WILL BIELSA SUCCEED AT LEEDS?

There has been a lot of noise with the appointment of Marcelo Bielsa as the manager at Leeds United. The Championship side went straight to one of the most respected tacticians in the game of football to help them grow from a Championship side to a stable Premier League side.

Bielsa is a former Chile and Argentina manager but he has a strong reputation amongst coaches in the world. Complaints have come from a section of the fans who feel the coach might not be able to come to terms with the requirements of modern football. There are fears he would not be able to properly navigate issues around boardroom politics, season planning and management, player and fans’ management etc.

Bielsa is known to be strict in handling his affairs. He left Lazio two days after his appointment, citing the board being “lazy” in getting things done. He is a higher level of Pep Guardiola in tasking his teams and seeking perfection else he gets frustrated. The coach might not have achieved a lot of silverwares but his insistence on quality tactics analysis and in pushing players to their boundaries inspired the Catalan manager, Mauricio Pochettino, Diego Simeone and co.

He might have left a real mark in South America but it seems he is a misfit for modern football, especially in Europe where a lot of factors come into play. He was spectacular in the 2011/12 season with Athletic Bilbao. They finished 10th in the league but they showed their mettle against top teams such as Barcelona, Manchester United – dumping them from the Europa League. Bilbao got to the final of the Europa League that season but lost to Atletico Madrid.

Many don’t expect Bielsa to last long on the job, not even due to his Lazio experience but because of his demands. He requires a high level of pressing and football intelligence. He would need the board to support his ambition and the kind of players he wants, pushing away advices in line with the club’s transfer strategy. The question is if the Leeds management team is ready for the coach. Bielsa would promote younger, hungrier players that follow his advice. The player will surely learn a thing or two and it would help their game overall but it would come at high cost.

Fans would have wanted someone with English experience as Bielsa does not necessary guarantee promotion. There are recognized and successful manager that are available but Leeds opted to go for someone extreme, then it’s likely hit or miss.

All his protégés have praised him many times in their careers, from Guardiola to Simeone to Pochettino. Dutch football expert Jan van Winckel likened Bielsa’s team to listening to Beethoven’s ninth symphony, following his time with him at Marseille. The coach focuses on constant movement, rotation, concentration on what really matters and improvising as the game demands. The 62-year old is revered for his philosophies but how these would all work in Leeds favour remains to be seen.