Dominic Matteo on Leeds United 2000 era 'Marcelo Bielsa' player, star signings, Raphinha debut and why Whites should be confident for Everton

When I came to Leeds United in 2000 it felt like there were new faces coming in all the time and I genuinely loved it when a top player arrived.

Saturday, 5th December 2020, 5:26 pm
BIELSA PLAYER - Lee Bowyer was forward thinking and surprised Dominic Matteo with how good he was at Leeds United when the latter arrived from Liverpool. Pic: Getty

I thrived off it and it made me want to be better. When you sign players who improve the team and the squad, it’s a great feeling.

When you train with someone who’s got a bit of ability they’re always easy to work with, they train hard and they understand the game quickly.

We always seemed to sign intelligent footballers. Eddie Gray always talked about football intelligence when I worked with him.

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People who can run around for running around’s sake there’s a job for them somewhere but I like players who understand the game.

We had plenty of players like that at Leeds and players who would catch your eye in training.

Lee Bowyer springs to mind straight away. When you go from Liverpool to Leeds, no disrespect because I knew they were good players but I didn’t see them week in and week out, and I very, very quickly knew that Bowyer was a top player. He surprised me. He was very attacking and the amount of energy he had, he was very much a Bielsa player, got on the ball, always forward thinking, always looking for a forward pass and popped up with goals.

We had players who came in and settled in brilliantly. Robbie Keane was straight in as one of the boys, obviously we had a big Irish contingent. He fitted in very quickly. Robbie Fowler did too and fans might not like me saying it but even Rio Ferdinand, he loved his time at Leeds.

NEW FACE - Raphinha has shown promise and quality in his early displays for Leeds United since signing on deadline day. Pic: Getty

We had players who could change the game, like another who fans might not like me mentioning - Harry Kewell, who was direct and liked to make things happen.

I used to encourage those players to get on the ball, like Keane, Fowler, Alan Smith, big Viduks. I’d say get on the ball, do all your skill, your nice, fancy touches and I’ll take care of the other stuff.

There’s certain players you have to give leeway to do that attacking side of the game and Leeds have those players in today’s squad.

I think if they get the defensive side of the game right, Leeds will be absolutely fine.

Marcelo Bielsa always seems to pick the same team but with the players who have come in, players who obviously have a lot of ability, we’re seeing a few changes.

I think Bielsa is maybe still searching for his best line-up but he got his changes spot on for the Arsenal game.

What I really liked seeing in the Arsenal game was a full debut for Raphinha – he’s definitely one to keep an eye on.

Kalvin Phillips coming back in was massive, it showed how much we’ve missed him.

When you play as an attacker, someone like Phillips is perfect to have around you; he lets you go and play. In the main he is going to be in front of that back line, providing security.

I think that role suits him down to the ground, not that he won’t get involved higher up but his job is mainly to allow these attacking players like Raphinha to go and play.

It’s nice to see an exciting talent get on the ball. We know the speed Harrison has got and the ability, but Raphinha is just a different player, with a different style.

Under Bielsa you have to get on the ball and make things happen.

When you play with players like that, you just give them the ball every time you get it. If I was Phillips I’d just be finding Mateusz Klich, Raphinha, Rodrigo and Harrison every time.

You also have Ian Poveda coming through, a young talent. People have talked about him; we’ve not seen that much but every time I’ve seen him he has shown ability. He’s a real prospect.

I think the attacking stars like Rodrigo and Raphinha will pop up with goals, because Leeds can’t keep relying on Patrick Bamford to score them.

At the other end, the clean sheet against Arsenal was vital. We’ve been crying out for one; it just calms things down.

Gjanni Alioski, who was involved in the big talking point, played well at left-back and, in the main, Leeds defended well. It almost surprised me because I always feel like Leeds might concede. Ultimately we were so unlucky not to nick that game.

And now Leeds have to face two good sides in Everton and Chelsea, who are going the right way and playing the right brand of football.

Both will feel they can beat Leeds and I think it will suit the Whites, coming up against players who have a go, who aren’t as defensive.

I always found Everton one of the hardest places to go to. I got sent off there for Leeds after about 20 minutes.

Discipline, which very nearly cost Arsenal, is something Leeds have to be so aware of because losing a player would really affect the squad, Kalvin especially because everyone knows how important he is.

These will both be difficult games and interesting ones, but Leeds should be full of confidence after a clean sheet.

Dominic Matteo's column in association with Data Facilities