Marcelo Bielsa warned the Championship that he saw room for improvement in Leeds United and insisted he was not yet ready to class his side as a “strong team” in the division as they looked to extend their unbeaten run into a ninth game.
Leeds held onto their place at the top of the league with a convincing defeat of Preston North End on Tuesday after producing their best start to a season for nine years under their Argentinian head coach.
Bielsa’s impact at Elland Road has been immediate and dramatic despite the 63-year-old instigating a complete rebranding of United’s style of play and methods of training since his appointment in June.
Leeds hold a one-point advantage over second-placed Middlesbrough ahead of Saturday’s clash with Birmingham City and rediscovered their most fluent form in a 3-0 win over Preston having battled to draws with Millwall, Middlesbrough and Swansea CIty in three of their previous four matches.
Bielsa said the contrast between those tight matches and Leeds’ most impressive displays was proof of more work needed on his squad and described the Championship as a “long distance to run”.
“This is an unstable or cyclical situation,” he said. “Our performances against Millwall, Swansea and Middlesbrough were not the same as the ones versus Preston, Derby and Norwich (last month).
“The games versus Millwall and Middlesbrough were tough games for us. That’s why we can’t say that our team is a strong team yet. We need to do things before saying that and we haven’t done them so far. The Championship is a long distance to run, not a sprint.”
Birmingham’s results under former Leeds boss Garry Monk have left them 20th in the table and without a Championship win. City also appear to be at risk of a points deduction owing to the EFL’s Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations and questions over the summer signing of left-back Kristian Pedersen from Union Berlin.
Leeds are already 12 points ahead of Monk’s side and asked if he expected to be leading the table at this stage of the term, Bielsa said: “A club with such a history as Leeds has to have the hope of going to the Premier League.”
Monk took Leeds to the verge of the play-offs in his only season as head coach, the 2016-17 term, but left abruptly after resigning in May of last year. He was appointed as manager of Middlesbrough soon after and roundly barracked by the crowd at Elland Road when he returned as Boro boss in November.
Bielsa said: “He was the head coach of a team here who finished seventh, as far as I know. He's an experienced head coach.
“They’re a team who concede very few goals and by itself, that is a difficulty. The few goals they’ve conceded doesn’t correspond with their ranking.”