Marcelo Bielsa closing in on piece of Leeds United history but he won't be celebrating 'partial achievement'

If Marcelo Bielsa guides Leeds United to a win over Hull City tonight he will follow the club’s greatest-ever manager into the history books.

By Graham Smyth
Tuesday, 10th December 2019, 9:00 am

Should the Whites triumph, Bielsa will join Don Revie as the only managers in the club’s history to twice lead the team to seven consecutive league wins.

Bielsa first achieved the feat in December last year, but there is little to no point in bringing up that little piece of history in the post-match press conference, in the event of a Leeds win this evening.

The Argentine does not celebrate streaks or league positions or statistics – ‘partial achievements’ as he calls them and nor does he appear to give value to trivia.

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Marcelo Bielsa's humility is one of the things that has endeared him to Leeds fans (Pic: Getty)

“History will remember those who promoted the team,” he said earlier this season when discussing the club’s centenary and his place in the Elland Road record books.

The emergence of two in-form heavyweights in Leeds and West Brom and the eight-point gap they have opened up on the chasing pack has, inevitably, led to talk of a breakaway and even the first, painfully premature, airing of the ‘two-horse race’ cliche.

Whatever the media is selling when it comes to mid-season Championship conclusions, definitive statements and comparisons between this season and last, Bielsa is not buying.

Nothing has been won yet.

And if lessons have been learned from his first season, a campaign that promised so much and ultimately delivered heartache in the form of a play-off semi-final defeat, they will not become apparent until a different outcome is delivered.

“In football every partial achievement, you cannot enjoy it,” he said.

“I think that if there is a difference, we have to show it.

“There is not a proper time to say we have made a difference, at this moment.

“It wouldn’t be good to [conclude] differences between this team and last season’s team.

“There are problems from the last season that now we are solving better, but there are solutions we found last season that we are not finding this season.

“Last season we scored every four or five chances, this season we need seven or eight.

“Last year we didn’t have clean sheets like now.

“This is just an analysis, we cannot say it is going to be a tendency for the future.

“I am surprised because you [the press] are a specialist, the same as us, that we interpret one part of the competition as if we are talking about all of the season.

“If there is something we have to learn from the last season, it is not important in part, it is what we get in the end.”

Although Bielsa is the picture of courtesy in his pre- and post-match dealings with the press, and will humour almost all lines of questioning, even when Spygate is dredged up for the umpteenth time, he is not a man whose responses often lend themselves to headlines.

He won’t normally deal in absolutes, he never makes bold proclamations and he doesn’t play mind games ahead of fixtures, classifying each game as difficult - each opponent is capable of posing danger to his side, in his eyes.

He won't criticise the performance of officials, even when injustice must be burning inside him, like it surely was at Millwall this season.

When he does offer his opinion on something, it is customary for him to highlight that this is merely his take and cautions listeners that it might not actually be correct.

Or, he will speak his mind and then admit that he can understand the opposing point of view.

“When you say something in football, one truth, there’s always an opposite truth,” he said sagely, last week.

So any journalist hoping to emerge from a Bielsa press conference with a dynamite line about Leeds United being in better shape to achieve promotion this time round is bound to experience disappointment.

He will conclude that Leeds are better placed to exit the Championship, if and when they prove that to be true.

“If I answer the question about this [conclusions at this stage of the competition], afterwards we don’t know if it is true in the future and we are going to stay in a bad position after,” he said.

“The answer to this is to ignore what happened last season. Last season, what was important was what happened at the end of the competition.

“There is something that is not convenient for us, it is thinking we have achieved something before we do it.”

Bielsa is not thinking in big, media-friendly statements or seven-game winning streaks, he’s thinking in one-game challenges.

Each one is to be approached with the same professionalism, won if possible and then analysed for mistakes. Win, lose or draw but learn, then move on.

There are no must-win games, not yet anyway, and no big games. Just games.

That not only focuses his players entirely on the present but removes any potential for opponents to get riled up or motivated by his words - you won't find a Bielsa statement pinned to the wall of the opposition dressing room, unless it's a compliment he paid to their manager, players or their 'clear style.'

“We do the same with every opponent, it doesn’t matter which position in the table they have, the kind of opposition they create, what they do is our measure to try to overcome them,” he said.

“The opponent is always a target we have to overcome, we have to beat.

“The manager doesn’t do anything special.

“Every week he tries to correct the mistakes and tries to develop the good things.”

It’s a far cry from the eminently quotable ‘Special One’ but there's gold in them there words. Bielsa keeps the main thing the main thing and prefers not to become the story, admitting earlier this season that he appreciated the Leeds press pack's focus remaining on football matters and not where he shops or other details of his personal life.

His measured, reserved and humble approach to discussing the Championship and all other things is a big part of what makes Bielsa special to Leeds fans.

It might give him a special place in their history and something to celebrate. Just not yet.