Written by Harvey Camp (@harveycampjourn)
Twelve managerial jobs, a distinct reputation, unorthodox ways of coaching and the mentor of two of the world’s best coaches – Argentinean mastermind Marcelo Bielsa is a name that has floated around the football world for quite some time now.
His recent appointment at English Championship side Leeds United came as a shock to many who follow the second tier of English football. This was not just due to his favoured jobs usually being outside the UK, but also because of his preference for playing out from the back and his desire for a free flowing, technically sound style of play. Over recent years, this style of play hasn’t graced the pitch of Elland Road.
Prior to the start of the Championship season, Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola, who was an ‘apprentice’ of Bielsa during his young managerial days, described the Argentine as the “best coach in the world” and backed him to succeed at the Yorkshire club. Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino also worked under Bielsa during his managerial training and commented on his mentor’s appointment in an interview with Football London. Pochettino said, “I hope he changes the reality of Leeds, brings them to the Premier League and does a fantastic job there.” He also admitted that he sees the new Leeds boss as his “father”.
Two months down the line and Bielsa has certainly made his stamp on a side that not only want promotion, but are now looking at a league title, which would be Bielsa’s first outside of his home country. The Yorkshire side have certainly followed the Argentine’s style of free flowing passing, movement and high press. Leeds boast a record of seven wins and five draws out of 14 games in domestic conpetition this season. A start such as that merits applause, especially in arguably the toughest league in English football. However, with only one win to their name in their last four, the question arises if Bielsa’s prefered style of football needs adjusting in order to stop other Championship sides holding out for draws with displays commonly referred to as “parking the bus”.
I managed to catch up with life-long Leeds fan Rob Camp, who believed promotion is likely under Bielsa.
Rob said: “I believe his style of play could get us up, the high pressing and the playing out from the back.”
However, he admitted his main concern was the depth of the squad. Rob wonders whether the players brought in to replace the likes of Pablo Hernandez and Kemar Roofe, when they are injured, are good enough to replicate their impact in Bielsa’s usual Leeds XI. When asked if he was happy with the Argentine’s appointment, the Leeds fan responded: “I hadn’t actually heard of him beforehand. I obviously did some research when I found out about the appointment and read how highly he was regarded, but prior to the appointment I didn’t know much about him at all.” He later added that realizes now why Bielsa came in with “such a good reputation.”
The ultimate question is will Marcelo Bielsa be the man to finally take Leeds United back to the top flight of English football after years of hurt? Or will his style simply not adapt to the Championship in the long run? No doubt this will prove to be a defining season for Bielsa and in fact Leeds United, who look to push for the big time after 15 years of top flight absence.