Lack of transfer activity cannot be used as an excuse for Leeds United, insists Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa insisted the strength of his squad and Leeds United’s failure to sign Dan James in January could not be used as excuses if the club finish outside the Championship’s top two, claiming automatic promotion should have been sealed already.

Friday, 26th April 2019, 4:23 pm
Updated Friday, 26th April 2019, 5:30 pm
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Bielsa said “everything that could be done was done” in the last transfer window as he faced up to likely disappointment in the race to reach the Premier League automatically.

The Argentinian has relied little on recruitment during his year in charge of Leeds, overseeing just three permanent signings and making limited use of four loanees brought in by United last summer.

The club struck a deal to take goalkeeper Kiko Casilla on a free transfer from Real Madrid in January but were denied the signature of James after a move to sign the talented Wales international from Swansea City fell through in dramatic circumstances on deadline day.

United had agreed to loan James until the end of the season and sign him permanent for a fee of around £9m if they were promoted this season but former Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins prevented the move from going ahead amid political in-fighting at the Liberty Stadium.

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James, a pacey left winger, would have strengthened one of the weaker areas in Bielsa’s team and has shone for Swansea in the second half of the season.

Injuries have put pressure on Bielsa all season and he lost Gjanni Alioski and Kemar Roofe after Monday’s game at Brentford.

The United boss said he had “not been helped by destiny” but refused to blame the size of his squad for the fact that the club’s chance of automatic promotion is hanging by a thread with two games to go.

“When you play a competition with a small number of players and also have injuries which are down to luck, you are not helped by destiny in that sense,” Bielsa said.

“I’m very happy with all I received from the club and the sporting director (Victor Orta) but there are things we obviously couldn’t get. I always describe myself as responsible for the situation. I know what I’ve done to find solutions and I didn’t find solutions, so this is the story.”

Asked if the “things we couldn’t get” referred to January and James, Bielsa said: “I don’t have any criticism of anyone. Everything that could be done was done.

“You know that James was going to come and didn’t come in January. I’m not underlining the importance of the absence of James. I’m underlining the fact that the club struggled to get James.

“The club did everything, more than that even, to find solutions to the needs of the team but with James or without him we should have finished first or second, without any doubt.

“Maybe it was not our destiny to finish first or second and we can’t explain it, or maybe we do have an explanation: that we need to have twice as many chances to score as our opponents.

“If I was a fan after listening to this, I would say it’s not enough of an explanation and not enough to heal their disillusionment. Our state of mind (Bielsa and Leeds’ disappointment) is not linked to the personal pride of reaching something. It’s because we were not able to give a response to the hope of the fans.”