Marcelo Bielsa hails attitude of Leeds United's supporters and plans Whites 'recovery' ahead of Crystal Palace visit
Leeds United’s last opponents Brighton were booed off after moving eighth on Saturday, temporarily above Manchester United.
Marcelo Bielsa doesn’t know enough about the Seagulls to comment on the reception from sections of the Amex Stadium stands that left Brighton boss Graham Potter perplexed.
Bielsa does, though, know all about Leeds United’s fans following nearly three-and-a-half years as Whites head coach.
Those supporters will return to Elland Road tonight with their side eight places and six points below booed-off Brighton, Bielsa’s team fourth-bottom and hovering dangerously close to the relegation trapdoor.
But Bielsa knows victory against Crystal Palace this evening could start a Whites’ recovery and says his side can count on their supporters through thick and thin.
United’s fans have had a lot less to cheer about over the first 13 games of their club’s second season back in the Premier League.
At the corresponding stage of last season, Bielsa’s side were 13th on the back of a 5-2 triumph against Newcastle United at Elland Road, a fifth win of the season as part of 18 victories over the course of the campaign en route to a superb ninth-place finish.
Leeds, though, have had just two wins to savour after 13 games of the current campaign, leaving the Whites only three points clear of the drop zone and with third-bottom Burnley holding a game in hand.
But back-to-back home comforts now await via this week’s Elland Road contests against Palace and Brentford, ahead of which Bielsa has hailed the unwavering support of United’s loyal fans which proved key in inspiring a comeback in last month’s 1-1 draw at home to Wolves.
“I think the natural feeling of the fan is to want to get what is in play,” said Bielsa, asked if there was a need for perspective in an ultra-competitive Premier League.
“So when a team doesn’t get what the fans think that their team is capable of they manifest their dissatisfaction but I can’t talk about the reality of Brighton because I don’t know it and it doesn’t correspond for me to analyse it.
“I am just making a projection to the fan in general and that doesn’t coincide with the attitude that the Leeds fans have towards us because in adversity is when they show most their support and that’s when they have the most comprehension.”
Assessing the importance of tonight’s hosting of Palace and Sunday’s home clash against Brentford, Bielsa reasoned: “The wins are always a necessity and, of course, in this case also.
"We are considering every game successively and we hope it is a point of support to start a recovery.”
Leeds were always mindful that their second season back in the ‘big time’ would be difficult. Yet Bielsa pulled no punches ahead of Saturday’s trip to Brighton, admitting results had not been what was expected and that the buck stopped with him, even in spite of United’s recent injury troubles.
Bielsa points to still having had considerable options available to him, and to the financial outlay in recruiting the likes of Rodrigo, Raphinha, Diego Llorente, Robin Koch, Junior Firpo and Dan James since the club’s promotion to the Premier League, in addition to Jack Harrison’s loan deal becoming permanent.
Yet there was also one that got away this summer and Leeds will face him this evening - Crystal Palace’s Chelsea loanee Conor Gallagher.
Leeds tried to land the 21-year-old midfielder on loan but Gallagher opted to stay in London, joining Palace under new boss Vieira on a temporary deal.
Twelve appearances later, Gallagher has weighed in with four goals and three assists for his 11th-placed side, form that earned him a first call-up to the England squad and a debut against San Marino.
“This quarter of the season gone past, he has shown his influence in their game,” said Bielsa who is clearly an admirer, a sentiment that also applies to Palace under new boss Vieira.
Bielsa said of the Palace boss: “He has changed the style of the team without too many signings.
"It is a team that is solvent, with careful management of the ball and with clear positive results.
"Obviously the function of a coach is for their team to play as he desires and it’s admirable how deeply he has been able to install his ideas at Crystal Palace.”
Yet Bielsa’s focus is on continuing to install his own ideas at Leeds, ideas that he hopes with the help of United’s fans can lead to a much needed third win of the season against the Eagles.
Leeds experienced differing fortunes in last season’s two clashes against Palace who were then managed by Roy Hodgson, United blitzed 4-1 at Selhurst Park in November but recording a 2-0 success at Elland Road three months later.
A very different Palace side will now lie in wait under Vieira but Bielsa said: “Fundamentally, I am more worried about how we adapt to any type of play that an opponent offers.
"When a team puts the ball at risk it makes you have to solve certain things.
"And when the opponent gives you the ball then there are other situations that you have to overcome.
"That happens constantly throughout the league and in every game those situations don’t change.
“There are different profiles that are more notable in certain teams and I don’t have any preference and we need to be able to be ready to come up against the different teams and the different philosophies.”
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Thank you Laura Collins