Tag Archives: Marcelo Bielsa

Man City Hotshot Set For Leeds United Move – by Rob Atkinson

Despite interest from other prominent Championship clubs, it appears that Pep Guardiola’s deep respect for Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa will see another of Manchester City’s young tearaways link up with the Whites for a season at Elland Road.

Lukas Nmecha is a strong, powerful speed machine with an eye for goal. Coveted by many, he should prove to be a real asset to whichever club can lure him away from the Etihad for the duration of this campaign. Leeds appear to be in the mix for young Nmecha, 19, and the links between Bielsa and Guardiola could see United clinch a deal.

It would appear also that Nmecha may not be the only late-window arrival at Elland Road, with a hectic and exciting few days in prospect next week.

But first… Stoke City on Sunday. Watch out for a match reaction and talking points here on Monday.

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Leeds United, Club and Fans, Could Have Done Better Over Jay-Roy Grot – by Rob Atkinson

The Don – fostered family atmosphere at Leeds

In a week hardly short of news stories about Leeds United, one in particular stands out for any fan of the Elland Road club who remembers how the first faltering steps to greatness were taken under Don Revie in the sixties; how, in short, football’s greatest family club was built. So, while I could have written this week about the arrivals at Elland Road of quality recruits for the campaign ahead, I will resist that temptation.

Instead, let’s look at Joe Urquhart’s recent Yorkshire Evening Post revelations about the struggles in his Leeds career so far of a young man called Jay-Roy Grot who, at the tender age of 20, is going for a year on loan at Dutch side VVV-Venlo. Grot, a young colossus of a man at 6’4”, arrived at United last summer from NEC of Nijmegen, snatched from under the noses of Italian giants Fiorentina. Sadly, the lad’s first year at Leeds did not go well, and his confidence has suffered. The loan away from United is designed to remedy that, in the hope of seeing him return stronger in the future.

All well and good, but a look at the role of club and supporters in this less than creditable tale might be instructive. The Elland Road support has been notorious since well before Revie’s time as “a hard crowd to play for”. They’re a crowd of extremes. They can get right behind their team, lifting them to peaks of effort and attainment. But, for the individual who is struggling to put a foot right, it can feel much less encouraging, with the terrace critics sometimes launching in even before a ball has been kicked. Young players of great potential can nevertheless find themselves dismissed as “crap”, and persecuted accordingly, should they fail to hit the ground running. Such was the shattering experience of Jay-Roy Grot.

Back in Revie’s day, before the term “pastoral care” had gained much currency, it was nevertheless a big part of the foundations of the Super Leeds side that grew up as a band of brothers to carry all before them. Revie saw to it that off-field problems would not get in the way of his team’s success on the park; his charges were looked after and nurtured. When the boo-boys got to a young and cherubic Billy Bremner, Revie supported and shielded him. If a player’s wife had a baby, there would be flowers from the Don, or a box of chocolates to celebrate a girlfriend’s birthday. No detail was too small, no problem too trivial. Revie looked after his lads and their families, and they repaid him by becoming legends.

Now, with the constant recent managerial changes at Elland Road, there seems to be no such continuity of care. The sad loss of Lucy Ward from her health and welfare role a few years back created a gap in the Leeds United system that remains arguably unfilled. These heartbreaking words from young Grot make for uneasy reading: “I am not someone who makes friends easily. And that also broke me up in England. Cooking, I had no problems with that. But coming home every day to an empty house, I had a hard time. I did nothing, nobody knew. I also had little contact with the other boys in the beginning”. The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that both fans and club could and should have done better in the case of Jay-Roy Grot and, going forward, they need to take this on board.

We must aim for less of the destructive booing from fans, less ignorant haranguing on Twitter, with more awareness and support coming from the club. This is not rocket science, and it’s simply not acceptable for a young player to feel as isolated as Grot evidently did. Maybe Leeds United should just ring Lucy Ward and beg her to come back? In the sad absence of the late, great Don Revie, Lucy is probably the best option.

High Time Leeds United Got Serious and Professional about LUTV – by Rob Atkinson

The Twitter hashtag #LUFC on Thursday evening was full of Leeds fans moaning, carping and complaining bitterly. This isn’t exactly an unusual state of affairs but, for once, almost every gripe was well justified. Because, departing from the usual theme of ranting about transfer activity or the lack thereof, Leeds fans on Thursday evening were up in arms about the woefully amateurish “service” provided by LUTV.

To say the service provided is not good enough hardly does justice to what an appalling travesty it is. The club have had the cheek to charge for what is likely to be pretty grim viewing – a series of pre-season friendlies with hardly a new signing to be seen – and they have failed, in the case of the York City game, to fulfil their side of this dubious bargain. The picture constantly froze, and even when there was some visual action, it was miles out of sync with the amateurish commentary. Most of the time though, the picture was pixelated or frozen. It’s not good enough, not when you’re charging folk hard brass. The package of pre-season matches is around fifteen quid, with individual games at £3.99. By comparison with that, the beer I bought at a Broadway Theatre last year, which came in at around $14 for a half pint, was pretty good value.

It’s time Leeds United got serious about their in-house TV station, and sought a satellite platform as other clubs have done, Liverpool and Chelsea being notable examples. It’s difficult to understand why this doesn’t appear close to happening; our owner is a media mogul, for heaven’s sake, and the strength of the Leeds following globally is the stuff of legends. The demand is there, surely the resources are too, and there’s simply no excuse for a club like Leeds to take our money and then provide a service that simply doesn’t work.

So let’s see LUTV on Sky, the interest would be huge if there was a reliable and professional service. Then perhaps the days of buffering, shoddy camera work and joke commentators could be put firmly behind us.

Crazy Boss for a Crazy Club. Leeds and Bielsa, a Match Made in Heaven… or Hell – by Rob Atkinson

Marcelo Leeds

Welcome to Leeds United, Marcelo Bielsa

The Marcelo Bielsa era at Leeds United has officially begun, with the man they call “el Loco” – the Madman – holding his inaugural press conference at Elland Road on Monday. Despite a reputation for lengthy press sessions, this was a brisk hour and twenty two minutes, with much of it taken up by the translation process. During that time, we all learned a fair bit about the new United boss. There were questions, answers, a few laughs and no grenades.

One thing that stood out was that, despite his evident dislike of false modesty, Bielsa is not short of humility. He batted back questions about Pep Guardiola regarding him as the best coach in the world, by hanging that accolade firmly around the Manchester City boss’s own neck. The overall picture was of a man who would not be settling for sound bites or stereotypes – a man indeed with his own philosophy and the determination to see that imprinted on his new situation.

When it came to brass tacks, the Argentinean revealed that he thought the Leeds United squad was top-heavy by maybe 15 players, whilst acknowledging that it needed strengthening in four or five areas. Although he stated that there wouldn’t be too many players coming in, and that he saw the youth element at the club as being a potentially useful resource, it still seems likely that there will be some significant player turnover in the near future – with outgoing players making up the bulk of that.

Overall, Bielsa’s debut day went well, and seemed to be well-received, certainly on social media. For this, we must thank the affable and efficient translator, who managed to convey not just the text of Marcelo’s utterances, but also nuance, light and shade. There was even some eye contact from Bielsa, a man notoriously not given to that – and, more remarkably still, the odd smile.

The only potential gaffe came when Bielsa was asked whether he preferred Don Revie or Brian Clough, and delivered a brief homily on his football philosophy, stating “In terms of winning the right way, I prefer to lose rather than cheat or play tricks. I prefer beautiful football rather than over-pragmatic football. Playing well brings you closer to winning things. I don’t think we can claim that playing badly is a way that achieves victory.”

That’s all well and good, but anyone working for the United cause needs to be wary of straying into heresy; sections of the press are all too ready to pounce gleefully on any apparent endorsement of the old myth that Cloughy was all good and the Don all bad. Perhaps a little while spent around LS11 will lead to a reassessment in this particular area. It was a distinctly left-field question, though and, so far, at least, nobody seems to be holding Bielsa’s slightly equivocal response against him.

If anything, this one uncertain moment summed up the abiding sense that here is an appointment that could as easily go extraordinarily wrong as it could sublimely right. In the here and now, nobody can predict which of those two extremes is the more likely – people are just settling for the near certainty that it won’t be anything in between. This union of crazy club with crazy man could indeed be a match made in heaven – or hell.

For the moment, then, it’s full ahead for the good ship Leeds with Captain Bielsa at the helm. May fair winds and calm waters see him safe to the destination we all wish so fervently to reach, there to prosper and maybe find some silver. The mission is clear, the rewards are great. And, while the voyage may be long or short, what we can most definitely predict is that it’s highly unlikely to be boring.

Multiple Incoming Transfers for Leeds as Bielsa Style Means Large Squad – by Rob Atkinson

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Bielsa – deep squad vital

If every transfer deal Leeds United are supposed to be working on actually came to fruition, then United would need to expand Thorp Arch to twice its current size at least. Most of the speculation, of course, is just that. It’s the sort of thing that takes off during the silly season, when there’s no actual football being played, apart from some prima donnas’ kickabout in Mother Russia. And right now, every sort of speculation has reached fever pitch around LS11 – due to the arrival of a certain allegedly deranged Argentinean, name of Marcelo Bielsa.

The difference Bielsa makes to our recent idea of normality is really twofold. Firstly, the pursuit and capture of a coach with a global reputation must be seen as a sign of serious intent on the part of Leeds United FC, of an ambition not manifest in recent seasons. Bielsa is not daft, and he’ll have made his position and his requirements abundantly clear during the tough negotiations that evidently preceded his appointment. His track record includes a sudden, early walk-out at Lazio, when el Loco felt that he had been lied to. United must have made promises about player recruitment and the manager’s involvement in decisions; they will have to honour them, or they’ll get the Lazio treatment from the maverick Argentine.

The other thing is Bielsa’s famed style of play. The high-pressing, fluidly attacking game makes heavy demands of the players attempting it; the outcome is that, particularly towards the end of a typically hard and gruelling Championship campaign, fatigue will lead to the full use of a necessarily large squad that has strength in depth going for it.

The inevitable conclusion is that, although as usual Twitter is all aflutter because little has happened so far, things will soon start to happen, because Leeds will need a major influx of the right type of talent into what is a patchy squad. I’d fully expect significant arrivals within the next couple of weeks, to allow sufficient time pre-season for the Bielsa method to be inculcated into his players. This coaching appointment simply won’t work unless proper investment and recruitment happens, and you can bet your bottom dollar that, behind the scenes, the activity is already frenetic.

It’s going to be an exciting time between now and the start of the season in August. Enjoy the ride.

Marcelo Bielsa “To Sign Leeds United Contract Tonight” – by Rob Atkinson

It’s happening – Marcelo Bielsa will be the next Leeds United boss. I’m purposely avoiding the terms “manager” and “coach” as being, at this stage, too precise. But the implications of this appointment are that Bielsa’s stringent conditions and requirements have largely been met. In those circumstances, the continuing presence of Victor Orta notwithstanding, “Boss” seems like the best word to use.

The information is reliable, having been tweeted by the famously ITK journalist Phil Hay. So, United have got their man, a stellar appointment to put every other occupant of the Elland Road hotseat, possibly since Terry Venables, firmly into the shade. We must hope that the club intends to be fully honest and open in their dealings with Bielsa; they certainly weren’t with Venables.

Much more on this to come, obviously. In the meantime, we must wish our new Boss all the best, getting right behind him from Day One. This could and should be a pivotal moment in the illustrious history of a club approaching its centenary. From here, the only way should be up.

Welcome to Leeds United, Marcelo Bielsa. May you meet early with the success we all wish you.

With Bielsa Joining Leeds, Legendary Striker Fernando Torres Cannot be Ruled Out – by Rob Atkinson

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Fernando Torres – on his way back to Elland Road?

SkyBet have suspended betting now on the question of the next Leeds United manager – the last price available on Marcelo Bielsa was, reportedly, a not altogether generous 20-1 on. If the bookies expect you to invest £20 to gain a quid, then you can bet they’re fairly certain of the eventual outcome – and now, even that price is off the table. With other sources reporting that Bielsa has been granted a work permit, it seems nailed-on that “El Loco” will be installed in the Elland Road hotseat in the very near future.

To say that this represents a change in United’s recruitment policy is hopelessly inadequate. It’s like saying that Leicester City‘s 2015 title triumph was mildly surprising, or that Harry Kewell is perhaps lacking slightly in the nobler scruples. Bielsa to Leeds is a seismic event, something that shows the club are getting seriously serious in their approach to achieving promotion to the Promised Land. As the wise Yorkshireman observed when he sampled his neighbour’s parsnip wine, “Owt could ‘appen ‘ere”.

That being the case, other stories in circulation, yarns that would normally be dismissed as too outlandish and fanciful even for Coronation Street, must now be treated a little more respectfully. In layman’s terms: if Bielsa can agree to take over at Leeds, and especially if he’s managed to get the club to grant him a big say in all footballing matters including transfers, then pretty much anything can happen now. We’re entering an alternate reality here, one for which the last decade and a half has left us totally unprepared. It is indeed a whole new ball game.

So, when rumour has it that Leeds United, at Senor Bielsa’s behest, are showing an interest in former Liverpool and Chelsea striker Fernando Torres, now 34 but eminently capable still of tearing the Championship division a new one, then my advice would have to be: Titter ye not. Put aside your initial impulse to scoff, carp and otherwise demonstrate your scorn. A new reality is upon us, and who can say with any certainty what’s possible or probable under these radically different circumstances? Not I, and, I’d respectfully suggest, not you either.

Even now, though, with an improbability field so vast drifting around Elland Road, that you’d be forgiven for demanding a refund on your Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, some possibilities must be counted as less likely than others. Bielsa? Almost certainly. Abel Hernandez? Where else is the lad going to go? Kyle Bartley? Agent Ayling is on the case. But Torres – a legend in the truest football sense of the world – that has to be a bit more of a stretch. SkyBet, supremely confident about Bielsa, regard Torres to Leeds rather more circumspectly at 33-1. They appear to see Japan as his likely destination, with Premier League minnows Newcastle also much more highly fancied than Yorkshire’s Number One, at 12-1.

Then again, it’s at Leeds United where the nigh-on impossible stuff appears to be happening right now. It should be remembered that Torres would be the third ex-Liverpool striker to join Leeds in the last couple of decades, following on from Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler. Could we really see Fernando Torres leading the line for the Whites at Millwall and Rotherham next season? The way things are around LS11 at the moment, you’d better think twice about betting against it.

Leeds Bielsa Talks Now on Home Straight but Suffering Cramp – by Rob Atkinson

Having been in the last mile of negotiations for the past 24 hours or so, Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa are now staggering up the home straight and expecting to reach the finishing line, which is in sight, at any time in the next hours, days, weeks or months.

The problem at this late stage is cramp. The home straight is slightly uphill and it’s been hot and muggy, so, you know. These things are never simple, and when you start tying up with the goal in sight, it gets really tricky. Fortunately, both parties have been able to take on essential isotonic supplements from a number of distinctly salty sources along the way.

More as we get it, but don’t hold your breath.

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

Bielsa Bruce

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.

An Angry Pontus Will be Better for Leeds United than the Meek Pontus of Last Season – by Rob Atkinson

Jansson

Bring on “Angry Pontus” for a Leeds promotion charge

If Leeds United are indeed to enjoy an annus mirabilis to follow the annus horribilis we’ve all just experienced, then a few changes will have to be made. One is underway; we’re currently gasping our way through the information vacuum between the termination of the hapless Hecky and the inevitable appointment of The Best Coach In The World™. Other changes are afoot too, with the acquisition of a striker recently valued at £20 million a distinct possibility for the princely sum of nowt. The snag is that Hull City‘s loss and our gain (and remember, we’ve already got one Hernandez) will require wages commensurate with his undoubted ability, failing which he might decide to join a Premier League relegation struggle at Wolves or Newcastle.

Still, these things are being dealt with, and some hard news will surely emerge shortly. But there are other areas of difficulty as well as coaching and the strike force: namely, goalkeeper, defence and a bit of steel in midfield – although the arrival of Forshaw has allayed some of the engine room anxiety, particularly if he can strike up partnerships with Messrs. Ideguchi and Klich. The goalkeeping problem is less taxing with the emergence of young Bailey Peacock-Farrell, though a more experienced keeper could well be added.

Which leaves us with defence, and the curious case of Pontus Jansson. There’s absolutely no doubt that Pontus, at his best, is exactly the sort of guy you would wish at the back, heading balls away to the halfway line, sliding in with murderous intent upon encroaching opposition forwards, and generally throwing himself about the park in the cause of Leeds United. That’s the Pontus we all remember, very fondly, from the majority of the season before last. The season just gone, though, was nothing like as impressive from Jansson. Deprived of a rock solid centre-back partner in Kyle Bartley, Pontus played through the recent campaign like a pale shadow of his former self, diffident, injury-prone, seemingly unable to get going when the going got tough. He occasionally got caught fannying about at the back instead of, as used to be his preferred method, clearing both ball and opponent far, fast and often. It was all most disappointing, and it sort of summed up our season, which flared briefly and then rapidly petered out into damp squib territory.

Now, Pontus is upset at the way certain recent remarks of his have been poorly translated, or misinterpreted, or taken out of context, or something. These utterances appeared to some fans capable of being seen as a “come and get me plea”, the implication being that Mr Jansson might be interested in various offers he might have been aware of, that would allow him to remain in England as he would wish, with just the hint that he’d ideally like to play in the Premier League. Seemingly, Pontus is irate at the way things have been lost in translation, claiming that he would “never talk bad about my club”. Doubtless, there is some inconsistency between the original quotes attributed to Jansson, and his more recent clarifications. You pays your money, and you takes your choice.

For me, though, the important thing is that, in hotly denying that he was angling for a move, Pontus showed a bit of fiery passion. Any central defender worth having should have this nasty streak in him, a part of his character that says, needle me at your peril. And it’s that irascibility, the flash of temper clearly apparent in the early days, that seemed to be missing in the season just past. Maybe it was the loss of Bartley, with the subsequent chopping and changing of defensive partnerships, or maybe it was just “second season syndrome”. But there was undoubtedly a difference, you didn’t have to be an ex-pro pundit to see that.

Now that he has, to some extent, nailed his colours to the mast, reaffirming his commitment and gratitude to Leeds United as the club that “saved his career”, maybe we can expect better things in the season to come – particularly if a certain Mr Bartley were to be lured back. We understand that Agent Ayling is on the case even as we speak. That better performance, though, is even more likely to come about if Pontus can harness some of that anger and attitude, the sort of thing he’s just displayed verbally, but that was sadly lacking in his on-field performances over the past year. A bit of anger might help restore that missing mojo.

Still, there’s a World Cup being held in the meantime, and Pontus will be hoping for more than a passing involvement in the colours of Sweden. And, if he happens to have a good tournament, then (at the risk of upsetting him) it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Pontus Jansson sidling towards the Elland Road exit door before August. I’ll just hope I’m wrong, and that instead, we’ll see Angry Pontus marshalling our defence as we challenge for promotion in 2019.