Leeds United boss Marcelo Bielsa's 20-minute Jean-Kevin Augustin explanation and the two words it boiled down to
One of the first two questions Leeds United’s head coach faced in his weekly Thursday press conference was inevitably, about the exciting new French striker, signed less than a fortnight ago on loan from RB Leipzig.
Augustin didn’t make it into the first two matchday squads for the games that followed his arrival, but did feature for 45 minutes on Monday for the Under 23s at Sheffield Wednesday.
Bielsa was asked to comment on Augustin’s fitness levels and to give an insight into how close the forward is to making his Whites debut.
The Argentine came out swinging and didn’t stop for over 20 minutes.
“Augustin is a player with a lot of impact,” he began.
“He has a lot of skills, resources. You can realise that by how much he costs, how much he was sold and bought for and the teams he played for.”
A but was coming and it was a big one.
“But Kevin, in the last eight months played three full matches,” said Bielsa.
“So when one player in this period plays just three full matches the conclusion about his fitness levels is clear.
“If you see one team like Wigan for example, they sold their two best players, one to Milan [Antonee Robinson’s deal that eventually fell through] and their number 10 [Josh Windass].
“Why do you think that’s happened when they are fighting for relegation? Why do you think that? Because of financial fair play, that demands you don’t take a risk.
“So you know perfectly that Leeds cannot buy a player even if Leeds would like to buy a player.
“So do you think that a player with the background of Augustin can arrive to our club if he is not in the situation he is in now? Because a player of his level, with his background, his skills, his characteristics, if he was playing, he’s a player that costs £30 to 40m. You know that? Everyone knows that.
“So if he arrives here without paying this money, it’s because he has to resolve one problem that is that he wasn’t playing.
“Players, they have skills, resources but put those resources and skills onto the pitch in one official match, it’s not the same that you have the skill and then show it on the pitch.
“So what it’s related to with his fitness performance is very important. “
Match sharpness isn’t the only factor that Bielsa takes into consideration when weighing up whether or not a player like Augustin should get first team minutes. Luck, loyalty and Leeds values come into it too.
He came prepared with examples, some of which clearly still stick in his throat.
“Ryan Edmondson, he played 20 matches in the Under-23s and what I saw was never enough to reconsider for him.
“Even though we watch every match and every training and we try to help him progress.
“In the last training session he had a great performance and in this moment he had an injury in his knee.
“So you have the development, the player grows and after you have the luck factor.
“And also you have loyalty or not. Eddie Nketiah arrived here because Leeds was the ideal place to grow, because it was me who was going to coach him – I know who I am and I don’t believe those messages.
“Everything around the transfer of Eddie was a lie, Nketiah came to play any way, he didn’t play and he left.
“But even worse, because in two situations, I put Bamford on the bench and for two months [Nketiah] wasn’t able to play.
“You know players do pre-season? When a player in six months plays three matches, thinks he will arrive to a club and play is underestimating what Leeds is as a a team, a club and an institution.
“Clarke, the last match he played in the U23s, I sent him a message congratulating him because after four months of work he was again the player he was when he started playing for us.
“The next day he left Leeds.”
“Lewis Baker [Chelsea loanee last season], we were working with him six months, when we found his best level, he left.
“Leeds is one institution, one club and I try to manage every situation being humble, but if you think that a player will come here and will play just without reason, it’s not like that.
“The players who arrive here are going to play if they are better than the players that are playing.”
The lack of a correlation between impressive Under 23s performances and first team displays, the ‘underestimating’ of the likes of Patrick Bamford and the search for alternative solutions, by those outside the Leeds camp, were all mentioned as Bielsa yet again showed his awareness of Leeds United’s current hot topics.
He is, he says ‘very confident’ in Augustin’s skills and ‘knows perfectly’ the loanee’s fitness levels. But the upshot of his monologue summed up the Nketiah situation and the one Augustin finds himself in; you earn a spot in a Bielsa team, for your own good as much as for the good of the team.
“I interpret Leeds with humility but don’t think that this is the club [to which ] a player can arrive and just play and show himself, you should have this information so it shouldn’t be necessary to take 20 minutes to explain this.
“If I ignore the explanation I am giving you and after I give minutes to Augustin to play and he’s not being able to take advantage, if I do that, it’s not going to be a good thing for the team, for the future and for the player himself.”
Bielsa has a process that he trusts. He won’t deviate from it.
You can trust him on that.