can do, leaving the stardom to different characters throughout each match. It is because of this that this team has been able to churn out some very good talents, all led by the beliefs and tactics behind the “Bielsa Effect”.

His Belief In Small Compact Groups Has Been Both A Blessing And A Curse

Marcelo Bielsa is a manager who believes in the strength within his group of players rather than the power that one or two stars can bring to the table by themselves. This has been a recurring thing with his Leeds United squad, where having a roster usually smaller in comparison to their opposition has helped certain players achieve new levels of experience, talent and stardom. From the get-go, players like Raphinha, Rodrigo, Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford, have found a way to become perennial shining stars in Bielsa’s team. But still, Bielsa’s ideals of a small and compact roster have turned out to have a few flaws as well as high points.

For example, while last season this strategy worked very well for the team, this season, because of injury scares and international call-ups, Leeds has been on the wrong side of the equation, having to deal with scrounging for answers and options on the run, instead of being fully prepared for any mishaps. Bielsa has been one to debate on how Premier League class players are expensive to bring to the team and it’s best to work with what’s in house and at hand instead of blowing the budget out of proportion, but if this season works as a signal point, it’s that sometimes, less is not usually more.

Trusting Bielsa, In the Long Run, Might Be Volatile But It Pays Off Big Time

This season, Leeds United fans and critics have been through a small-scale roller coaster of emotions with Bielsa’s teams and the results they’ve been harvesting. But alarm bells are still far away from blasting any time soon around the team and the manager’s seat. Bielsa still has the full support of his team, of the team’s president, and of the fans, who have seen in him what a football revolution can be all about.

Given that in his tenure at Leeds he has managed to bring the club back to the EPL as well as have them place 9th in their first season back, all while receiving praises about his work left and right, it would be a very bad idea for Leeds United to think about letting “El Loco” walk. With Bielsa, you just have to trust the process, because even if it’s hard to understand it sometimes if he is given the right tools, he will get the job done.