Wigan Athletic v Leeds United: No time for time-wasting for Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa during the recent 1-1 draw with Brentford at Elland Road.
Marcelo Bielsa during the recent 1-1 draw with Brentford at Elland Road.
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LEEDS United have become used to teams attempting to stifle their attractive, free-flowing and high press passing game under head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Packing men behind the ball is not a tactic of Bielsa’s whose plan when plan A is failing is to execute plan A to better effect.

The head coach, does, however, readily admit there is more than one way to skin a cat in a bid to succeed in English football.

But the tactic of time-wasting is one that Bielsa says at present there is no solution for with the 63-year-old declaring that even adding on ten minutes of stoppage time is no compensation for sides attempting to play the beautiful game at its best.

Bielsa’s Whites have given themselves uphill tasks in recent weeks by coneding first in two of their last three encounters at Elland Road which both ended in 1-1 draws at home to Brentford and Nottingham Forest.

The same was true in the recent 2-1 loss at Blackburn Rovers while Birmingham City also struck first en route to a 2-1 victory at Elland Road in September.

Unsurprisingly, any side taking a lead against his United side have been keen to protect that advantage with Leeds one of the scalps of the division.

But the ‘art’ of time-wasting is not one that is sitting well with United’s head coach who is questioning just what is being done to provide a solution as a result.

Asked if he was surprised at the tactics used by teams in a bid to conquer his side, Bielsa said: “Usually, the teams we are playing against, they don’t behave with the goal of imposing their style to the opponent. The game was created so we can have an opposition, a challenge, regarding a creative aspect. That’s why it’s the most popular sport in the world. Thanks to the aesthetic beauty of the game, it’s the most popular sport in the world.

“But then the victory has become more important than the beauty of the game until a certain point the beauty of the game was the shortest path to reach the victory. Now you have different paths, all are inside the rules and you can value them too. “For example, teams can reduce the time of play. They try to increase the time you have aerial balls. Some teams thing it’s more inconvenient not to have the ball than to have the ball.

“And when you don’t have the ball you only have one goal. Do you know what that goal when you don’t have the ball is? The team that doesn’t have the ball cannot make a mistake. This is the main reason.

“Obviously, the goal of the play is to make good things, but now you have another alternative. You don’t want the ball in order to take advantage of the mistake made by the opponent. What is the risk of that?”

Such tactics go wildly against Bielsa’s principles and ways of thinking that have earned plaudits from the likes of Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Tottenham Hotspur chief Mauricio Pochettino.

Bielsa is attempting to face up to the fact that time-wasting tactics are inevitable but is questioning what the authorities are doing to clean up the game in that respect in believes it is important that they do so.

“The fans will switch to another sport,” said Bielsa.

“I’m not a specialist, but in NBA basketball, the rules change towards the goal of avoiding speculation. The rules evolve in order to reduce the importance of speculation.

“Football authorities, they are working towards the justice regarding the referees, for example the video assistants.

“What they can’t sanction yet is the fact that teams intentionally try to reduce the time of play.

“Not because they’re not trying to do it. We have the six-second goalkeeper rule, indicates clearly that the will of the fan is to see the teams playing.

“But we have many resources that are allowed by the rules that can get to the point where you can reduce the game. What is the tool that the referee has?

“He adds additional time. But if interrupt constantly the time of play it doesn’t constitute if you play ten more minutes, but this time will be segmented too.”

Bielsa’s time at Leeds is now into its fourth month with the South American set to take charge of his 18th game at the Whites helm in Sunday’s Championship visit to Wigan.

The 63-year-old is reluctantly accepting that time-wasting tactics have become part of the game - but ever true to his philosophies - they are not tactics that Bielsa would ever consider employing. “I’m not complaining,” said United’s head coach.

“I understand why this process happens. And I have the duty to act to this reality and try to find solutions.

“As I’m not a purist, I’m not considering the fact that one time I will chose this. But what’s clear for me is that the fans want to have the team playing and they want to have emotions. They don’t want reduced time and speculation.

“I don’t have the capacity to analyse a group as important as the fans. The football is most of the subject of conversation. But why do I have this opinion regarding the fans?

“Because the authorities who need to give an answer to the demands of the fans, because it’s a business, they take measures to fight against speculation and to increase the emotion. But at the same time you have the success industry.

“When I arrived in England I had the dream, the fantasy that everyone has about English football. Everyone admires the English leagues because they sanction people cheat, speculation and the injustice but I’m asking myself now if this truth has the same importance as before.”