COMPARISONS are naturally being drawn between Leeds United’s beginning to the current campaign and the flying start made last year.
Similar from a points and position perspective – but better. Top not third. Thirteen points not 11 – and winger Gjanni Alioski admits there is an even bigger difference this time around.
“Last year we also had good results at the beginning but we were not winning with the confidence like this,” said the winger in the aftermath of Saturday’s 3-0 success at Norwich City.
Something has changed at Leeds United – and aside from having increased competition and fresh options from the bench, not widescale playing personnel.
Leeds might have made five signings for their first team squad over the summer but only one of them has started with Barry Douglas an ever present at left-back.
Yet a different head coach now looks on from the sidelines and Alioski admits the huge turnaround in United’s displays is simply attributed to fresh-thinking head coach Marcelo Bielsa and a summer’s pre-season training of triple sessions and non-stop hard work.
It’s a new revolution for this club and I hope we will go up. All our support and all the people in Leeds want this and we will try our best.Gjanni Alioski
Macedonian winger Alioski started his fifth league game in succession at Carrow Road on Saturday with the winger integral to Leeds taking an early 2-0 lead, setting up the opener for Matuesz Klich and scoring United’s second.
Already, the signs are that the 26-year-old’s second campaign in English football will be better than his first and based on the opening five games of the new season, United as a whole are in line for something considerably better than the 13th-placed finish last year.
Quite what has changed is the million dollar question – and in a true case of practice makes perfect, Alisoki says United are reaping the rewards of both their world-renowned new head coach and his dedication to sheer hard work.
“We are the same players and there’s not too many changes with the starting XI,” admitted Alioski. “And it’s easy to say it’s the coach that brings another mentality. It’s another philosophy from him and it’s really the training that we do, it’s hard training and he tells us that if we want to do something, to go up or to win something, then we must work hard and we really need to do this.
“We had triple sessions in the summer – going in at eight in the morning and going home at seven or eight in the evening, or maybe we slept in the hotel so we were never at home and we didn’t see the family.
“It was really hard work and we only said we hoped we’d have a good start and we will play good.”
Typical of Bielsa’s hard-working ethic, United were straight back to training on Sunday afternoon despite the long drive back to Leeds on Saturday evening after the club’s latest triumph at Norwich.
It was a similar story and even shorter turnaround following the 2-2 draw at Swansea City on Tuesday evening with United’s players returning home at 5am and back at Thorp Arch for 12.30pm. Training, though, is where the Bielsa magic is put into practice and Alioski admits his game is benefitting enormously from the 63-year-old’s methods.
Alioski explained: “For the wingers, we have really special trainings – to go deep, to come short, to go one against one, when is the moment.
“He likes more to go deep only at the right moment and we try always tactically how we want to go and when the left-back goes. “It’s something we train and for two hours we train only tactics. In the game it’s coming into your head and you are thinking ‘now I know when to go’. I see this in the game also from the players with the movement that they do.
“Maybe in the training you think it’s boring because we have one week and we do each day two hours tactics, tactics, tactics.
“Sometimes he does this extra to see how we are – if it’s boring and how we are in the head. It’s really interesting how he does this.” Interest also, says Alioski, is heightened even further when Bielsa takes the seemingly infrequent step of talking to a player one on one.
“He says how we must work and his comments come from the staff and they speak with us but not the boss,” revealed Alioski.
“The boss is the boss and he doesn’t speak to the players, he doesn’t say something to you on the pitch and it’s only the staff.
“It’s something different but it’s very interesting also for us players because it’s always the staff that come to say something and not the boss.
“But when the boss comes it’s really nice when he also comes to you and says something positive – he says ‘bravo, it’s good or not good’ and when he says something to you, you see he really understands something and when he says to do this you know you must adapt. Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s not, but you see in the first two or three seconds you must listen and it’s really important.
“When he comes to speak with you individually he shows you things and videos that you can do better and what is not good. He directly says to you ‘it’s not good but I am sure in the next game you will not do this the same way wrong.’”
Alioski – and Leeds as a whole are feeling the benefit with the winger admitting Bielsa’s introduction is leading to a Leeds revolution for the football club and city as a whole. Asked if it was possible to maintain United’s style of energetic football over 46 games, Alioski said: “It’s possible because of the work that we do in the preparation. You feel this in the game.
“We have power and I see also the difference after the game, you can see how many kilometres we run and it’s really different from last year and you see this. You see the work that we do and it’s not only in the preparation that we run as the next day we have no day off.
“It’s really always work, work, work. It’s something new for all, all Leeds.
“It’s a new revolution for this club and I hope we will go up. All our support and all the people in Leeds want this and we will try our best.”