Huge success or massive failure? What can Leeds fans expect from Marco Bielsa

“A man with new ideas is a madman, until his ideas triumph” Marco Bielsa

To say heads in the EFL Championship were turned by the appointment of former PE teacher Marco Bielsa as Leeds United manager ahead of the start of the season would be an understatement to say the least.

Loco Bielsa, Madman Bielsa in english has a reputation as a bit of a, well, character lets say in football circles.

The Argentian coach has had some radical views and ways of coaching in his various roles in the past Espanyol, Argentina, Chile, Marseille and most recently Lille have all been under Bielsa’s control with limited success coming in the form of an Olympic gold medal with Argentina in 2004.

Bielsa stayed in charge of the Argentinian national team for four years, a highlight being a bizarre game against Columbia which saw Argentina miss three penalties in a 3-0 loss with Bielsa getting sent off in the process after a confrontation with the referee.

“In my respect of my expulsion (from the game) the referee was correct in his decision” Bielsa after the 3-0 drubbing by Colombia

The former Newells Old Boys defender earned his stripes in coaching at the same club leading them to several titles in the 1990’s. Stints managing in Chilean football followed but it was with the Chilean national team that he earned cult status with the huge improvement in the performances of the team but also because of his gesturing and antics on the touchline.

He also managed to get stuck in to the issues of the political system in Chile during his time there.

But it was at Athletic Bilbao that Bielsa really came to prominence. Appointed in 2011 Bielsa lead the Basque side to the Europa League Final and the Copa Del Rey finals in his first season albeit losing both finals. Bielsa left in 2013.

Stints at Marseille for a year and then Lille alerted teams across Europe to his tactical nous and inventiveness although his behaviour put possible suitors off perhaps.

Leeds United come calling

So we come to the summer of 2018 more exactly the 5th August at Elland Road against Stoke City, relegated from the EPL last season and who have kept hold of most of that EPL squad bar Xherdan Shaquiri, and Bielsa gets his first taste of what some describe as the toughest league in the world.

Leeds attacked with gusto and their pressing from Roofe as the lone striker all the way back to always-on the front foot goalkeeper Peacock-Farrell was impressive and a feature of Bielsa’s reputation is playing this way.

Leeds players all confirmed at various points in preseason that Bielsa’s methods and relentless fitness work were tough going but it clearly paid off against Stoke who seemed surprised at the intensity Leeds came at them with.

Leeds United pass map against Stoke City
Playing in a 4-1-4-1 formation pressing from Roofe and the midfield four behind him was relentless especially in wide areas where Gary Rowett’s men couldnt even catch a breath on the ball and when in defense to attcking transitions Leeds made the pitch as wide as possible with Alioski and Hernandez on the flanks taking on players and delivering crosses. As the home sides goals flee in Bielsa stayed emotionless on the touchline choosing to stay seated on his upturned water bucket.

“It is the first game, maybe i will get excited” Bielsa after the game

As an Championship fan i look forward to seeing what comes from Leeds and Bielsa as the season progresses but hold on its going to be a hell of a ride.

Gareth Cooper

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