'They're going to shoot themselves in the foot' - Paul Merson points out key flaw with 'naive' Leeds

Paul Merson has argued that Leeds United are going to “shoot themselves in the foot” if they keep on trying to play the ball out from the back.

Sunday, 3rd January 2021, 11:39 am
Marcelo Bielsa. (Photo by Tim Keeton - Pool/Getty Images)

The Whites have become renowned for their high-intensity attacking play under Marcelo Bielsa -a central facet of which is their willingness to build moves from deep positions with short, sharp passing.

Against Burnley last weekend, however, Leeds were met with a high press from Sean Dyche’s men, and lost possession in their defensive third on a number of occasions.

Just six of goalkeeper Illan Meslier’s 30 attempted passes in that match went long, and reflecting on the 1-0 win during Sky Sports News’ Soccer Saturday, Merson claimed that it is only a matter of time before Bielsa’s insistence on playing out from the back comes back to bite his team.

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“That’s the thing – teams have sat off them, they’ve been a bit fearful”, he said.

"I thought Burnley – I say done a job, they lost the game – but I thought they were bang unlucky, to be fair. But they closed down, and Leeds can’t beat the press.

"[Patrick] Bamford’s not that kind of player. He’s not supposed to be like what [Sebastien] Haller is supposed to do at West Ham and hold the ball up.

"They kept on doing it and doing it. The goalkeeper’s not the best passer of the ball, in fairness to him. They struggled and struggled.

"I call that naive. Just get it up, get it away from your goal. If it’s up the other end, you’ve got to come 60, 70 yards, beat eight players in shape.

"They’re going to shoot themselves in the foot before long.”

Merson’s comments were somewhat justified by events during Saturday afternoon’s 3-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur.

Meslier conceded possession cheaply on the edge of his own box in the build-up to Spurs’ opener, with Ezgjan Alioski fouling Steven Bergwijn shortly after and Harry Kane converting the resulting penalty.

Son Heung-min and Matt Doherty compounded the misery for Marcelo Bielsa’s side, who slipped to 12th in the table having passed up the opportunity to move level on points with their hosts.