Daily Archives: 08/06/2018

Despite the Furore, Marcelo Bielsa Remains Odds-On to be Leeds’ new Boss – by Rob Atkinson

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Bielsa, or Bruce, or A.N.Other? Nobody knows, but the bookies have an idea

There’s a feeding frenzy of speculation surrounding Leeds United right now, with various internet sources pouncing on the fans’ anxiety to fuel debate as to whether the Whites will end up with a former Argentinian coach, or a former Man U centre half. Those two possibilities represent just about as polarised a choice of footballing philosophies as you could imagine, with Marcelo Bielsa favouring a high pressing game with a fluid attacking formation, whilst Steve Bruce would probably just let the players get on with it as, keenly aware of his popularity level at Elland Road, he sits in the dugout with a tin hat on.

It’s all speculation, simply because there is very, very little hard information out there. The sensible fan will resign him or herself to sitting back and waiting for something solid to transpire – but they might also take a passing glance at those bookies’ odds, which still have Bielsa as a strong odds-on favourite, despite talk of “drastic changes” in those odds. Odds-on in a field of several is powerful medicine; it does not indicate to the thinking fan that anything at all drastic has taken place. What is doubtless going on will be a lot of hard and urgent talking and, for the moment at least, that talking is most likely between United and Bielsa. Rumours that he is analysing videos of Leeds games from last season might incline us to send the poor chap some Paracetamol, but they do not, of themselves, make any particular outcome more likely.

All that’s actually happened in the betting market is that Bruce’s odds are shortened from 20-1 to 5-1, whilst Bielsa has seen his heavy odds-on price of 1-5 go out slightly to 4-9. That’s significant movement, particularly on the Bruce side – but then again, markets react to speculation, and his name has been bruited about a lot this past 24 hours. Overall, though, Bielsa remains a hot favourite – which is the most definite thing anyone can currently say.

For the record, my preference would be for Bielsa, based simply on the brand of football we might see. I’d also be extremely open to the possibility (if it exists) of Claudio Ranieri, who still rides fairly high in the odds.

It’s been a frustrating few days, and that might carry on a while yet. But all the indications remain positive that we’re still in for a very exciting summer.

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Elland Road’s England Extravaganza Proves Premier League Needs Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

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Southgate’s England win at a vibrant and atmospheric Elland Road

England‘s last stopping-off point before their Russian quest for World Cup glory was at a vibrant and atmospheric Elland Road – and the occasion told us plenty, some of it even about our national team and its chances this summer.

Talking about England first, this was a competent and dominant performance against a slightly jet-lagged Costa Rica team who were still nobody’s mugs. England pretty much won as they liked though, with Marcus Rashford, looking much more effective with better players around him, making a persuasive case for inclusion in the opening game of England’s group, ahead, perhaps, of Raheem Sterling. Rashford’s spectacular 13th minute opener brought generous cheers from the Kop, despite the lad’s day job, with Danny Welbeck‘s close range header near the end greeted equally warmly by the South Stand. In between the two decisive strikes, England passed prettily, defended well enough to leave their keeper Jack Butland largely unemployed, and a lively attack gave the Costa Rican defence plenty to think about.

But the signature note of the evening was struck by the occasion’s real star – Elland Road itself. For once in a very long while, the muted, apathetic atmosphere of Wembley was replaced by a thrillingly raucous fervour to urge on the national team, courtesy of one of football’s genuine, old-style cauldrons of white-hot atmosphere. That’s done nowhere quite so well as it is in this part of Leeds; the crowd lifted the England players to a degree that was obvious to anybody who’s suffered through some of those dreary friendlies in North London. This was dutifully acknowledged by commentators and pundits alike; Clive Tyldesley for ITV noted that the attendance was around 36,000, “but sounds like twice as much”. Indeed. Old Trafford, it’s worth mentioning, can do a similar trick – only the other way around.

Lee Dixon in his punditry role was fired with enthusiasm afterwards. This is what you need, he exulted, thumbing over his shoulder at the arena behind him. Let’s take England on the road. It’s a good idea, one that’s been around for years now, but the commercial lure of Wembley has usually won the day. Perhaps there will now be a rethink. It’s no coincidence that this was one of the better England “friendly” performances; the team responded to the crowd, the occasion, the unique atmosphere. Above all, tonight showed beyond doubt that the Premier League – currently stuffed with pedestrian acts like Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Watford – positively needs the return of Leeds United. The stadium, the club and the fanatical support are all wasted on anything less than the elite group, and the so-called Premier League has been diluted too far and for too long by elements of mediocrity. The return of United cannot come too soon, for the sake of all parties concerned.

For Leeds United fans, it was a taste of what might be to come, the stadium packed out and cheering on some top class footballers who may even be destined for great things. How the fans of Yorkshire‘s top club would like to sample that atmosphere, and witness this style of performance, on a more regular basis. It’s a dream, something to hope for and aspire to. And, you never know – those dreams do occasionally come true.