Defeat to Wigan has certainly put a downer on things. The signings of last week followed by the second half come-back against Millwall had raised spirits somewhat, given fans some confidence going into the business end of the season. But that was dealt a blow on Saturday and the Leeds fans have expressed their frustration, disappointment and anxiety in differing ways. People are looking for someone to blame, but there seems to be an unwritten rule amongst some Leeds fans that Marcelo Bielsa is untouchable, beyond criticism. I don’t buy that, even Bielsa laid the blame squarely on his own shoulders in his post-match interview...
”Phil Hay” wrote:As tends to be the way with Bielsa, he's blaming himself. Says if he was a Leeds fan he'd be asking why the head coach can't resolve repetitive issues. Also insisted that the players are doing what he's asking them to do so the finger can't be pointed at them.
We cannot underplay what Bielsa has done for this club, there is no way this group of players would be challenging at the top of the Championship without him. His style of football has filled Elland Road, the fans have returned and there is a buzz about the club and city. He is a prophet of footballing purity, a legend and god to many. But for all he has done we’ve been here before, as many Bielsa teams have done in the past. We flapped and floundered in exactly the same way last season. It’s not necessarily that Leeds fans are looking for someone to blame, they are looking for someone to right the wrongs and stop this slide.
In the last ten games Leeds have won just two, losing five and picking up nine points after a possible thirty. That’s relegation form, not promotion form. Yes we are still in the automatic promotion places but the gap to third has fallen from eleven to three points. It’s only right the fans are looking for answers to the questions poised in the last ten games, but they are not forthcoming. For Bielsa the system is absolute, there is little deviation from that system and little deviation from the players experienced in playing in that system, no matter whether they suit a particular position or not.
With Kalvin Philips suspended there is a gaping hole in the way we play, the engine room has gone. Phillips links the defence and attack in a particular way and with Forshaw still injured there is no natural replacement, Alfie McCalmont aside perhaps. But rather than change the system to suit the players available Stuart Dallas has been shoehorned into the role. Don’t get me wrong, Dallas has had a fantastic season, at right back he was phenomenal but he is not a central midfielder. There is an unwillingness to change the formation, a reluctance to use the Under 23’s aside from a select few.
Supporters have also been critical of Andrea Radrizzani and Victor Orta but they have filled the two key gaps in the squad this January Bielsa had identified. Bielsa may have been annoyed Nketiah returned to Arsenal but he was recalled because Bielsa didn’t play him. Leeds are desperate for more options up front, for all Bamfords hard work he doesn’t take his chances and Leeds are crying out for someone to put the ball in the back of the net. Put away our chances and we go up, simple. Jean-Kévin Augustin has arrived, an exciting player, but he sits in the stands watching rather than even making the bench from where he could potentially make a difference.
We all know Bielsa’s requirement that players are brought up to speed in the style of play but we need options now. Both Poveda and Augustin have the ability to change the game, even without being indoctrinated in the system, and we need the options to change a game now, not in three weeks. As much as Bielsa’s greatness has given us the chance of promotion, his stubbornness could cost us it. There is no doubt though that we can beat anyone in this league, Forest and Brentford will be a test but there is any chance we could win both. If we do nerves will be settled and we will be in a great place for the run in. The worst thing about Saturday’s result is we now have to wait a week to get answers to all the questions we have!
Last sentence shamelessly nicked from Leeds United author David Watkins.