Marcelo Bielsa: The Man Behind The Revolution At Leeds United 0

Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa- the man who took EFL Championship by the
scruff of it’s neck by making the ball work in his way. He had come to Leeds United as probably the best manager that they have ever had.

Bielsa “El Loco” which means ‘The Crazy One’ became a football coach and manager in his early 20’s, if we look at any list of highest achieving managers in the history of football in terms of trophies won we will not see his name but if we would ask some of the greatest managers today to name their biggest influences then Bielsa’s name would be up there sitting high on just about everyone’s list. The likes of Marucio Pochettinho, Diego Simeone, Pep Guardiola and many others have shown admirations towards Bielsa’s brand of pacey, attacking the football.

leeds united manager marcelo bielsa gives instructions too subst 953714 - Marcelo Bielsa: The Man Behind The Revolution At Leeds United

After 15 years of exile from the Premier League, Leeds United with Marcelo Bielsa in charge are looking to get back into the top flight of English Football. It was the 15th managerial appointment by the board and the board would be hoping that this appointment would satisfy the ever so
demanding fan base of Leeds United and bring the glory days back to the Elland Road. Now let’s take a deeper look into the tactical approach of the Argentine.

Marcelo Bielsa is obsessive in his preparations using videos and presentations to explain the opposition system to his team. He is known for his high defensive line as he borrows the principle from Arrigo Sacchi which says there shouldn’t be more than 25 meters between the foremost attacker and the deepest defender.

He favours a base structure of 4-4-2 which is visibly shifted into 3-3-1-3 at times. He often gets his team to play with ferocious pace, despite favouring a possession-based game. This requires a huge
technical skill from his squad. He frequently uses his midfielders in a central defensive role to ensure that they have the ball skills to pass out from the back.

In Bielsa’s football, there is an emphasis on verticality, transitioning the ball rapidly forwards to force the opposition back. Players rotate, switching the focus of the attack and are expected to be able to fill in for one another to improvise within the system which indicates that there is something of the positional fluidity of ‘Total Football’ in Bielsa’s approach. He doesn’t really set up his team to play a defensive block or an attacking one but his players are expected to run and hassle while playing the high line that minimizes the opposition’s room to develop an attack.

Defensively Leeds United apply a man marking strategy, which makes their defensive shape based on the opponent’s structure. Bielsa makes sure that his team has one extra defender than the opponents have strikers. He prefers gegenpressing so that his players would interact immediately after losing the ball by closing down the passing lanes. This athletic and aggressive style of pressing helps them to take advantage of the disorganized formation of the opposition and create counter-attacks.

Now coming to his attacking movements, ‘El Loco’ likes
possession based fast vertical football to break the lines by the coordinating movements in triangles. These triangles ease them to apply the gegenpressing as the players find themselves close to each other. Leeds United averaged 59.5% possession this season, which is highest by a Championship side. Along with this, the average number of shots by them is also the most in the Championship which signifies the end product too.

But his style of management comes with it’s own fair share of
problems. Well, it may be because his way of management which is dogmatic where he demands an awful lot from his players. The current Manchester United midfielder Ander Herrera who has played under Bielsa during his time at Athletic Bilbao has mentioned in the past that when Bielsa was at Bilbao, they were all wiped out and physically drained by the end of the season and in the Europa League final they had nothing left in the tank.

His stubbornness has often seen him leave clubs for not getting his way. When Bielsa took over the Italian giants Lazio in the early parts of 2016/17 season, his stint at the Serie A club just lasted for 48 hours. He claims that he left the club as it had failed to sign the players he wanted by the deadline he set, despite there being eight weeks to run in the transfer window.

Marcelo Bielsa has had his share of bizarre departures from Marseille, Lazio and the recent one being Lille. To solely blame him for his
peculiar exits from the clubs would definitely be wrong but there were bizarre situations that led to his recent resignations. Often he is seen as a volatile figure but with age, it looks like he has opened up a lot  and we see a bit more of the emotion from him. Leeds United would be hoping that his term at Elland Road would be much longer than any of his spells in Europe.