Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa giving English football and society something to think about and practising what he preaches
Marcelo Bielsa is a man who tries his very best to practise what he preaches and this week's sermon was all about patience.
On Monday, when faced with a seemingly straight-forward question about Helder Costa’s pace and whether or not Leeds’ high press denies the Portuguese the space in behind to run into, robbing him of the chance to hit top speed, Bielsa gave an answer that segued into a lament for the death of patience in the modern-day English game.
He began with a gracious, fullsome explanation of the options before him when it comes to pressing and the consequences of each option, expressing his modest belief that his preference does not in any way demean the alternative.
By the end of his response, he had given society in general something to mull over.
“English football always in history respects all the managers’ job, they used to respect the process because they thought the process allowed you to have success,” he said.
“In time this is no longer true. That means now you are no more tolerant when you feel frustrated. It is more attractive now, the immediate result. This as a social message is very negative. Also for football.”
It wasn’t quite true that, when the frustration of yet another Patrick Bamford miss settled on the 5,000-plus Leeds fans at Deepdale on Tuesday night, tolerance went out the window
Bielsa himself pointed out after the 1-1 draw, a point rescued by Bamford’s 77th-minute replacement, Eddie Nketiah, that Leeds fans had chanted for the Arsenal loanee and then, seconds later, sung Bamford’s name.
You cannot claim to precisely interpret a collective motivation behind a song sung by such a large group of people, yet it certainly felt like many of those serenading Bamford were doing so out of a kindness, sympathy almost, sending him a message that he too is loved and appreciated, rather than out of a desire to see him retain his place on the pitch at the expense of Nketiah.
Were each of the United fans in the ground handed an electronic keypad with two buttons, each bearing the name of one of their two strikers, there is little doubt that a second referendum would not have been needed.
Bamford missed a number of good chances before Nketiah took his place and scored a late equaliser.
Bielsa, though, cannot and will not be dissuaded from his current plan, his backing of Bamford in the lone striker role, by the fact that Nketiah scores goals, because the head coach is making decisions based on what he sees as the bigger picture.
“It is natural that people argue about my decision because they don’t have all the reasons I have,” he said.
If Nketiah were to replace Bamford, could he perform the uglier, more physical side of the role and keep opposition defences busy in the air and on the deck, holding the ball up under pressure and bringing others into play?
If Nketiah were to come in and partner Bamford, who would drop out and what would it do to Leeds’ ability to retain possession and would their chance creation be diminished?
If Leeds went two up top, or at least played one striker behind another, would Bielsa’s man-marking system suffer?
He is not about to abandon the principles by which he has set up his teams for years, not any time soon, not until he has concrete evidence and his bigger picture changes irrefutably before his very eyes.
Perhaps aided by the fact that his side are just two points from the Championship summit, despite a chance conversion problem that is wearing thin for many Whites, Bielsa believes he can still afford to exercise that virtue he would like to see a little more of in football and society.
“They could play together, one behind the other one,” he said.
“You can take this decision for one clear need of the team or because you are convinced that they can play together there and combine between them.
“We have never proved this kind of combination in our training.
“When you have more than one option for one place in the team, it is never a problem, it is two solutions to one problem.
“I am trying to make this work.
“I think that we have time so I can find a way that both of them shine.”