Marcelo Bielsa's pre-Everton press conference in full as Leeds United boss accepts fault for Manchester United defeat

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa faces the media today ahead of Saturday's first home game of the new Premier League season against Everton.

Thursday, 19th August 2021, 2:41 pm
ELLAND ROAD ENCOUNTER: Between Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa, left, and new Everton boss Rafa Benitez, right. Graphic by Graeme Bandeira.

The 3pm kick-off will mark the return of a capacity crowd to Elland Road for the first time in nearly 18 months of restrictions in the country's battle against coronavirus.

The stands at Leeds United's famous home have not been full since the Championship clash against Huddersfield Town way back on March 7, 2020.

Bielsa will be speaking to the press at 11am and all of the latest news will follow here after the press conference's conclusion.

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Updates on the condition of Diego Llorente and Kalvin Phillips will be top of the list.

On Phillips - is he ready to play?

"(After) another week of work he is physically better and closer to being in the team."

On Llorente

"It's probable that he will have chances to compete again next week."

Any closer to making signings?

"It's not probable or likely that any more signings will come in."

Are you happy with the squad then or is that a financial problem?

"I am happy or comfortable with the players I can count on at the moment, it's the same group as last year with the substitution of Firpo for Alioski and young players who accompany the team have another year of experience. Of course if we have the option to bring another player in we will do it. As long as that player is able to challenge the player that we already have in that position. A signing to strengthen to the team is a player that has to be able to compete with the players that we have in this position and that means that there is a very high cost to this so with regards to the situation with the signings, if players don't arrive then there is disappointment because they don't arrive and if there are signings but they are below the level of the players than we already have then there is also disappointment because they are not up to the standard. The intermediate situation is to find players that can overcome the players we already have and that are low priced. But to say a low price also means a high price as the low prices at the moment are prices that are very high and the good players are priced excessively. But what is not logical is to think that our players cost three times more than the players that we are trying to incorporate."

On Benitez

"Sincerely I can't remember if we have come up against each other, both of us have been professionals for a long time. What has made him successful is he puts together a very compact team, difficult to beat and he always manages to get the maximum out of the players he manages."

How different will Everton be now?

"There hasn't been complete changes with regards to the players. The players are basically the same ones apart from the two wide players that they brought in. And the changes that I expect are those that I expect with Benitez that his teams are efficient, strong and hard to beat."

If there are no signings does that compromise the season or are you as well prepared as last season?

"We absorbed last season with 18 players. And we had some important injuries. Like Berardi, Koch, Forshaw, Llorente. The same players are there, the only change between the habitual players is Firpo coming in for Alioski. The rest if you have a look, after the substitution of Casilla, and we have the possible recovery of Forshaw and some youngsters that are growing that can make important contributions so this question over whether we need more players has two answers Yes we need players who are better than the ones we have and that we can buy because it's not like the club has not invested and the second is that this same group had a contribution that allowed them to be justifiably in the top half of the table but when you lose a big game 5-1 it generates an uncertainty around the team and produces all these questions that you ask."

On Forshaw - how impressed with his recovery and is he now seriously in your plans to take part in your midfield?

"The process with Forshaw has to be a long one so that he is able to play again at the highest level using his virtues. Of course the level of demand when he plays for the under 23s is not the same as he would face in the Premier League and it's not the same to be able to complete or finish a game then to play segments of games and it's not the same to compete twice a week then to compete once a week being taken care of. What we need to manage is for for Forshaw to be able to complete two games in one week and that this doesn't increase or produce the risk of injury and that he can chain together the games and that is what a player normally does when they are coming into a squad in the Premier League, being able to play one or two times a week, being able to recover in that time and if there is only one game a week that he is able to train leading up to that game and after that game also. If we make reference to the player that Forshaw was two years ago, he was one of the best players that Leeds had, without any doubt, and of course after two years without playing, he is not that same player. The process for him to start looking like that player again, necessarily has to be progressive and it has to permit him to feel full and confident. If we do this in a rush, urgently and anxiously, it's a lot of risks that we run. He is a very serious and applied professional and I am sure that he has a desire to shorten the time. But if there are errors that we have made in the past with this injury that has lasted two years it is to have accelerated the times and to have brought him back prematurely, this has generated other injuries. So when he has recovered healthy and full, he has the characteristics of a player that we can't buy in the market at the moment."

On Huggins - looks like his future is away from Leeds, what has happened?

"Nothing has happened that wasn't what we looked at before. The young players of Gotts, Huggins, Stevens, Hosannah, Edmondson, these players who are part of the Academy/the under 23s team in the previous seasons, they have a process of development and growth. When they get up to a high or a peak during this process and development like has been for each of these players that I have named, they have to compete for a place in a group that is very small which is the group that is chosen for the season. In this case that you are referring to, Ayling, Dallas and Shackleton are all players that play in the position that he plays in. If I see clearly that at this moment in time that he hasn't got the chances to overcome these players at the club and if I keep him at the club knowing this instead of favouring his development or helping his development then I am hindering him. For all these youngsters, it would be ideal for them to be in the group that competes in the Premier League but if they are not here there comes a moment that instead of staying competing in the under-23s, they need to look for a competition that is higher than the under 23s because if not their progress will be stalled. So the expectation of all of us is that they compete outside of the club for a year and that we find an evolution that invites them to bring them back into the fold. Without exception, every player that has gone out on loan I see them every week, first of all because it is my function and secondly because you grow a bond between these players, an affection between them that these players that we have spoken about. I don't know also if I have spoken also about Alfie and Davis - and if there is something that we desire it is that it goes well for them and that we are able to bring them back. They have made big efforts to try and be part of the group and we have accompanied them in this effort. And if doesn't go well for then then the work we have done is worse."

On fans returning to Elland Road in full

"The Premier League without fans and with fans is not the same. And the fans of Leeds are not the same as the majority of the other teams in the league, not only because it is the club that we belong to but because of how generous and present they are in every game. So to live this experience is unique."

On the process of lifting the players after the Man U game.

"Well, physically it is not a problem. Of course the self esteem and enthusiasm decreases after a defeat like the one we suffered at the weekend. One of the things that damages the most in a defeat like this is because we feel like the expectations and the hopes that the fans had for this game, we feel like we have defrauded them and if there is something that hurts a lot it is to disappoint, to not give what is expected of us. So this produces suffering. The closeness of a game contains, it gives you the option to be able to make a comeback and start to pay that debt. Games like the one that we lost on Saturday, it generates injuries or hurt that are not easily cured and that don't easily forget but you can go putting forward with new emotions that allow for this to be in the memory but that it stops it being present. So in this last game nothing happened that we didn't contemplate that would happen. So the aspects that were most clear that determined the defeat or decided the defeat were the aspects that we worked on throughout the past seven weeks. But you have to understand what the responsibility of the manager is. The manager isn't good, is not a good one if he tells you what is going to happen in the game. He also isn't good because he uses resources to incorporate the knowledge so that the things that you don't want to happen happen. He is only good if the process to avoid what hurts a team is effective, so that's why I explained to the players that I feel absolutely responsible for the situations that happened in the game against Man United. When I imagine the steps we had to make to keep growing as a team, the fundamental aspects, the main thing that makes our team grow is based on three aspects. For the opponent to attack worse or for their forwards to be worse, we need that the build up of the opponent is difficult for them so that their forwards don't receive balls comfortably so that is one key aspect of our game, especially when we play against teams which are better than ours. The other aspect that is key is to be very careful in the management of the ball in our own half because if we lose the ball when we are distributing an attack and if we lose it close to our own goal, we are out of position and we don't have a lot of time to get back in position and to avoid that the opponent takes advantage and creates danger. The third aspect which is an aspect over which I am criticised a lot is to maintain a defensive structure with a lot of control over the attackers, avoiding the persecutions that take our players when the opponents are attacking far away from the positions that they initially played. So over these three aspects and over the management over the times in the game, this is the things that we worked most on. So all the things that I tried that the team had against a great opponent, we didn't manage to put into practice. So that without deflection is my responsibility but for one reason in particular: because I count on a group at a disposition to work also with enthusiasm and also integrate to the ideas I transmit to them. So if you analyse the unbalances that happened in the game that we lose, they are all linked with things that we are constantly trying to develop. To give an example: the interchange of functions between Pogba and Fernandes in which they make Koch responsible. Or the interchange of positions between Greenwood and Fernandes. All of those things with the idea of avoiding these persecutions, we have worked a lot on this and with a lot of dedication. When the work doesn't produce the results desired then the responsibility is that of the manager. Of course we know McTominay was the one that attacked more between him and Fred and that Fred is the more defensive of the two, but sometimes their roles change and even though in this we weren't able to neutralise it we know we have to avoid the counter attacks and we know that we have to be marking before the ball is lost but if we don't find these solutions it's because of the work I do in that sense is not sufficient. There was a moment in the game the other day, the game up until we drew it. We deserved to have been losing, but we weren't balancing or neutralising the team or the game. But we were impeding it from being unbalanced. I hope I am able to explain this because it's a very important aspect. When they score the second goal, we lose the ball for a pass that generates a rebound. But when that pass is made, if you draw a line over the width of the pitch we had five free players at the height of the box on the right hand side and through the area against only one of their defenders. When I saw that situation, I saw clearly that it was our moment in the game. We couldn't convert that possession into a dangerous one and the opposite happened with regards to what you would expect with regards to the relationship between attacks. The opposite happened. Pascal was left one v one without the opportunity of being covered and what looked like it was going to be our start of the moment in the game was converted into ten minutes which took us out of the game. So marking in possession, the experience to manage the times in the game, the moments in the game, they are all things that we talk about constantly. And I insist that when you coach a team with players who are so generous, so identified and so professional, then the coach or the manager does not manage to achieve what he is looking for then it is the fault of the manager and not of the players. I give this such a long explanation so that there is no doubt that the responsibility of the defeat is because of an error in the function that I have. And I have argued it in a sufficient manner so that you guys know that it is true."

What is the situation with Poveda - is he in a similar situation to Huggins?

"The situation is different. First of all he has had a close passage through the first team and he also has the habit of competing with the 18 players who absorb the majority of the games in the Premier League but there are also players who are also evolving and competing with him to be part of the group."

Did you consider the 23s game for Phillips?

"In this case I didn't deem it necessary that he gained minutes with the under 23s."

How do you see Summerville's development?

"He is one of the youngsters who has evolved the most. It is what generates optimism but the most difficult thing is yet to be done."

What is that?

"Players who show they deserve a chance in the first team - there are many. But the players who take advantage of it - there are not that many. Us managers, coaches, we always dream that the virtues that the youngsters have will allow them to shine with the elite. After, you have to overcome this test and one thing is to prepare the player to overcome this test, and the other thing is that he actually effectively overcomes it. This seems like a common place, you have to play and you have to shine but to play and to shine, the manager has to pick him and I always play the player who I think is the best in that particular moment in that particular position. That doesn't mean I am always right or that I am the owner of the truth."

If there are no further signings does that compromise the season or are you as well prepared as last season?

"We absorbed last season with 18 players. And we had some important injuries. Like Berardi's, like Koch's, like Llorente's, like Forshaw's. With respect to that nucleus, the same players are there. The only change between the habitual players is Firpo coming in for Alioski. The rest if you have a look, you have the substitution of Klaesson for Casilla, afterwards the group of Ayling, Llorente, Cooper, Junior Firpo for Alioski, Pascal, Shackleton, Koch, the midfield is of Dallas, Klich, Phillips, Rodrigo, Tyler, the three wingers, Harrison, Raphinha and Helder and then Tyler and Bamford with Tyler who plays 9 and 10 and we have the possible recovery of Forshaw. and some youngsters who are growing that can make important contributions so this question over whether we need more players has two answers - yes we need more players that are better than the ones we already have and that we can buy because this club has invested, it's not like this club hasn't invested, and the second focus is that this same group ended the last season with a contribution that allowed them to be justifiably in the top half of the table. But what happens is that when you lose a big game 5-1, it generates an uncertainness around the team that produces all these questions that you ask."

On the crowd helping Manchester United last week as home fans finally return in full?

"There's some data that without the public, the home side wins less. The statistics confirm this. With me in particular, the absence of fans permitted greater communication between the players and technical staff. But the effect of the crowd when we play away, I don't consider it a determining factor with regards to our performances. The effect that it has for our opponents - I can't measure that."

On Bamford being in contract talks - interest from Spurs - how important that he stays?

"Bamford is a very important player for us and one of the best strikers that English football has."

Are you confident he will commit?

"I ignore these details."

How many 23s are close to breaking through?

"More than prognosticating, the important thing is that they overcome the players who play in the same position as them and have that superiority that allows them to have a genuine position within the habitual starting XI or within the group. There's something that's very representative when a young player shines for real, the first ones to perceive their possibilities is the group in the first-team. When they see that there is a player that is good for real, it's not that they say it, you notice that when this happens, they want that player next to them, not behind them. I have lived this many times. When a young player shines, it is the players who have experience who notice it immediately. And even if they don't say it, they make you notice it."