Football styles? It’s all a matter of taste, says Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa

Thoughtful Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
Thoughtful Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. PIC: Bruce Rollinson
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MARCELO BIELSA has brought a sense of style to England, to Leeds United and the Football League Championship.

Free flowing, high pressing, energetic and attacking ‘Bielsaball’ has Leeds top of the Championship ahead of tonight’s showdown with second-placed Middlesbrough.

Under Tony Pulis, the Riversiders will bring their own style to Elland Road, a style different to Bielsa’s though, in truth, few adapt the same methods as the free-thinking South American.

There is, though, says the humble 63-year-old, no such thing as winning playing badly with comparisons between himself, Tony Pulis, Jose Mourinho and even Sir Alex Ferguson and Pep Guardiola all a question of taste.

Regarded as one of the great tactical intellectuals of the modern game, Bielsa’s footballing style has set the Championship alight and sent Leeds top following four impressive victories and a draw from their first games – an identical record to tonight’s visitors Middlesbrough. Victory for either side would send them three points clear heading into the international break and Bielsa answers carefully when pushed on the significance of opening up an early gap. The table definitely matters, but in May, not at the end of August. Yet three points in August ultimately lend themselves towards a team’s position at the end of the season.

A clever answer – as to be expected from Bielsa – with the Whites head coach taking a similar view when pressed on the question of styles.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola conducts himself and his teams with a 'certain style'. PIC: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola conducts himself and his teams with a 'certain style'. PIC: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Asked if it mattered to win in style or if ultimately winning in any fashion mattered most, Bielsa pondered: “The resources you use to overcome the opponent, you never win playing bad. You never win if you don’t attack. You never win if you don’t take into account the use of the ball. You can avoid using these resources for a small amount of time, a short period so you make a confusion when you present as an alternative when we win in any way or win in a certain style.”

Bielsa continued: “Ferguson was a huge head coach. He never won without the style. It would be unfair that the public think that the question is winning with style or winning without style?

“It’s winning with one style or winning with another style. And what we are comparing right now actually is taste, sensibilities, feelings.

“If we only had two opposite ways, if football was reduced to Guardiola style or Mourinho style, both styles propose a path to reach success.

If we only had two opposite ways, if football was reduced to Guardiola style or Mourinho style, both styles propose a path to reach success.

Marcelo Bielsa

“You wouldn’t have any head coach who would say that the style is above success. What he’d rather say is with this style I’m in better conditions to reach success. The public opinion should know that we don’t have one style to win or anything to win. We have two different ways to win.

“I think we should oblige the public to recognise what kind of football they like because if the public does not recognise the type of football they like, they will only be attracted by success. And when you only value the success and don’t take into account the resources needed in getting the success you lose the feeling, the sensibility and the hierarchy of values disappear to you.

“I’m not saying you have good values and bad values. I’m just saying you have different values. As football has a lot of influence to tell to the public that the only thing that matters is success, you don’t give importance to what football means to the people.

“England is known by world football because they don’t like people who cheat.”

Jose Mourinho divides 'taste' over his teams' 'styles'. PIC:  Nick Potts/PA Wire

Jose Mourinho divides 'taste' over his teams' 'styles'. PIC: Nick Potts/PA Wire

In essence, it all means that Bielsa prefers to stick to his own ‘taste’ and ‘style’ – a style that is easy on the eye and has had not just United’s fans but followers of Championship footballing drooling as a whole.

That said, a humble Bielsa has full respect for any team that finds a winning formula and Boro and Pulis have found theirs. Asked what he is expecting from Boro and if set-pieces will be key, Bielsa said: “The aerial game is a feature of the Premiership and it has a lot of influence so I guess we’ll see again this feature during Friday’s game.

“They (Middlesbrough) represent a very well-worked style of play. The head coach is a recognised one, an experienced one. The style of Middlesbrough is well known because the head coach of Middlesbrough is a legend in English football.”

Kind words that were reciprocated by Pulis at his own pre-match press conference. A clash of styles now awaits in the most eagerly awaited game of the season so far, though Bielsa admits May will be when the table matters most. Bielsa added: “The important thing is to win the game on Friday. We don’t take into account the table at this moment of the competition. But the table is always important for us.

“The coming game on Friday is important by itself. It’s not important because we can be first, it’s important by the game itself.

“When I explain that the table is always important for us and at the same time I say we don’t look at the table so it looks like a contradiction, what I’m trying to explain the important thing is to finish the Championship in the best possible conditions or position. If we take each segment of the competition and if we make segmented conclusions we will be making a mistake.

“This conclusion I see in the media and the press taking the example of last season at the middle of the competition, Leeds were third or fourth in the table and at the end they finished 13th. The conclusion is not to get too enthusiastic right now. The idea is to keep doing what we doing until we reach our goal.”