Marcelo Bielsa sticking to plan A as Leeds United head to 'magical' Manchester City

THERE is no right or wrong way to attempt to win a football match in Marcelo Bielsa’s view.

Friday, 9th April 2021, 5:45 am

Park the bus? Fine, says Bielsa, if it works, if it has the desired outcome for you.

Not that Whites head coach Bielsa will be sending Leeds United out with such a tactic - even against Manchester City

Bielsa can appreciate other styles, but is also true to his, a style that is now nearly three years into its development in West Yorkshire.

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MEETING OF MINDS: Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa, right, greets Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola, centre, before October's clash at Elland Road. Photo by PAUL ELLIS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

Even against City, even in their own backyard, don’t expect that to change - only with a desire to make that swashbuckling, high press and attacking football even more effective.

Bielsa’s newly-promoted Whites faced Pep Guardiola’s title favourites, City, in just their fourth game back amongst the country’s elite in October.

Yet, even by then, the fact that Bielsa’s style of play would be here to stay, whatever the opposition, had become abundantly clear.

That was even apparent after United’s adventurous opening weekend display at Liverpool that had Reds boss Jurgen Klopp mouthing “wow”, even after a 4-3 victory for the defending champions.

Some seven months later, Liverpool’s stay on the throne is over and Guardiola’s City side are all set to be crowned the new Premier League kings in holding a whopping 14-point lead at the top of the division with only seven games left to play.

The next of those games comes against Bielsa’s Whites - six months on from the 1-1 draw at Elland Road in October that resembled a basketball game of attack against attack - even with newly-promoted Leeds facing a side who were favourites to take Liverpool’s title.

Six months on, that title is essentially theirs, yet there will be no change to Bielsa or United’s approach - even against the best team in the country who could yet amass a quadruple of Premier League, FA Cup, EFL Cup and Champions League.

Plenty of teams have naturally opted for a defensive set-up against City, given the attacking prowess at their disposal, but asked how important it was for Leeds to play in fearless fashion,

Bielsa reasoned: “All the different parts are adequate if you are able to implement them and prevent the opponent from doing what they want.

“If a team waits, sits back and doesn’t allow their opponent’s attack to prosper and hits them on the counter-attack and if a team is able to stop the other team from monopolising the ball and take turns to attack them, that is also good.

“The most important thing, apart from the path that you take, is that you are able to implement it and have success with whatever you choose.

“After, every team chooses whatever style they would like to play.”

Bielsa added: “For three years now we have been trying to play in one way. When you are trying to play in a certain way there are always things to correct.

“If you change the way you play then you start another process.

“I always think that you have to improve the way that you want to play rather than choose a different way to play.

"But, either way, there are managers who manage to get their teams to play in different manners at different times. What I would like is to play in the same way every time.”

Taking that same approach, 13 of United’s 30 Premier League games this season have produced victories whereas 14 have ended in defeat. Leeds, generally, ‘don’t do draws’ having recorded only three of them.

But Guardiola’s City side generally don’t do defeats having lost just three league games as part of a campaign that has produced 23 victories from their 31 games and only five draws - one of which came against Bielsa’s side in October in an Elland-Road thriller.

“Both teams’ aims are accentuated in creativity and this helps in building a big spectacle,” said Bielsa, assessing whether fans watching on the TV would see something similar again this time around.

Whatever happens, bar a mathematical miracle, 11th-placed Leeds will be achieving their primary aim of staying up and City will tick the box of their main mission domestically - winning the league.

Guardiola’s side might even scoop the lot and, if doing so, it will be in a style of play that Bielsa admires deeply.

Bielsa was quoted this week as describing Guardiola as “magical”, and explained: “The games against teams who have the capacity to have answers or do things that are unexpected make the games full of surprises. When I classified Guardiola’s team or style of play as magical, I wasn’t calling him a magician.

“What I was trying to say is that in the process that his team creates so many surprising attacks.

“Of course, this is supported by the quality of his players but there is a method which asks for this which stimulates what they do and this is the difficult thing to detect.

“From the outside it looks as though the manager has done something magical.

"What I wanted to say is that from the outside it is impossible to detect how he manages this but I know there’s a code, a method that unites the individualities with what he proposes and this creates a football that is full of surprises, and there’s nothing nicer for a spectator than to see something they did not expect.

“To say the opposite is when you know exactly what is going to happen, eventually what it causes is boredom.”

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Thank you Laura Collins