Marcelo Bielsa is known as one of football’s greatest minds.
Nicknamed ‘El Loco’, the Argentine is cited as an inspiration for several top managers of the modern game, such as Pep Guardiola, Diego Simeone and Mauricio Pochettino.
However, not everyone is completely convinced. In over 30 years of management, the 66-year-old has won nothing outside of Argentina.
But it’s not his trophy haul that has given him his reputation. It’s his unique playstyle, which relies on relentless running and constant man-to-man marking.
His Leeds United side are known for being the most hard-working team in the Premier League.
It’s highly entertaining and leads to some cracking games. However, it also means that his side end up on the wrong end of a thrashing every now and then.
Many people see it as style over substance – playing his way at the consequence of results.
Now, let’s make one thing clear – Bielsa HAS got results at Leeds. When he took over, the Yorkshire club had just finished 13th in the Championship.
He took them to the play-offs in his first year, title winners in his second, and ninth in the top flight in his third. He’s done a fantastic job at Elland Road.
But this season has not been so successful. 18 games in, and Leeds have picked up just 16 points. They sit in 16th place, while every team below them has games in hand. They are very much in danger of relegation.
Recent results have been brutal. They travelled to the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday and were on the wrong end of a 7-0 thumping. Then Arsenal came to Elland Road and netted four – and it could have easily been a lot more.
As many have pointed out, Leeds have been suffering through a major injury crisis. Several key players have been missing, such as Kalvin Phillips, Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo. But even then, conceding 11 in two games is obscene.
Here’s the thing with Bielsa. He plays the same way every single weekend, regardless of the opposition. He’s very set in his ways.
This can get results when he’s got a fully fit squad. But when he hasn’t? Well, the evidence is there from the last two matches.
Here is where Bielsa’s stubbornness becomes a serious problem. He’s persisting with his method with players who aren’t good enough for it. It’s utter suicide.
It’s all well and good having a philosophy and being brave against the big sides, but at some point he’s got to realise that it doesn’t work without his best players. Better managers would adapt to the squad that they’re working with.
On Boxing Day, Leeds travel to Anfield to play Liverpool, who are the division’s top scorers by a fair distance. If Bielsa plays the same way, we can expect another slaughter.
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