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Leeds United were sensational on Saturday. We may not have come away with the win, but the performance was a statement of intent and there will be plenty of teams looking on worrying about Leeds United now. But it hasn’t taken long for the lazy, uninformed comments to come out from so called ‘journalists’. Whilst Leeds United fans have been all too aware that football exists outside of the Premier League over the last sixteen years, there are some it seems who don’t bother to watch games outside of the top-flight, instead forming their opinions base on tired clinches and falsehoods.
Whilst most commentators were impressed with Marcelo Bielsa’s sides attacking performance many have questioned their defensive qualities. The BBC’s Chief football Phil McNulty wrote ‘there is an air of naivety which they must address’ and he wasn’t the only one to express this view. The fact is though, it is the journalists themselves who are naïve. Whilst they have been self-absorbed in their insular top twenty world, Leeds United and their fans have undergone a cultural awakening over the past two years thanks to one man, Marcelo Bielsa.
Bielsa has taught us all to see football in a different way and we are all the better for it. Not a chance fans were discussing rotations and transitions under the dark days of Neil Warnock, but we are now alive to what is possible when you have a genius at the helm. A squad of mid-table Championship players has been revolutionised into a team capable of going toe to toe with the Champions of England. We don’t conform to the belief that you have to park the bus at Anfield, we play out own game and get results.
Only Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Saltzburg and Chelsea managed to score three goals at Anfield last season, Leeds United rock up on the first day and put three past the league champions. Only an imperious performance from Mo Salah and four set-piece goals prevented Leeds taking all the points. Attack is the best form of defence for Leeds, proved by the best defensive record in the Championship last season. Leeds pressed Liverpool all game and they had to work hard to overcome it, many teams in the Premier League will not be up to the task.
Graeme Souness also questioned whether Leeds could keep up that level of pressing all season, it’s the old, lazy stereotype that Bielsa teams fade and tire, but not this one. They proved it in a 46 game Championship season, a 38 game Premier League season with no mid-week games will be a walk in the park in comparison. Ask Mateusz Klich, whose missed one game in two seasons, if he’s tired after ripping a hole in the Liverpool defence and thrashing a volley home. Leeds were the fittest team in the Championship and they will be one of the fittest teams in the Premier league.
Washed up old sun hacks like Mick Dennis and bacon faced TalkSport presenter Mick Parry also regurgitated the same old thinly veiled racist comments, “Why can’t Bielsa speak English?” The fact is, he can, we know he can, he regularly corrects his translator. But his English is not perfect so he prefers to speak through a translator rather than have his words misinterpreted and misconstrued by those very same hacks who bemoan his lack of English in the first place. Us Leeds fans are just happy to let Bielsa do his talking through his team on the pitch.
So to all those naïve journalists, open your eyes, drop the clichés and stereotypes and just enjoy what the likes of Leeds and Sheffield United bring to the Premier League. There is life outside of the top-flight with plenty of teams, players and coaches more than capable of crashing your little party.