Has 'inventive' Stoke boss Nathan Jones got another surprise up his sleeve for Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United, after Saturday humiliation?

Nathan Jones' Stoke were thumped 3-0 on Saturday by Leeds (Pic: Getty)
Nathan Jones' Stoke were thumped 3-0 on Saturday by Leeds (Pic: Getty)
0
Have your say

Marcelo Bielsa believes Nathan Jones is an 'inventive' coach and tonight at Elland Road the Stoke City boss might have to live up to the compliment.

The Whites' Argentine head coach praised his opposite number in January, before the two sides met at the bet365 Stadium.

"Head coaches express themselves through the games of their teams," said Bielsa.

"You have head coaches who give traditional answers with common things, not new things, and you have inventive head coaches.

"I think he is a head coach that has creation. He is not a traditional head coach."

Jones, whose men pulled off a shock 2-1 win, can claim to have proved Bielsa right, on that occasion at least.

He switched from his preferred 4-4-2 diamond formation to three at the back in an attempt to spring a surprise on Bielsa.

"It’s been well publicised Marcelo watched 26 Luton games and two Stoke games, so he’s well drilled on what our usual formation is,” said ex Hatters manager Jones.

“So we thought we may have to give him a surprise because, if he’s that well drilled on us, they’ve had plenty of time to work on it, so it’d be a difficult afternoon.

“We felt with the threats they’ve got and to give us the best chance to win the match we needed to be tactically right at it and I thought we were.”

On Saturday, Jones went to the well again, and this time it was bone dry.

Having gone with the diamond in all of Stoke's Championship games so far this season, he suddenly switched to a back three again for the visit of Leeds.

It wasn't just a surprise tactical shift, Jones left out some big name players.

Even a man as well prepared as Bielsa would have been hard pressed to predict the Stoke starting line-up.

This time, however, although Bielsa's men took a while to adjust, they eventually took control of the wide areas, dominated possession in their usual way and put Stoke to the sword.

A 3-0 scoreline in the visitors' favour was flattering, not for Leeds but for Stoke.

The Whites enjoyed 65 per cent of the possession and were so good with it, anyone watching without Stoke loyalties will have enjoyed it too.

Leeds almost doubled Stoke's total passes and peppered the Potters' goal, amassing 21 shots, 10 of which were on target.

It was a whitewash, by the team in charcoal and pink.

"Leeds go man-for-man with you all over so what we did was try to do something a little different," he said, of the tactical change.

"We tried to make sure we were secure because they make a lot of forward runs and carve teams open. They’re a good side."

In what could be a cruel twist of footballing fate, that good side, the one that did carve his team open on Saturday, provides the opposition for Stoke's next outing.

Pressure is mounting on Jones ahead of tonight's Carabao Cup second round tie at Elland Road.

It's unlikely that the Potters' powers that be would pull the trigger after a cup defeat, away to the side currently leading the Championship.

But what the 46-year-old doesn't need tonight is another humiliation.

Bielsa has made it clear he'll make big changes to his team yet the likely presence of marquee signing Helder Costa and prolific live-wire Eddie Nketiah in the Leeds starting line-up should not give the opposition any hope for an easier ride.

What then, will Jones do?

The 3-5-2 may well have caught Bielsa off guard in January but it was swatted away with ease at the second time of asking.

Dare he stick with a three at the back system and hope the same players, or different ones, can play a lot better?

Or does he go back to what he knows, in the form of the diamond? Bielsa, as Jones himself admits, knows it very well too.

Or has Jones got another inventive solution to the puzzle posed by Leeds United?