Marcelo Bielsa pays homage to FA Cup and ponders Leeds United decisions for West Ham clash with 'ten players out'

Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa has paid homage to the FA Cup and questioned how to solve a selection puzzler for today's third round clash at West Ham.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 9th January 2022, 4:45 am

Bielsa's Whites will step out at the London Stadium this afternoon for just the head coach's fourth fixture in the competition during his three-and-a-half year tenure.

Bielsa's side have exited the competition at the first hurdle in each of the last three seasons, the Whites beaten 2-1 at QPR in January 2019, losing 1-0 at Arsenal in January 2020 and then sent tumbling 3-0 by League Two hosts Crawley Town last term.

David Moyes' high-flying Hammers will now provide this season's third round opponents and Leeds are approaching the contest with their squad hit hard by injuries which Bielsa says has left ten players out.

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HOMAGE: To the FA Cup from Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa, pictured during last season's 3-0 defeat at Crawley Town. Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images.

Patrick Bamford is expected to be back available after recovering from a hamstring issue but fellow forwards Joe Gelhardt (ankle) and Tyler Roberts (muscle) have now picked up knocks, joining the likes of Kalvin Phillips (hamstring), Liam Cooper (hamstring), Rodrigo (heel), Pascal Struijk (foot), Jamie Shackleton (Achilles) and Charlie Cresswell (shoulder) on the sidelines.

Leeds will also visit West Ham next weekend in a hugely important league game but Bielsa has paid a glowing tribute to the FA Cup's standing and admits he has been left pondering just how to juggle his pack.

Asked about his view of the FA Cup before he came to England and if he had any particular memories, Bielsa said: "English football has a history that is the capital and the most important for the activity.

"When we look at the previous phases or rounds of this competition, the evolution, what it means for every club to compete despite the hierarchies, it is seen as a homage to football to all football with regards to any team can compete.

"The stadium and changing rooms which haven't been remodelled in 50 years have as much history as the stadiums or changing rooms which have cost exuberant amounts - millions.

"The clubs also have weight and value due to the episodes that they have been able to go through in their history.

"That's why you enter a library in England and you go to the part where there are CDs, videos and books and you're going to see more information about the history of football than anywhere else in the world.

"But from my humble opinion and with this being my fourth year here, I think the aspect that is so romantic about the game, every time it is less important every time it is protected less and every time it has less hierarchy and importance in how it is made in English football and it is always due to the same reason and it is not possible to give every game the importance that it deserves.

"That it is inevitable, a little bit due to the situation of the pandemic but let's just say that the pandemic is more an excuse than an explanation in this case.

"The impression I have is that all of that is not being looked after and I don't think that's free because there's a lot of people that love English football due to these things due the historical weight that all of its teams have, due to that base of tradition of all of the teams that sub exist.

"My sensation is that all of that is being lost.

"For example, what came to my attention, is that none of the questions with regards to the game on Sunday and the cup were not for example the following question which is something I ask myself.

"How do you harmonise a competition that is played this Sunday but how do you not link it with a repercussion that it has on the next game in the Premier League and what do you do when you have ten players less to look out for the game this Sunday and then the following Sunday and what do you do to compare the importance of each game and to make the decisions which are the most favourable for the club.

"Either way perhaps I am not fair with my suggestion because it's probable that how it is planned is respected.

"But in some ways, losing hierarchy, there's not a replay in case of the draw for example.

"All of it is lessening.

"But when I hear myself saying what I am saying, perhaps I am not giving enough consideration to the situation that we live in because sometimes it is very easy the criticism from my position when I feel like some values are being lost.

"But perhaps we have to be on the side of those who plan and hope that there are solutions.

"But what I am sure of it is that here on out, no matter what happens with the pandemic, that it is not possible to play so many games without it deteriorating the quality of the play."

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Thank you Laura Collins