Marcelo Bielsa on building a Premier League side, Wolves warning and Leeds United plan for Adama Traore
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Whites head coach Bielsa has regularly had to find solutions to replace key absentees through injury.
It is a situation that Wolves boss Santo knows about all too well having lost star striker Raul Jimenez to a fractured skull following a collision with Arsenal’s David Luiz at the Emirates back in November.
Just one month earlier, Jiminez had scored the only goal of the game in a 1-0 triumph at Leeds that left Wolves sixth after five games played.
Four months on, and with Jimenez back in training yet still sidelined, Leeds are approaching tonight’s clash at Molineux sat one place and two points above their hosts and with a game in hand.
Bielsa, meanwhile, admits he is still having to “find solutions” to cover key losses with the likes of Kalvin Phillips, Rodrigo and Robin Koch out injured.
Wolves savoured victory just once in the next 11 games that followed Jiminez’s injury but boss Santo has had to find his own solutions and Brazilian forward William Jose arrived on loan from Real Sociedad.
Wolves have now picked up seven points out of a last possible nine.
Leeds are ultimately still ahead of them - but Bielsa says building a team for the Premier League is about a much longer-term plan ahead of a contest against a side for whom he has huge respect.
“To build a team is not a task that you only do in one year,” said Bielsa.
“In the case of the centre-forward of Wolverhampton, to replace him they brought in a player with good pedigree.
“We made our signings at the beginning of the year. We made a big effort for this.
“We made a big effort to conserve Meslier, Harrison, Helder Costa and to bring in Koch, Llorente, Raphinha and Rodrigo. “To adapt your squad is a difficult or a complicated task.
“To have a complete squad in your first year in the Premier League is very difficult. So it’s very important to develop some players.
“In the case of Pascal, Shackleton, players you have to look for a good right-back, a good number eight, a good centre-back or a good centre-mid.
“We have to make reference to how much it would cost to get good players in those positions.
“The example is Leeds wanted to buy Ben White for £30m and we weren’t able to.
“We have to go in a careful manner and try to evolve the group.”
Twenty three games into a first campaign back in the top flight, that group sit on 32 points and 13 points clear of the dropzone, and with a game in hand.
No team has yet done the double over Bielsa’s side who travel to Wolves as slight underdogs despite sitting above them in the league.
“They’re a team who can play in different tactical schemes,” said Bielsa of Wolves.
“When they need to make changes they can bring on a substitute which doesn’t alter the quality of the team.
"They have wingers who are very good. It’s not easy to find good wingers in football at the moment.
"They’re team who defends well without this preventing them from attacking and when they attack they are always cautious of what they leave behind.
"Very few times have I seen them completely dominated.”
Leeds did their best to change that in October’s clash at Elland Road but a dominant first-half display counted for nothing as Jiminez’s deflected strike sealed all three points.
Wolves’ form has dipped but recovered since and no player in the division has completed more successful dribbles and take-ons than Adama Traore although the winger will not be man to man marked.
“We don’t play a system where it’s man-to-man marking,” said Bielsa.
“We put a defender in the positions where an opponent puts an attacker.
"If the attacker abandons that position for another attacker to occupy it, if possible we change the markers to avoid the marker following.
“But when this happens quickly during an action it’s better to follow the man than leave him to one of your team-mates.
“I believe, fundamentally, Traore is a player who likes to play out wide on the wings.
“If he dominates the ball on his side he’s difficult to stop, so whoever’s marking him will need some support.”
Assessing his side’s current state - which has Leeds with the division’s joint fifth best attacking record but joint second worst defensively - Bielsa said: “Of course I’m worried by the amount of goals that we are conceding.
"As we go resolving certain problems, other problems start to appear, but I don’t lose sight of trying to make a correct analysis of what actually happened in the game.
"When I evaluate our development I consider a lot of aspects.
"When a team is able to consolidate a goalkeeper like Meslier, a centre-back like Struijk, and a midfielder like Shackleton, it means that the design of the group to have to count on a player Pascal, Meslier and to a lesser extent Shackleton, because Shackleton still hasn’t played a sufficient amount, has a high economic price.
"You see how much a Premier League-standard goalkeeper costs, a Premier League-standard centre-back costs, or a Premier League standard midfielder or right-back costs.
“You’ll see that a club that invested £100m, they need to be able to count on players that they didn’t have to buy and to try and do this and to be able to do this, the young players need minutes.
"And in some way this is what Leeds is trying to do.”
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Thank you Laura Collins