Where it began
On June 15th, Leeds United appointed Marcelo Bielsa as Head Coach after Paul Heckingbottom was sacked because he was awful, simply awful. The move was a highly rumoured one with media from all over the world reporting it but no one actually expected ‘El Loco’ to actually take the role as Head Coach. Saying that though, I’m sure the rumoured £67K a week helps, right?
Bielsa is widely regarded as a footballing genius & has been given an almost god like status in certain places, but can it happen for Leeds? Well, the early signs are showing it can. I’ll explain a little more below.
Jack Harrison (Winger) – Harrison has a very bright future in football, having left Manchester United’s academy at an early age, he moved over to the USA. He played football for Wake Forest & joined New York City FC after trading Chicago for the First Round Pick of the 2016 MLS Superdraft. Harrison has everything needed to be a success at Leeds but with the side in such fine form at the minute, he may need to wait for his chance.
Barry Douglas (Defender) – How we only paid £3M for him, I’ll never know. Douglas was widely loved by the Wolves fan base & many were sad to see him leave. His crossing & skill in dead ball situations are to be applauded and he’ll be key on the left side this year.
Lewis Baker (Midfield) – Baker isn’t a player I know too much about, other than I signed him for Maccabi Tel Aviv on Football Manager and he was an absolute boss. From what I’ve read and what I’ve seen so far, hes got a very good work rate and will work his balls off for the team, I’m excited to see what comes from this loan move.
Jamal Blackman (Goalkeeper) – Blackman was widely applauded by Blades fans last year, at 6’7 he’s not exactly hard to miss. His size gives him a fantastic presence in the box & he should be collecting most things that come into the box. Something Leeds fans aren’t quite used to seeing. Peacock-Farrell has been in good form recently so It may be a case of sitting on the bench for a while.
Patrick Bamford (Striker) – Bamford is a player that we’ve been absolutely crying out for. A striker that is a natural finisher & is proven to score goals. It was shown when he was at Boro, scoring a Hat-Trick against Leeds with some neat finishes. Bamford scored 14 in 44 last year, but it was only under Tony Pulis when he truly flourished. Previously playing as a wide man, the move to Lone Striker is where Patrick scored most of his goals. I’m hoping he does a good job whist at Elland Road.
Whilst this isn’t the exact formation, it’s the lineup that has beaten Stoke, Derby & Rotherham and gained a point against Swansea. It was a slightly weird one because that lineup looks absolutely no different to the failures of last season. That would be correct, if you take away the inclusion of Barry Douglas and Klich (Who spent time on loan at Utrecht), it is the same players are last season. The very same players that flopped.
Tides have changed, Bielsa has instilled a new confidence and a new way of playing at the club. Douglas and Ayling push high up while Phillips drops back and sits a little deeper meaning that when we are attacking, we have an extra man back forming a 3 man defence. Berardi seems to have taken to his role like a duck to water and League One Liam now looks like Champions League Liam after some consistently solid performances.
Saiz has been given freedom to be an absolute baller while Alioski and Hernandez are still to find any real form. Alioski did get a goal against Derby though which will hopefully give him some confidence going forward from now on. One player that I do need to mention is Mateusz Klich, after being frozen out my Thomas Christiansen & a loan spell at Utrecht later, he’s come back with a point to prove and my god is he making a statement of intent. Four games in the Championship and 2 goals later the fans are in love with Mr. Klich, he’s been simply fantastic.
The season opener once again found Leeds on Sky Sports which meant a 4:30PM kick off on a Sunday against a much fancied Stoke City, coming into the game I genuinely though that we would get hammered. Stoke spent an awful lot of money & they already had a fairly decent side. However, they were simply awful. You could tell why Stoke went down, they were weak at the back & really, really lacklustre.
Leeds started on the front foot, taking the game to Stoke early on as the away side soaked up a fair amount of pressure. Mateusz Klich scored a gorgeous opener and Pablo Hernandez scored another just before half time. Going into the break 2-0 up was fantastic and it gave the fans such a big boost. A wonderful dive from the ‘walking penis’ that is Tom Ince gave Benik Afobe chance to score from the spot which he did, the game was back on.
Last season, Leeds would’ve crumbled and Stoke would’ve walked away with 3 points but Leeds well and truly took the game to them. Champions League Liam scored the winner in the 57th minute, but in truth….. It could’ve been more.
The Derby game was yet another example of the brilliance of Bielsa. Another goal from Mateusz Klich gave Leeds a 1-0 lead after 5 minutes before Peacock-Farrell flapped at a Tom Lawrence free kick which made it 1-1. This is when Leeds stepped it up, Kemar Roofe scored in the 21st minute and added a second in the 60th minute & Alioski got his only goal in the 64th, We well and truly stole the show. Lampard was left shell shocked as were the Derby fans.
Pride Park was a place that we would’ve struggled at last year, a place where we would’ve been beaten comfortably. I can’t remember the result last year but it probably wasn’t great & we were probably pants, but this year is different.
EL LOCO BABY!
I‘d be lying if I said I knew how Bielsa set his sides out before he arrived at Leeds. I had heard several things about him and the way he gets his teams playing. One thing for sure though, it’s bloody brilliant. He’s not afraid to take risks, he’s not afraid of making big calls, one example is taking Phillips off after 27 minutes against Swansea midweek. He knows his style, his philosophy and he’ll die by it.
Listening to the man in press conferences, you can’t help but be in awe of his explanations, the depth in which he answers his questions, making sure his point is made crystal clear. He’s widely regarded by lots of people around the world as a tactical genius, Pep Guardiola & Mauricio Pochettino have both spoke about the influence he’s had on them both regarding careers.
Although, he has a nickname of ‘El Loco’, while at Leeds he’s appeared level headed, calm and composed. He’s aware of everything that needs to happen and he knows exactly how to get the job done. If this is the way that Leeds will play this season, it’s going to be one hell of a ride but the question is, can we really keep this intensity and magic up all season?
I god damn hope so.
Other Articles you may enjoy
- FM18: How to create a working 3-5-2
- How Will The UEFA Nations League Work?
- Bradley Wright-Phillips – Reborn in New York
- Interview with former St Mirren and current Ross County player, Stelios Demetriou
As always, if you have enjoyed the writing on display and want to stay up to date with us, you can follow us on our social media pages –