Time, new talent and inter-squad competition are the tools of choice for Marcelo Bielsa as he sets about the task of improving his Leeds United players.
The club were reassured by Bielsa’s confidence in his ability to get more out of the likes of Jack Harrison this season, so much so that it helped shape their recruitment strategy.
Handily for the Elland Road powers that be, from a financial point of view, Bielsa was keen on continuity and did not favour a massive rebuild.
That meant they could focus on bringing a small number of quality signings in, to augment what was already in place.
The baby remained very much in the bath when the water was discarded.
Rather than decide to ship out first team players who came close yet ultimately faltered in the 2018/19 promotion race, Bielsa took a different view.
The Argentine head coach’s belief is that the longer he spends working with his charges at Thorp Arch, the more he can assert control over the ‘details’ of a player’s performance.
In the same way that Leeds control tempo and possession in a game, Bielsa uses repetition over time to keep a firm grip on what the team does when they run out to play.
“Sometimes the players are the same players, but at the same time the same players are different too,” he said.
“When you repeat the first 11 and you are working [for more] time with the same players, you can be more focused on controlling some details or ideas.
“The whole idea of the performance or behaviour of the team, [comes from] these ideas.”
Continuity is key but it is not king in the Bielsa kingdom because simply going with the same team was not an option – they had to strengthen.
Bielsa uses the ability of new signings to raise the overall performance of the Whites.
“At the same time this is relative because for example this explanation does not involve [Ben] White, who we haven’t worked with for a year,” he continued.
“When you give an answer you try to say things you can defend.
“Working again with the same team you can control more of the details, at the same time you receive some new players who improve the level of the team, without having them involved in the previous year.”
Brighton loanee White has been one of the standout stars of Leeds United’s fledgling 2019/20 campaign.
His knack for stepping into the play to intercept passes – 25 times to date, three more than any other Championship player – and his own range of passing have helped give Leeds even more control during games.
It is difficult to see White dropping out of the team, or his defensive partner Liam Cooper who has also set off well.
Yet Bielsa does have options; Kalvin Phillips, Gaetano Berardi, Leif Davis and others can play centre-half.
Leeds may not boast the biggest squad numerically, but the versatility of so many of the current first team crop and the Under 23s youngsters being educated in Bielsa’s ways at Thorp Arch, means no one can relax.
It’s paramount for Bielsa, if Leeds are to improve, that players have to fight for their shirts.
“One of the most important things is to have two or three options in each position,” he added.
“The level of competition for the positions increases the skill of the players.”