Tag : marcelo-bielsa

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Looking Back At Leeds United’s 2018-19 Championship Season

I would have snapped their hands off if at the start of the season if someone said it would be possible for Leeds United to finish third in the Championship. After finishing third, however, all I can feel is an overwhelming sense of disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong, I saw some of the best football being played since as long as I can remember. There were some fantastic moments including the injury time winners against Aston Villa and Blackburn Rovers, but everything fell apart when we needed performances the most.

Leeds are falling apart again

The seemingly yearly tradition of Leeds falling apart after Christmas happened once again. Three defeats is all we endured during the first half of the season; we lost 11 times after Boxing Day. The form we showed in the latter part of the campaign was that of a mid-table side at best and our the majority of our performances we nowhere near the scintillating football we were treated to at the start of the season.

Injuries sure played a part in our demise. Kemar Roofe, our in-form striker, spend a decent amount of time in the treatment room, including during the crunch part of the season. Patrick Bamford was crocked, Barry Douglas and Gianni Alioski were crocked at the same time to leave us with no left back and we even had to sling a baby in goal in Will Huffer when Bailey Peacock-Farrell succumb to injury for a game.

Bigger squads may have coped with the ongoing injuries, but Marcelo Bielsa chose to operate with one of the smallest squads I’ve seen since supporting Leeds in the early 90s. Will he want more players for the upcoming season? I doubt we can afford to bring in too many reinforcements even if he does.

I’m of the belief that it was Biesla’s genius that ultimately cost us this season, which may sound bizarre. I’ve never seen such a transformation from a group of players who looked bang average the previous season, going to show the multi-million pound contract Bielsa and his staff command is money well spent.

The players simply had nothing left

One of the football cliches I can’t stand is when commentators state “Player X is giving 100% today.” It’s fucking impossible you dimwits, but Bielsa did exactly that. He managed to get every last drop of potential, energy and skill from his squad of players that they were playing at 110% or more for the opening part of the season. The problem here is that they simply had nothing left when it mattered and reverted back to type.

Liam Cooper, although complete dogshit for the last few games of the season, was a revelation in central defence while Kalvin Phillips went from a player who I thought would struggle to fit into a League One side suddenly became our a lynchpin in the heart of the midfield and is now considered indispensable.

What narks me is how we simply imploded towards the end of the season. How the fuck did we lose to a 10-man Wigan Athletic side that were languishing near the bottom of the league. How did Birmingham City take six points off us? What the hell happened at Brentford to effectively end our automatic promotion hopes?

The Championship Playoff against Derby County was awful. I was a nervous wreck for the first leg and was half pissed by the interval so much was the pressure. The return leg at Elland Road was a disaster. Stupid mistakes cost us but the way we simply handed the game to Frank Lampard’s side was almost criminal, especially as Derby don’t look a good side, as was evident when Aston Villa played them off the park in the final.

Can Bielsa work miracles again next season?

Leeds coach Marcelo Bielsa and his magic bucket

Marcelo Bielsa and his magic bucket

Perhaps worryingly, Bielsa openly said that he does not believe he can get the same performances out of this same group of players again. It was almost a once in a lifetime opportunity, players who are decent but nowhere near the best in the league all coming together and playing at their full potential, or better, much like when Leicester City did the unthinkable and won the Premier League.

The genius Argentinian has put pen to paper on a new one-year contract and that for me is interesting. Biesla knows he needs fresh blood in the squad yet our owner has said it will be a difficult summer for transfer dealings, suggesting the coffers are empty. Yet Bielsa has signed on the dotted line meaning he has either being told he will be able to bring in some new faces and, perhaps more importantly, that some of the crown jewels won’t have to be sold to balance the books.

I’d expect quite a few of the out of favour players to leave the club on a free or be shipped out on loan for another season to free up some space on the wage bill. Hopefully, we can convince some of the better players to stick around for another long, arduous campaign. The likes of Pontus Jansson, Phillips, Roofe and Jack Clarke are likely to have a lot of interest in them. Here’s to the lure of the Premier League not being too strong for them and the will to complete their unfinished business keeping at LS11.

Optimism fills the air at the moment, yet Leeds fans know to always edge on the side of caution. If, and it is a big if right now, we managed to keep hold of the nucleus of the current squad, add a central defender, a proper number 10, a winger who ca actually beat a man and put the ball into the box and maybe a half decent striker then we could quite easily go up automatically.

If the squad is asset stripped and Bielsa isn’t backed in the transfer market, not only could the 2019-20 season be awful, it could be without Bielsa at the helm and then Leeds will be falling apart again.

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Leeds United’s Destiny is in its Own Hands

There are only nine games remaining in the Championship and Leeds United are, for once, in control of their own destiny when it comes to gaining promotion to the promised land, otherwise known as the Premier League.

I’ve been a Leeds fan for almost 30-years and have experienced the ups and down featured in Marching On Together, although I don’t recall ever being as nervous as I am right now. Things looked great under Garry Monk before the old Leeds are falling apart again came true and we didn’t even finish in the playoffs.

Then Thomas Christiansen, who seemed like a nice bloke, lost the plot and we turned to shit. Now we have King Bielsa at the helm and we actually look like a team capable of promotion.

King Marcelo Bielsa

King Marcelo Bielsa

We’re Leeds United We’re (Almost) Top of the League

As I type away with Storm Gareth blowing a gale outside, Leeds find themselves second in the Championship, two points behind leaders Norwich and two points ahead of third-placed Sheffield United. The other chasing teams are probably out of the running unless one of the top three has a spectacular fall from grace.

The lunchtime kickoff on Saturday against Sheffield United is our biggest game for 15-years. A win won’t secure promotion, but it will put a five-point gap between us and third-place with eight games remaining and all eight of those games being winnable.

I thought we’d gone some way to blow our chances when we didn’t turn up at QPR and fell to a 1-0 defeat. The press, who love to try damage Leeds whenever they have the opportunity, wrote about how tired the Leeds players looked and how Bielsa’s teams always fade in the second half of the season due to the sheer workrate he expects of his players.

With how shit we were, I tended to agree.

A Scintillating Performance

Pontus Jansson has been leading by example

Pontus Jansson has been leading by example

A home game against West Brom followed, a team we lost 4-1 to on our travels, and I must admit I was not full of confidence. I said to my eldest lad that we would either be excellent or we’d be smashed around Elland Road and that I hoped the crowd would be behind the boys after a lacklustre support in the 2-1 over Bolton a week previous.

Fuck me! We were excellent. A goal after a few seconds set the tone and West Brom couldn’t get near us for the entire 90-minutes. Patrick Bamford looked every bit a Premier League standard striker with some sublime touches and runs. Sometimes 4-0 scorelines can flatter teams, but not us. We were immense and it was the kind of response we needed after the QPR defeat.

Many Leeds fans expected a slip up away to Bristol City yet we managed to return home with all three points after a 1-0 win. Three days later, we played Reading off the park and battered them 3-0 in a game that we could and probably should have had six or seven; Reading were fucking awful to say the least.

As mentioned, Saturday’s game is huge and will have a major influence over who gains automatic promotion this season. We’re in decent form but so are Sheff United who are unbeaten in nine (W7 D2) having scored 17 goals and conceded five and not leaking a goal in their last six games, although they have played some piles of shit during those games, teams with the attacking qualities of a quiche.

The Blades will definitely be up for the fight but so will our boys. Pontus Jansson has asked fans to get to the ground early and build an atmosphere. We need to Elland Road faithful to be even louder and ferocious than they were against West Brom because I can’t stress enough how big this game is.

Premier League football is within touching distance and our destiny is in our own hands. Come on boys, make the most of this opportunity and become legitimate heroes in the eyes of every Leeds United fan around the world.

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Nothing Compares to Football

Football stirs up all kinds of emotions during a match. Elation. Disappointment. Exhilaration.The so-called beautiful game takes you on a rollercoaster during the 90-minutes of a typical game.

I’ve had some incredible moments supporting Leeds United. My favourite memory of watching Leeds came in September 2003 when Leeds took on Swindon Town in the second round of Capitol Cup. It was a nothing game to be honest, yet I was still pretty pissed when we were two-nil down and looking like we were being knocked out, once again, by lesser opposition.

England’s Number One!

Ian Harte then pulled a goal back before our goalkeeper Paul Robinson came up for a corner in the dying seconds and headed in the equaliser! I remember it going mental in the stands with myself, and mates Kev and Rich jumping around and hugging each other like a trio of lunatics who’d not taken their meds.

More was to come as the game eventually went to a penalty shootout and that man Robinson ended up saving a penalty that helped us progress to the third round.

“England’s number one, England’s England’s number one!” bellowed around a jubilant Elland Road. The three bouncing lunatics went off into the cold Leeds night beaming from ear to ear with a story that will stick with us if we manage to stave off Alzheimer’s.

Leeds produced another great memory on December 23rd this year when we came from being two goals down against Aston Villa to win 3-2, the winning goal coming in the last minute of injury time. But what happened on Boxing Day was nothing short of incredible and is probably my favourite Leeds United memory.

Two-One Down in Injury Time

We dominated Blackburn Rovers in the first half of the fixture and deservedly went into half-time leading by a goal to nil, an own goal scored by Derrick Williams. The second half was a bit scrappier and Rovers equalised via the penalty spot only two minutes after the restart.

“I can see us losing this one,” I said to my eldest lad.

Low and behold, in the last minute of the game, Charlie Mulgrew put the visitors 2-1 ahead with a cleverly taken long-range free kick. While Bailey Peacock-Farrell probably should have saved it, Mulgrew should be applauded for his goal as everyone in the ground, Peacock-Farrell obviously included, thought he was going to cross the ball in.

“Who are ya? Who are ya?” came the cries from the Rovers fans in the West Stand. My negative prediction looked to be coming true.

Central defender Pontus Jansson, who was superb throughout the game, jeered up the crowd, screaming at his team mates to go for the equaliser as there were four minutes of added time. Jansson played as a makeshift striker of sorts, almost score straight away before Kemar Roofe bundled the ball home in the 91st minute. Those “who are yas” were fired straight back at the Rovers fans!


Amazingly, in the last minute of injury time, Roofe got on the end of a Pablo Hernandez cross and placed his header into the corner of the net for his 13th goals of the campaign and what turned out to be a 94th minute winner! Fuck me sideways! Everyone went crazy.

We were jumping around, hugging and bouncing around with those around us. People falling over seats. It was pandemonium; I’ve never seen anything like it at Elland Road and it makes me smile like the village idiot just thinking about it!

Our manager and possible saviour Marcelo Bielsa said in his post-match interview “that is why nothing compares to football.” You’re not wrong Bielsa, literally nothing compares to this ridiculous game.

“We’re Leeds United, we’re top of the league!”

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It Could Be Time For Leeds United Fans To Start Dreaming Of The Promised Land

A 4-1 defeat at Bolton Wanderers on May 2, 2004 condemned Leeds United to relegation from the Premier League. Things took a more sinister turn at the end of the 2006-07 season with the not-so-mighty Whites dropping into League 1.

Leeds fans have been treated to some utter dross since being relegated from the Premier League, but now could be the time for Leeds United fans to start dreaming of a return to the promised land.

I don’t want to get carried away after only 10 games played, especially after what happened last season when we were top of the league in September only to spend the rest of the season looking over our shoulders and generally being shit. Yet I can’t help being optimistic, maybe a little over-optimistic about our chances of challenging for promotion this season.

Preseason gave reasons to worry

That optimism was nowhere to be seen before a ball had been kicked in anger. giving Marcelo Bielsa the head coach role looked to either be a genius appointment or doomed to failure. We only signed a handful of youth players, sold Ronaldo Vieira, one of our most promising young players, and seemed to be shipping out all the shite second-rate players that the previous regime had brought in.

Then came the signings of left back Barry Douglas from Wolves for £3 million, striker Patrick Bamford from Middlesbrough for £7 million and the loan signing of promising winger Jack Harrison from Manchester City, to add to the other loans of ‘keeper Jamal Blackman and the still-injured Izzy Brown.

Worrying, in my eyes, was the core of the starting XI under Bielsa was going to be the same group that looked devoid of confidence for long, drawn out spells of last season. Preseason was a joke with Bielsa never playing what we thought would be a likely first team and I feared the worst, even checking Betfair for the odds on us being relegated.

Bielsa works his magic; polishes several turds

Kemar Roofe looks like a brand new player at Leeds.

Kemar Roofe looks like a brand new player at Leeds.

My opinion has done a complete 360 after the first 10 games; Bielsa seems to be something of a genius. His ball breaking fitness regime in preseason has the entire squad looking leaner and stronger than I have ever seen and the fitness levels from the ‘keeper through to the striker are nothing short of ridiculous. There’s no doubt we’re the fittest team in the Championship and that should stand us in good stead.

Bielsa has manged to find a system that everyone has bought into. The Argentinian maestro has given new leases of life to the likes of Kalvin Phillips, Mateusz Klich and Kemar Roofe, all of whom looked lost during the previous campaign.

Phillips, for me, has been a revelation during the early part of this season. Everything from his positioning, tackling and passing has come on in leaps and bounds. I once said Phillips would struggle in League 1, now he’s a commanding midfielder for a legitimate promotion-chasing team.

Klich was sent out on loan last season when the first of our two managers that year, Thomas Christiansen fell out with him. The Pole is amazing, easily one of the best midfielders in the division. From a guy who looked like his career at Elland Road was over, Klich has returned to the fold and has shown his class wherever in the midfield he’s been asked to play. His composure on the ball, range of passing and goal scoring abilities have shown he will be vital to us this season.

As for Roofe, he grabbed his chance to lead the line before he succumb to injury. Four goals in six starts makes him our top scorer and one who kept £7 million signing Bamford out of the side. Roofe had his doubters, but he’s looked like a different player under Bielsa’s guidance.

Great results, better football

It’s not only the initial results that have impressed, it’s the football we’ve been playing that have captured the imagination. Some said Stoke City were poor – they were – when we beat them 3-1 but we demolished Derby County 4-1 on the road, were unplayable at times when he hammered Norwich City 3-0 at Carrow Road and Preston North End couldn’t get near us when we smashed them 3-0 at home.

The recent 2-1 defeat at home to Birmingham City looked to be a minor blip as all 11 players on the field looked to be having a bad game. And while we drew 0-0 at home to a very defensive Middlesbrough and 1-1 away to Millwall, those are games we would almost certainly have lost under a different manager and set up.

Some of the football we played against Sheffield Wednesday last Friday was sublime and if we’d have had Roofe up front, we’d have put the contest to bed long before the fluke, sorry wondergoal, scored by Adam Reach.

We’re currently second in the league having won five, drawn four and lost one, scoring 20 goals and conceded eight. Leeds may have only won once in our previous five games, but that is without Roofe, our most creative player in Pablo Hernandez and a quality forward in Bamford.

All three should be back in action by October 20 when we face Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park but will be missing for tonight’s game against Hull City and Saturday’s match against high-flying Brentford.

This team, and they look like a team again, seem to believe they can go all the way this season and you can’t help but start dreaming about returning to the Premier League under Bielsa’s guidance, even if them man does sit on an upturned bucket during games. There’s a long way to go this season, but like Liverpool fans say every August, perhaps this is our year.

Disclaimer: If Leeds lose to Hull today, discount all of the above, we’re shit, we’re going down and Bielsa out 😉