What Marcelo Bielsa said about player confidence, facing criticism and two returnees in his pre-Spurs press conference

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa will speak to the media on Friday morning ahead the Whites' Premier League clash with Tottenham Hotspur.

By Flora Snelson
Friday, 25th February 2022, 10:35 am

On Saturday, United will host Tottenham Hotspur at Elland Road for their 26th Premier League clash of the season.

After conceding 10 goals in their last two fixtures, Bielsa's side will hope to take something from the game against a Spurs side who have lost four of their last five league matches.

Three points clear of the drop zone, a win could see Leeds leapfrog 14th-placed Brentford and extend their cushion above the dreaded dotted line.

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On Friday morning, Bielsa will speak to the media ahead of Saturday's Premier League contest.

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Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Pic: Mike Hewitt.

Leeds United v Tottenham Hotspur - LIVE Marcelo Bielsa pre-match press conference

Last updated: Friday, 25 February, 2022, 09:45

  • Marcelo Bielsa will sit down with the media at 9am

Are you saying that you would never walk away from Leeds mid-season, and that you’re too invested in this club?

I never presume of fortitude. What I have clear is that the more adverse the situation is, the more I fortify myself to face it.

Can I ask about returning players for this weekend?

Llorente and Koch are available. With respect to the knock to his head, I never said that it wasn’t dramatic for a player to receive a knock, I said that knocks have grave and dramatic consequences. What I did say that we shouldn’t dramatise situations that don’t deserve to be dramatised.

How do you protect confidence in your players? I recall you showed a video to your players before playing Brentford in your promotion-winning season. Have you done anything like that recently?

The first thing I do is to say to them something that I believe is true. I never use elements that I don’t believe are true to change the state of play. There’s occasions where their confidence is restored by explaining. Sometimes the confidence needs to be restored by facing the reality crudely. A person not only believes in themselves if the person conducting them paints over the consequences. Sometimes you just have to say things as they are. For every moment, there’s different perceptions, different solutions, and you find out the effect of those things, not when you do them, but when you see the results that are obtained after. I reiterate, after the Man U game, I was full of confidence, and we lost 6-0. After the game against Newcastle, which I thought was a game that we deserved to win, I was justified with confidence given what we had done against Newcastle, and we lost 3-0 against Everton. So there’s also something that’s true. When you don’t win the games that you deserve to win - and against Newcastle, we deserved to win, and against Man U we didn’t deserve to lose - confidence is lowered, of course. Players, like every human being, they give their all for those who are conducting them, with a promise that it’s understood - ‘I’m going to do what you ask of me because in exchange of that, you promise that we’ll win.’ When we don’t manage to accomplish that promise, it would be naive to think that confidence in the leader will be in tact. That’s to say, that’s the question that’s missing - if their players are slowly losing their faith in what the coach is proposing? In no way have I verified this as I measure it in the effort they put in. But it would be naive to think, in a moment of weakness like the one that we’re in, the faith, confidence, credibility is the same. What is true is that the credibility in what I do is weakened by everything. The only one that believes blindly in myself is me. And apart from that, I do that because it’s the best option to come back. And apart from that, it’s what every common person does in their day to day - they face their adversity by insisting, because they know it’s the only option. Ask any worker how they face adversity, they’ll tell you it’s this way. I’m alone in believing in what I’m capable of doing.

Bielsa continues his answer....

It’s not important that I say it or that you coincide. The public opinion that these 45 minutes have generated, it’s added that you were in agreement and I am in agreement. So I answer what you say to me. You say to me that people say there’s a defensive unbalance when Klich and Rodrigo play. In the same way, a lot of people would say that the best 45 minutes we played lately were with those two against Man Utd. So there’s two realities - the 45 minutes against Man Utd, and two days after, the first 45 minutes against Liverpool. So which is the truth? Or what do we have to do? Do we have to deform what works, before it stops working? The thing is that in this style, when I stop answering, the arguments continue. So what was I to do, break down or break up the best thing that we did against Man United? We never recovered the ball better than in the second half against Manchester United. The midfield of Forshaw, Klich and Rodrigo was an extreme impression. Two days after, that reality stops being what we described. So you say that there’s a lot of people that have this opinion. Those same people are not having an opinion after Man Utd, only after Liverpool. So if their opinion was after Man Utd... but having an opinion after Liverpool, their opinion would be the correct one. But in the middle, you have to make a decision. Five of the six players missing, I had to construct a structure that was more offensive. All of this data, of course, people don’t have to consider. Perhaps the pretension is wrong, but the person who is asking the question for the people - perhaps they should consider these details.

One criticism is that Klich and Rodrigo, together in midfield, give the midfield too much of an offensive profile. What do you think?

Evidently the midfield with Klich and Rodrigo is very offensive. If you pay attention, the midfield in the second half against Manchester United was Forshaw, Klich and Rodrigo, and those 45 minutes were some of the best football played lately. You coincide with what I just said there.

Is Bamford back on the grass, and is there an expectation that we’ll see him again this season?

No, he’s not on the grass, and probably we’ll see him before the end of the season.

Can you give us an update on Phillips, Cooper and Bamford?

There’s not a fixed date. The prediction that they were going to be available early March - how they are right now, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the case.

How confident are you that, by sticking to the principles you describe, you can get Leeds out of trouble?

It’s the only path, the only way that I know. Of course, every game that we play, I imagine that we have true possibilities of winning. That’s exactly how I thought when we came up against Liverpool. In my imagination prior to every game played, which every manager does, I thought that I had the resources to win the game, and the game against Manchester allowed us to believe that we could beat Liverpool - but we lost 6-0. So I always believe or imagine in what way we should do things and with what interpretation should we assume the model of play to manage to win the game.

How concerned are you by the burden that will be placed on players who are returning after long lay-offs?

If you listen to the explanation that I gave, you’re missing five players of six to cover three positions. That problem, precisely, generates difficult solutions. I say this, the way that you interpret the things that I say is that for the first time I’m giving an excuse and I’m not giving excuses - I’m just explaining the reality. The institution of Leeds can’t have two players for each position which each cost £20million. They can have 18 players of that level. So when five of six are missing, it produces a difficulty. But the positions that were resolved - two players who don’t usually play in those positions, played there, and they were the best two players. So this is not a problem of the absence of players, but in certain moments, if five of six players for the same position are missing, it’s natural that the external observers, like you guys, thinks that the claim in the absence of Phillips, Cooper, and Bamford, and I insist that we can have exactly the same problems with Phillips, Cooper and Bamford. But as it’s them that are missing, the focus of the problem is on the return of those players. In the same sense, James shouldn’t be in a number nine. Make Gelhardt players, Tyler Roberts shouldn’t be number nine, make Moreno play - what does that mean, the one that is not there is the one that’s the solution?

You’ve talked a lot about keeping faith in your footballing principles. How difficult is it to keep your faith in the face of the criticism coming your way at the moment?

It’s not an option. It’s the only way possible. These players, they’ve already demonstrated that they have the level to play in the Premier League. The style, the model has already been showed that it can work, it can be imposed in the Premier League. The effort and the willingness of the team, it can’t be doubted because they’ve been the most intense team in their performance in the whole Premier League. So what is very clear is that with all those arguments, virtues, capacities, I don’t manage to obtain or achieve the same as before, so at the same time, what I am achieving is worse. So there’s two paths - abandon everything that you do to change the profile of the team, or to try and correct what is done badly and to obtain from this group what they are capable of doing. Evidently they are not managing to achieve it.

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