Former Arsenal defender Martin Keown makes Leeds United suggestion in questioning balance of Marcelo Bielsa's approach

FORMER Arsenal and England defender Martin Keown believes Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa needs to restrain his pressing tactics to find the right balance with the Whites.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 15th November 2020, 2:46 pm
Updated Sunday, 15th November 2020, 3:30 pm

Bielsa's newly-promoted side made a storming start to life back in the Premier League with United's energetic, attacking and pressing game causing champions Liverpool bother in an opening day 4-3 loss at Anfield.

Leeds then edged out visiting Fulham by the same scoreline for a first victory back in the top division which was followed by a 1-0 triumph in another entertaining game in a Yorkshire derby at Sheffield United.

After surviving a barrage of early pressure from Manchester City at Elland Road, United then fought back to claim a 1-1 draw against Pep Guardiola's title favorites and Leeds then bounced back from a 1-0 loss at home to Wolves with a 3-0 romp at Aston Villa.

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QUESTIONS: Raised by former Arsenal and England defender Martin Keown of Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa's approach. Photo by Tim Keeton/Pool via Getty Images.

Victory at home to Leicester City would have then sent United third but Bielsa's side were undone by a pacy Foxes outfit in a 4-1 reverse and United then entered the international break on the back of another 4-1 defeat at another quick side in Crystal Palace.

Speaking on talkSPORT, Keown said he was finding Bielsa's approach fascinating to witness and commentate on but the former centre-back believes United would benefit from altering their demands and approach.

Keown reasoned: "If I was being asked to do that, I'd have to sit down with the boss after the game against Palace and say 'well I'm not really sure I completely believe in this because I'm out on my feet here' - as the Leeds players were in that match.

"Palace actually just had a low block as Leicester did the week before and then they had good players at the top of the team with pace as (Jamie) Vardy did the week before that and then you had (Wilfried) Zaha doing it and they were broken down.

"It was fascinating to commentate on and fascinating to watch but, actually, it wasn't a winning formula.

"Guardiola, I think he is a very humble man because he looks at the genius and he does see Bielsa's quality because he has got an incredible mind for football.

"But actually if we link it to success then we should be linking Guardiola who has won an incredible amount of trophies.

"He has got the balance right and I don't think Leeds have got the right balance from the way that they play."

Asked if he felt there was a need for a plan B, Keown explained: "I don't know if there has to be a plan B, I think it's more a case of a bit more restraint.

"They go man-for-man from throw-ins and that's a difficult thing to do, particularly if the right-winger takes me all the way to his goalkeeper - and that's exactly what they would do, they will follow him to the nth degree.

"We did this a little bit with Graham Taylor God rest his soul and I was asked to play man-for-man in a back three at Villa and it was exhausting, absolutely exhausting.

"I did the same at Everton with Howard Kendall and he said 'look, the three of you share that role - if the striker wants to run all the way across the face of you, you just pass him on and I did half as much running.'

"So is it intelligent running or is it madcap? Only time will tell but it's fascinating to watch him."

Keown added: "He's had 70-odd matches there and the players are well-drilled and they know exactly what he wants.

"I don't know if the players can sustain it, what I am seeing is their two central defenders being exposed.

"If you're going to go man-for-man all over the pitch, eventually there's somebody in a one v one situation and they're not comfortable with that.

"Vardy did it to them and Zaha did it to them."

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Thank you Laura Collins