leeds UNITED go to Frank Lampard’s Derby County tonight for Marcelo Bielsa’s second game in charge and Derby would have had a good look at what Leeds did against Stoke City on the opening weekend. And vice versa.
The teams are in competitive action now.
Stoke were perhaps caught a little cold by what they saw in real time from a team fighting for points whereas with Derby, Frank Lampard was very magnanimous in saying Reading did not deserve to lose their game against Derby last Friday night.
Lampard was right but quality and a clinical edge told for them which is what we are going to see over the course of a Championship season. That’s what sets teams apart.
I think what we will see is a Derby side that’s worrying about what Leeds can do and a side that knows it needs to set an example based on the fact that Lampard has been backed and he has been able to bring in players he wants.
Obviously there’s different ways of balancing the books as Derby are looking at doing.
But for Leeds it will be a tougher test than against Stoke purely because forewarned is forearmed and with it being at Derby, you feel they have got to show the home fans what all the fuss is about under Lampard and the way he wants to play. But I think it’s good for Leeds to have these games early on because it ticks boxes in giving fans confidence if they show how good they are, but also it gives the players confidence because of the way they are playing and who they are coming up against.
What they have got to still harness, if you like, is the element of the unknown under Bielsa.
We know how good he is and where he has worked and what he has done with other football teams, but do we think that Leeds should be automatic promotion contenders?
Probably not because of the way they have fallen away over the past couple of seasons or more.
It’s managing the difference between a team where people go ‘yes, that should definitely happen’ with a team where people go ‘yes, it could happen’.
From the way that Leeds played against Stoke on Sunday we should be looking at the same starting XI as it’s been pretty much a week since that game.
It’s different if it’s then a game in midweek or there has been a cup game.
That’s the time when you can perhaps shake it up but you can’t have a team that plays like they did against Stoke that then doesn’t start the next game.
A team like that should, in theory, stay the same.
But then again, if Bielsa has seen chinks in Derby’s armour or potential chinks in Leeds’ armour and he feels he needs to plug in the gaps, then he is well within his rights to change it.
He doesn’t strike me as a manager who would change the team for changing the team’s sake.
It seems more likely that he would do it after tactically thinking and managing the team and if you are a player that is tactically moved around, you are not storming off going ‘why the hell am I not playing?’
Instead you are thinking ‘okay, that’s what he wants to do’ and it just means next time you drop in you are even more motivated and passionate to do as well as you possibly can.
It’s nice and it’s not often that we have said over recent seasons that Leeds have got a £7m player on the bench.
Leeds have the luxury of being able to say ‘we are not going to start Patrick Bamford who we know can score bags of goals because the lad that started in his place, Kemar Roofe, played very, very well’.
And then there’s Pontus Jansson who stayed on the bench against Stoke and that’s how it should be at this level –that no-one is untouchable as everyone is prone to dips in form and fitness.
Jansson has obviously come back after playing in the World Cup and there is obviously an element of monitoring his fitness and potential standard of output and that’s something else to keep a hold of.
With Bamford, Bielsa has had a long time to work with the players that he came into pre-season with and maybe it takes a week or 10 days or a bit longer for new players to get up to speed.
For Bielsa it’s a great problem to have and with the greatest respect it’s not like last season where you are trying to shoehorn someone on the periphery like Caleb Ekuban in.
Players where you are thinking ‘Really? At Leeds United?’ Players like Pierre-Michel Lasogga thinking ‘are we going to try and get him in?’
Now we are talking about a player that has been prolific at various stages of his career and been highly coveted and Bielsa has obviously seen something in him.
l Championship football on Sky Sports today: Derby County v Leeds United – Sky Sports Main Event 5.15pm.